Parenting experts across the board, from our Gedolim to psychologists, all emphasize the indispensability of a child’s healthy self-esteem for proper development and ultimate success in life. As with any ingredient, however, too much can be as detrimental as too little, and the proper balance is necessary for a wholesome `product.’
The Kli Yakar, has a very enlightening comment on the Pasuk in this week’s Parsha, (Vayikra 19:17) Lo Sisna es Achica BiLevovecha, Hocheach Tocheach es Amisecha V’Lo Sisa Alav Cheit, “Do not hate your fellow in your heart, you shall surely rebuke him and you shall not bear a sin on account of him.” The Kli Yakar says that when love prevails among the Jewish people, everyone will, out of concern for his fellow’s wellbeing, rebuke his or her friend, to keep them from sinning. However, when hatred and enmity is present among them, he won’t offer rebuke, but rather will flatter the person to give the impression he did no wrong. Why? Because he wants to see the person’s downfall that will be the inevitable result from his unrestrained wrongdoing.
How counterintuitive! We usually equate rebuke and admonition with harsh feelings and a cold, distant feeling between people. Support and encouragement on the other hand, is the outcome of warmth and closeness. The Kli Yakar is telling us the reality can be the polar opposite. True love, is caring about your fellow’s eternity, which will be negatively impacted by unrestrained sin. Ahava, love, means keeping your eye on your friend’s ultimate needs, rather than a good feeling for the moment.
We can all relate to the unfortunate scenario of a child’s suspected swallowing of a large amount of pills. When you finally get to the emergency room and the doctor orders your young child’s stomach pumped to save his life, you know instinctively that you will not give in to your child’s tears and shouts demanding to go home – you will assist the doctor in proceeding with the extremely unpleasant and traumatic procedure that the situation requires. It cannot be clearer that the ends justify the means.
The same is true of spiritual emergencies. We need to know what is best for our children, and then proceed for their long-term benefit, even in the face of short-term upset. We need to put their self-esteem needs in perspective and work towards their ultimate needs. Children can handle repeated admonitions and redirections to their emerging behavior, when they are offered in an atmosphere of love and concern, and tempered by healthy doses of positive feedback when appropriate. Ignoring inappropriate behavior patterns is an equally slippery slope leading to serious problems down the road. A confident parent, who has thought things through before a situation arises will be much better positioned to respond appropriately when rebuke, rather than flattery, is called for.
Being an effective parent means being able to strike a balance between building self-confidence and building morals and values. Ultimately, if the child’s values and Hashkafos are clear and strong, that will be the greatest guarantor of a healthy self-esteem, in the context of a loving parent-child relationship.
Best wishes for a most enjoyable and rejuvenating Shabbos,
Rabbi Kalman Baumann