Breaking a Child's Trust

Is there ever a real justification?

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Comments (27)

(23) Anonymous, February 16, 2012 7:17 AM

Selfish? Liability? Indifference?

Obviously there are situations where one doesn't get involved, but for many people they don't want the responsibility and possible repercussions! Lack of doing is a choice also and if we are responsible for our fellow, it may be a difficult but correct! How many people have the courage or caring to take a stand and make the effort?! I sense from some of the comments a certain indifference. Should we not question our true motives ?

(22) peter kraynik, February 12, 2012 10:45 AM

Negative Commandment 281 Listening to a Single Litigant "You shall not raise a false report"—Exodus 23:1. A judge may not listen to the arguments of one of the parties in a case if the other party is not present. This because, for the most part, arguments presented by a party when not in the presence of the opposing party are false. This mitzvah ensures that the judge doesn't approach the case with any untrue prejudice. From: "" Daily Mitzvah (Maimonides)

Sidney Strauss, February 13, 2012 1:24 AM

You shall not stand idly next to your fellowman's blood

(See also my response #5) This is not about a court case. There is a clear commnadment in the Torah not to be inactive when your felowman is faced with the potential loss of either life, limb or property. Of course this has to be balanced with not routinely revealing secrets, or not relating derogatory or untrue information. (Since this is a Jewish Forum, priests keeping items secret is totally irrelevant despite what #21 writes.)

(21) SusanE, February 9, 2012 1:51 AM

Ask your Daughter

Ask your daughter what she wants to happen. Does she want you to stop her from being with the other 15 year old? Does she want to know what she can to say to her friend about the inappropriate behavior? Is it possible the daughter is doing some of the same things that the other girl is doing and this is the way for her to open the communication with her father about herself? Too many variables, including the fact that what the daughter said is heresay to the father He doesn't know for sure the information is correct.. To go to the parents with simply the daughters accusation, is just unthinkable. A physician takes an oath to not reveal a patients records. A priest takes an oath to keep secrets of strangers. A Fathers bond of trust with his daughter should be at least that sacred.

(20) Anonymous, February 8, 2012 9:29 PM

I basicly agree. How about consulting an big Rabbi?

I basicly agree with Rabbi Salomon. However, if part of the relationship with the daughter includes Chinuch towards asking Wise Rabbis and submitting to their rulings then I would suggest to my daughter that this situation requires such a consultation. In the very least, I myself would ask a rabbi how to proceed with such a difficult dilemma. Thank you Rabbi Salomon for getting us to think!

(19) Anonymous, February 8, 2012 8:16 PM

What a ridiculous question

1. There are halachos about keeping secrets. Its not about what is a violation or not a violation of trust. We are Torah Jews with a Torah outlook. That is what Daas Torah is - giving us a path and derech regardless of the outcome. 2. That said. If you have such an open, warm beautiful relationship with your daughter, it behooves you as a parent to mention that: "I love you very much and that at this point, (when the discussion reaches the point about so-and-so), I feel that it is my parental obligation to inform so-and-so's parents about her behavior. Do you accept that? If the answer is: "yes" then, its not a violation of trust. Its a simple matter of asking your daughter for permission. If she says no. Then you have to consult Daas Torah, and other avenues.... 3. It could be that its actually none of your business, and that discussing the issue might be loshon hora. Often we think we should be involved for some or other reason, and really, we didn't need to get involved. we forget that Hashem is running the world. We have to deal with our own families and our own issues, and while sometimes we have to be involved in the community and other people's lives for their benefit and ours, it is important to consult Daas Torah, before we simply 'be involved'. Often teachers know about and are dealing with the issue anyway.

(18) Anonymous, February 8, 2012 6:04 PM


Where has the picture of Rav Noach gone?!?!

(17) Regis Possino, February 8, 2012 4:57 PM

the real lesson

It seems to me that the real issue is not so much one of trust, but of educating your child as to doing the right thing. In all situations we must strive do the right thing, because it its the right thing to do. In instances where inappropriate behavior, that might cause injury, of friends is in issue, I believe we all have a moral obligation to tell parents, or whoever might be in a position to help the child, in order to remove or resolve the harmful situation.In many instances, perhaps the child in question is unable to get out of a bad situation, and parental intervention is the only life line. We all have a moral obligation to do whatever we can to help. The idea of sitting on the sidelines is not an option. It sends the wrong message.

(16) richard, February 7, 2012 10:43 PM

Hashem Yerachem

May Hashem have mercy on all of us not to have to have such experiences. However, if they do occur, would it not be wise to engage ones own child actively so they see the problem from your viewpoint as you discuss together"What can WE do to help your friend?"

(15) Davida, February 7, 2012 9:52 PM

The really strong, honest relationship between parent and teen will survive the reality and responsibility of the adult. Maybe the teen is even wanting the parent to take over their feeling of pressure.

