We discussed last week how honor accorded one’s Torah teachers is not merely fulfilling the imperative to be respectful of one’s teacher, but is integral to successfully and effectively receiving the teachings being presented. Respecting one’s Rebbi is part of the educational process and a key to its success. It therefore behooves us to improve our and especially our children’s sense of respect and honor to their Torah teacher, which in turn improves the likelihood of successful learning.
Does this apply to parents as well? Parents are the primary Torah teacher of a child, albeit with a great assist from the Rebbi or Morah. Does the transmission of the Mesorah and values that are so dependent on parents also improve with increased honor and respect? Most definitely! And, that is, therefore, a major reason why parents need to raise respectful children – because being more respectful and more connected to one’s parents is key to successfully absorbing the family’s values.
Many parents shrink from such a task. They feel unworthy of being shown such respect, and are squeamish that another human being would actually revere them and place them on a pedestal. As in so many other areas of parenting, however, mothers and fathers need to leave their comfort zone and step up to the plate for their child. Gaining a child’s respect is one of the most important things a parent can do – for the child’s sake.
Armed with this knowledge, and by committing to work on this area of parenting, we adults should begin to realize there are many encounters with our children where we fail to stand up and teach our children to respect us, because we struggle with the following advice:-When giving instructions, say those instructions a maximum of two times. If no compliance by then, stop and come up with an appropriate (light) consequence.
Example: “Daddy is trying to rest; you can choose to play quietly in the hall, or go to your room to play there.” If the noise persists, firmly but calmly inform them that “by the continued noise, you have shown your choice to be to play in your room and that is where you need to be now.”-When we tell our child to do or to stop doing something and they ignore us, don’t ignore them! Keep tabs on if they are following through and let them know that you are aware if they failed to comply, and be prepared to apply consequences. Even if you choose not to apply consequences, by making the children aware that you are aware, you continue to be master of the situation, which serves to increase the regard and respect the children will have for you.
Example – Your daughter dumps her backpack in the driveway and hops into the car, expecting you to get out of the driver’s seat and retrieve her pack and put it in the car. You then give her a choice – you can put the backpack in the car yourself, or leave it in the driveway and you won’t have it for school and it may get lost or damaged. Natural consequences are always the most effective method of training a child to behave appropriately. If taking such a risk is more than your nerves (or pocketbook) can handle, let the child know, as you put the backpack in the car, that this behavior is unacceptable and will need to be addressed at a later time. Sighing, expressing frustration but then giving in and doing the child’s bidding is the worst response.
-If a child contradicts something we said, we point out that “We don’t contradict Abba.” Example – Parent says: “There are no youth groups this Shabbos.” Child contradicts by saying in a loud voice – “Oh yes there are!” Parent needs to point out that is not the way we speak to a Mommy or Tatty and train the child to say: “Mommy, is it possible that there are some groups this Shabbos?”
The variations of parent – child encounters are almost infinite. What is crucial to keep in mind is that we train our children to respect us and what we say; not for our sake but for their sake. And more importantly, it’s not only to raise children who have good midos, which is a critically important goal by itself; but we are also ensuring they will successfully imbibe and internalize the important life lessons and eternal values that we have to impart to them.
Best wishes for a wonderful Shabbos,
Rabbi Kalman Baumann