Last week’s Scholar-in-Residence Program with Rav Noach Orlowek, Shlita, was informative, insightful, and inspiring. Allow me to share one of the main points he made in the area of parenting, a point which is fundamental to success with one’s children.
Rabbi Orlowek spoke of the paramount need for trust. A sense of trust and trustworthiness is of utmost importance in the relationship between parent and child. A parent should always act and speak in a way that solidifies the child’s absolute trust in his parent and his parent’s word. Rabbi Orlowek shared a personal anecdote. Years ago, his seven year old daughter was teased by an older brother who convinced her she was adopted. She was devastated. Rav Orlowek found her sobbing uncontrollably and he was unable to calm her down until he told her, “I promise you, you are not adopted.” The tears dried up immediately. A strong bond of trust had been established beforehand. And now when her father gave his word, the child knew she could rely on that, and she was convinced.
Rabbi Orlowek stated strongly, that one must never lie to his child, no matter what. A listener asked about a circumstance where a parent shared important, personal information with the child’s therapist, and subsequently the child accosted his parent with the question: “Did you tell my therapist about this?” Rabbi Orlowek advised to avoid such a possible circumstance entirely, by not sharing with the therapist in the first place, unless they first ask and obtain their child’s consent. If the therapist is effective, he or she will most probably figure it out, and unearth the pertinent information on his or her own. It just may take longer. It is well worth the extra time and expense incurred as a result, to maintain the parent’s integrity, thereby retaining the child’s complete trust.
A parent and a home must be a safe place; a place where a child feels valued for who he or she is, not for what they do or don’t accomplish. A child should feel that he has a place in his parents’ hearts and home, no matter what. Furthermore, parents should be people with whom their child feels safe sharing his or her fears and concerns, and to open up if something bad happens.
The strong sense of being loved, valued, and respected, together with steadfast trust that he can rely on his parents, builds a safe haven and is of inestimable value to the child, and a great boon to the parent as well. It nearly guarantees a life-long closeness between child and parent. It establishes the parent as one to whom the child, at any age, can go for advice and guidance – because the child will know that his parent has his best interests in mind. And ultimately, a person’s relationship to, and trust in Hashem has as its basis, a trusting relationship with one’s parent.
As with all things in life that are extremely valuable, trust is not easily established. By keeping focused on its incredible value, we parents can strive to stay focused and keep building. Before deciding on a course of action with our child, in addition to the many other factors to be considered, of utmost importance is to ask ourselves, “Will this decision help or harm my child’s trust in me?”
Have a wonderful, bonding Shabbos,