Bar Mitzvah is a wonderful Jewish ceremony and celebration (Bat Mitzvah for females) to which upon turning thirteen, the subject young man comes of age, and is according to judaism.about.com "now morally and ethically responsible for his decisions and actions." While many of us are familiar with the celebratory aspects of bar mitzvah, the young initiate is often required to do all or some of the following:
1. To lead as well as to read a specific prayer during the religious service, often encompassing a traditional chant.
2. Giving a speech or a particular reading to the assembly
3. The completion of a charitable project
For most Americans, secular or not, turning thirteen is a non-event, it typically means the end of kid meals discounts if not before, as well as discounted amusement park events, yet it is still too early for a driver's license, however it does signify the very first year of becoming a "teen"-ager, which could if of itself, be a reason for a ceremony or celebration and probably should become one.
While there isn't necessarily anything wrong with treating teenagers between the ages of 13-17 as juveniles, especially in a legal sense, there are very valid reasons why they should be expected to be more responsible and more cognizant of their decisions and their actions. It is a grave mistake and a grand disservice to teenagers to treat them as if they were perpetual children, when they most certainly are far wiser, more manipulative, and definitely knowledgeable on a fundamental level of right as opposed to wrong activities and behaviors.
I love the concept that before the age of 13 in the Jewish culture, it is the parents that are held responsible for their children's actions, whereas after that age, it is the person himself that is held accountable for their actions. The bar mitzvah ritual is of immense importance and significance, in allowing and permitting those that are now 13, to take and to make their own way in this world. In fairness, too, bar mitzvahs are not thrust upon those that receive them, but are events that are knowingly anticipated far in advance of their time, so that the skills, maturity, and preparation needed can be attended to for the successful application thereof.
It is said that success is when preparation meets opportunity, and therefore you should not readily expect success if the time and the attention needed is not spent with your children to prepare them to one day to become good and responsible citizens. While it can be said that lessons can be learned on any given day and while there is truth to that, there is more truth in knowing that if the goal is clear, the steps taken to achieve that goal are knowable and subsequentlya pathway can be properly built stone by stone to bring about this success.
As a parent you can, should you desire, simply let the chips fall where they may, but why hope for the best, when you as parent can help guide and to formulate the moral, ethical, and foundational principles that will allow your children to become or at a minimum have the opportunity to be the better part of your goodness. When you birthed your child, there was tremendous joy, yet there is even more joy when your child grows up and becomes truly that apple of your eye.