(14) mordi, February 7, 2012 8:49 PM

you are correct

you are right

(13) Shraga, February 7, 2012 6:02 PM

Wise man

I would like to see some Salomon blogs where you share insights from your therapy experience.

(12) ruth housman, February 7, 2012 4:45 PM

the boundaries we draw

I had a good friend, and she had some big mental health issues. She told me she was feeling suicidal. I took that information and called her psychiatrist and told him. I don't know what he did with this information but I told my friend after. I felt I HAD to do this, and sure, it was a violation of trust, but there are circumstances that do seem to warrant some action. Could I have lived with myself, if she had tried to kill herself or succeeded? In life we are called to make these judgments frequently, and I would wonder, why your daughter trusted this to you, and it could be, she was asking, in a covert way, for help with this. She too, had to be worried for her friend, or she would not discuss this with you. So I would surely have that conversation with my daughter and then, discuss what I was wrestling with, in terms of trust, in terms of her friend's safety. That is the best anyone can do, when concerned. There is always a line, and we all draw that line in different places. but I feel, the greatest of ethical dilemmas does require the angst before making a decision, either way.

(11) Ron, February 7, 2012 4:24 PM

Agree - learning opportunity and more

I agree with the Rabbi and Duvid. We have a duty to save a life if it is in danger. Either way, the child is bringing up an issue. Explore with them the behavior of their friend. Ask them what they think (as well as potential consequences), in particular if they want to help their friend. Perhaps they are in conflict on if or how to help? I agree with the Rabbi that transparency is a good thing here, and this would build more trust - working together to help another. Perhaps the solution is to have the child ask their friend if it is OK to talk to you about the problem or behavior, or if they wanted help. Perhaps the solution is to just monitor the situation and if it becomes dangerous, then (with the knowledge of your child) notify the friend's parents, even if it means your child might lose out in the relationship with their friend. Typically, this loss is temporary, as the friend will eventually realize the value of the intervention and the sacrifice made for them. And even if they don't, you and your child saved someones life. That is a MItzvah Gedolah.

(10) Gerald M,Dagenais, February 7, 2012 3:50 PM

Always put the interest of the child in the bad situation 1st.

I would explain to my child that I must put the ""Welfare"" of her friend first and hope that my child will understand that there are times when we have to run the risk of losing a friend if it will ultimutaly save them from themselves.

(9) Duvid Chaim - Guard Your Eyes, February 7, 2012 3:02 PM

Build - Don't destroy

Dear R. Salomon A parent who has built this valuable trust with their child can use this golden opportunity to BUILD rather than destroy - by working together to find a solution to help that troubled friend. Your daughter wouldn't have shared this "news" unless she wanted your help. Be a Role Model and show her how we save our friends. I'm sure she'll wants what's best for her. This is a win-win situation.

(8) Anonymous, February 7, 2012 11:55 AM

I partially agree with you

I would tell my child that I felt it was necessary to tell the their friend's parents, but first I would like to talk with their friend so I could explain to their friend what I was doing and why. Also to see if their was anything I could do to help.

(7) Anonymous, February 7, 2012 6:25 AM

my thoughts

you state that as a parent, you feel the need to "rat out" the friend of your child. I disagree. You did not mention anything of your OWN knowledge of this behavior. only that your child told you about it. taking your child and together discussing things with the friend would be the first step. AFTER you know for yourself, from the mouth of the friend, of this behavior, only then can you think about going to the parents... and when i was growing up, and being quite close to both my parents, if one of them had betrayed me, the damage would have carried over for years and sadly perhaps generations to come

(6) Anonymous, February 6, 2012 9:24 AM

Pikuach nefesh

I was disheartened at Chaviva's comments. This reminds me of somebody getting into a car accident and other drivers just keep going. If it was your relative wouldn't you want somebody to stop? Time may also make a difference! What ever happened to all klal yisroel being responsible for their fellow?! No one is telling the other parent how to raise their child, Chaviva... but this is not a time for indifference and saying it's not your problem! If the kid was suicidal and killed themself should you have said,"not my problem!"? Some commentators speculate such indifference contributed to the Holocaust when assimilation was booming and people said it wasn't their problem!

Anonymous, February 6, 2012 12:59 PM

I'm sorry that I ruffled your feathers

I wasn't trying to come off as being indifferent to other people's plights. Yes we should help those who are in trouble. Its only a matter of how and when. If your neighbors child is suffering from domestic abuse and violence, then you should call child protective service and have them reported. If you saw your child's friend doing drugs and hanging out with unsavory people, its not your place to tell his/her parents about it. The only thing you can do is tell your child what you saw and tell them not to hang our with him/her anymore. If you saw your friend's spouse cheating on her with someone else, would you tell your friend? You may care about people but sometimes intervention just evokes more problems than solve them.

