Dos and Don’ts from the Mother of an OTD Son by Moishe’s Mother

Dos and Don’ts from the Mother of an OTD Son by Moishe’s Mother

I read this letter on Shabbat in Family First, and have been thinking about the hard-won and brilliant advice it contains ever since. I think this letter should be required reading for ALL mothers of teenagers (and older) whether they are OTD* [have left the Torah path] or not. Because our growing and grown kids will all follow their own path in life. Which, often times, isn’t exactly the path we would have chosen for them. Here’s what Moishe’s mother shared:

If I could tell another mother on this journey just one thing, it would be this: the nisayon [test] of an OTD kid is not about the child. It’s about you.
If your child is over bar or bat mitzvah, the Torah considers him an adult. A full-fledged adult who is completely responsible for his choices, and who has the ability to make the right choices. You are not required to make his choices for him. You cannot make his choices for him. You are not responsible for the choices he makes.
You are responsible for the choices you make.
The nisayon is not about what your child is doing (smoking or girls or Shabbos). You have no control over that. The nisayon is about what you are doing (getting angry, losing control, speaking lashon hara). That’s the only thing you have control over, and that’s where your focus should be. That’s the nisayon.
That’s actually good news because when you make the right choices over and over again, you give your child a model to copy. That model is the only tool you have to influence him.
And when you focus on the actual nisayonyour actions, your reactions, your choices, your responsibility–the experience becomes much easier to bear, you make fewer mistakes, and you’re actually helping your child.
When I finally realized this, it was the most liberating and empowering realization. You’re always asking yourself, at every bewildering turn, What in the world can I do to fix this? The answer is (and we are desperate for answers): The one and only thing you can and should do is choose the right option from the choices that are available to you. I can’t control his actions; my job is to control my own.
It’s a crazy, painful journey. Everything feels like it’s falling apart, everything feels out of control. When you feel that way, remember to focus on what you’re doing. And that’s not out of your control.
If you want parenting advice, don’t copy me. Copy Hashem. “What He does, you as well.” That’s the best education parents can give to their children. How does Hashem treat us, imperfect as we are? That’s how we should treat our children.
Now that we’ve reached the other side, I can say something strange. This nisayon gave me a lot of gifts. It gave me a clearer perspective. It made me more openhearted and open-minded. It gave me the immeasurable gift of surrender. Hashem gave me my son as a mirror, to help me see what I needed to change in myself.
My son came back. He became a shomer Torah u’mitzvos [observor of Torah and mitzvot] again, and is married to a wonderful girl, and is living a Torah-true life. We are so grateful.
But as far as my nisayon goes, it’s not about who my son became. It’s about who I became.

*Author and JewishMOM Batya Rudell has suggested we should use a new term for kids who have left the Torah path–“On their own derech.” I think that’s a wonderful idea.


  1. That’s amazing!! I love that term a million times more!! We are all on our own path, sometimes it makes a left or a right turn, but that OUR OWN path. Beautiful!!

  2. Beautifully written.
    This term, Off the Derech, is often used by people who went off the derech of their own parents by doing teshuva, so we really have to remember WHOSE derech (path) it is when we use this term: it’s our derech, and our children have to consciously sign up (or not) at some point in their adult lives.

  3. So wise! Thank you for sharing!

  4. Chava Malka

    Beautiful…I personally met the author at a Shabbaton for parents of KIP’s (Kids In Pain) who are OTD (On Their Derech) run by an organization called Kesher Nafshi. (if you go the website you can access the shiurim). It is a wonderful organization and provides a lot of support and guidance. Another resource I highly recommend is “Twisted Parenting”. It is run by Reb Avi Fishoff….you can elect to receive very inspiring and helpful Whatsapp texts if you text him at 1-718-902-6666. Our children are not bad, disrespectful, m’chalel shabbat….THEY.ARE.IN.PAIN or they woudn’t be acting out. Once you understand this….dealing becomes much easier. Kol Tov

  5. SO POWERFUL. I think her advice is relevant not just for “big kids”, but for all kids, on any path. Yes, it’s true, we as parents are considered responsible for their actions until they reach bar/bat mitzva. But they still have bechira chofshi at age 11, 9, 6, 2… We can only set the stage for them to make good choices but the choice is ultimately up to them. The only thing we can control is how we react.

  6. Wow! Painful but liberating! I am happy for the author but we really need to keep this as our attitude even if our kids don’t choose to come back to observance (yet). This is a painful subject for me but I hope that my response to the situation is the correct one. I celebrate whatever connection my child has with Yiddishkeit which is still very strong and public!

  7. Bs´d
    Thank you for sharing this, and it reminds me of what I think is n one of the best advices I heard about education. ´Your example is not the best way of educating your child, is the only way´. I’m not sure I cited this accurately but this is the message. Each person has his journey says my father Shlita.

    • …by the example I mean what Mrs Batya said ine the letter, that what I can control are my actions and reactions..beautiful and inspiring, thank you very much!

    • JewishMom

      beautiful, thank you

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