(5) Sidney Strauss, February 6, 2012 5:04 AM

You try to get your kid to ask a Sha'alah

If you are an Orthodox Jew who tries to follow the Sefer Chofetz Chaim (the book about the laws of permitted and forbidden Orthopdox Jewish speech), this is really a no brainer. You try toi convince your child to ask a sha'alah (pose a question of religious law) to a competent Rabbi preferably one who does not know the person you are concerned about. One source is the Chofetz Chaim hotline 718-951-3696 ET 9 PM until 10:30 PM, Saturday evening and Monday through Thursday. If your child refuses then you should ask a Sh'alah of how to proceed.

(4) Anonymous, February 5, 2012 7:28 PM

Try to talk to the child first

I am a teenager and had friends that were involved in the wrong things. If I would tell my parents about some of my friends and they would tell my friends parents,I would get very upset and never trust them again with confidential information about my friends! I feel the best way to handle it (if possible) is when the parents find out what their daughter's friend is doing,they should try to help by connecting straight to their daughters friend. For example have their daughter invite her friend to their house and bring up the subject that your daughter told you. Then explain to the friend why you think it's wrong. If she disagrees with you or has questions you can't answer recommend someone who you think will be able to help her and answer her questions. After trying that and feel it's not working try to find out of this teenager has a mentor or someone they look up to and feel comfortable discussing their life with and tell them to discuss it with your daughters friend. Many times if a parent would be told about something their teenager is doing, they may react with anger or threats which will leave the child more hurt and may cause the child to fall deeper in his/her inappropriate behavior! If you feel the parents must know about it,it can't be handled any other way then, get to know the parents well before you tell them,and try to help them get professional help,or suggest ways to handle it.

Shira Cavendish, February 6, 2012 12:46 PM

A sticky situation

Exactly. I would also add that the reason the teenager is having the problems, may be because of the parent, and by informing them, you could be making an already bad situation worse. You may have just handed an abuser a reason (excuse), to abuse. The friend may have confided in someone she thought she could trust, to help her deal with an intolerable situation. By making the situation worse, the troubled teenager just learned that she can't trust anyone, not even people she thought were her friends.

(3) nechami, February 5, 2012 2:22 PM

I agree

As I listened to the blog, I was thinking if you have a close and trusting relationship with your teen, then you can lovingly explain your feelings of the times it is your responsibility and duty to break the trust. Then, Rabbi Solomon you went on to explain just how I feel. There is a time and place to break the trust, in actuality the daughter may have been afraid and looking for someone to intervene and protect her friend. I think that a situation like this is a time for a parent to show their child how to behave properly in a situation like this. I was in a similar situation once when a younger sister came to me with a concern about her friend. I handled it a little differently. I was friendly with the parents of the teen who needed help and with the teen herself, I approached the teen with sensitivity and told her that I would give her the opportunity to tell her parents in the next 24 hours and if not I would call them myself. I did call the parents the next day and they told me their daughter came to them and they were very grateful so that they could get her the professional help she needed. We have to look at each situation and examine what would be best, and for the trust, I think that this just added to the relationship the father has with his daughter.

(2) Chavi, February 5, 2012 2:19 PM

Rabbi Salomon, you are right on the mark. If you tell your child "I would not normally betray a trust, but your friend is in danger, and I, in good conscience, cannot remain silent. I value our trusting relationship enough to tell you up front that I will have to speak to..." If a 15-year-old child confided this information to her parent, I strongly suspect that the child was very troubled about her friend's situation and was actually confiding this information to her parent in the hope that her parent, who is older, wiser, and more powerful, would step in and help resolve the bad situation that the child did not feel capable to deal with.

(1) Chaviva, February 5, 2012 7:54 AM

I respectfully disagree

Its best for parents to focus on their children's well beings and leave everyone else to raise their children to their best abilities. The only time intervention would be necessary if the friend of your child is a bad influence on him/her and is encouraging your child to engage in illicit activities.Otherwise, parents should not get involved in their children's friend's lives.I simply would not allow my children to be friends with troubled kids.And I wouldn't tell their parents how to raise their children either. If you are worried about your child's safety, you are obligated as a parent to protect your child from harm. At the same time, its not your duty to parent other people either.If you know that your child is associating with people of ill repute, you should convince your child to cut all contact with them until they have straightened out. That would be the most sensible thing to do in situations like these.

Margarita, February 7, 2012 11:43 PM

you are right

i think that there is another thing overlooked. ok, your child really thinks that the other child is not doing the right thing. unless you can be a 100% sure this is correct and think that the behaviour is more than just a mischief, start thinking if it is worth disclosing this information to a parent. only when 100% sure, ask someone else who is reliable and can keep their mouth shut (pardon my expression) for an advice. consider the advice and do what you think is right. additionally consider the knowledge that the other parent will dislike you for the rest of your life regardless if you are right or wrong).


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