Erev Shabbos Parashas Nitzavim 5772

Dear Parents,

Every one of us approaches the advent of Rosh Hashana with sincere efforts towards Teshuva, Tefilla and Tzedaka. Most of us realize, that part of our appeal to Hashem, is accepting upon ourselves an extra act, more time spent in Torah, or an improvement in our attitude towards one of our obligations towards Hashem and our fellow man.

As parents of young children, a good place to focus your efforts is to strengthen your understanding of your obligations to your children. The foundation of a proper understanding is to realize that children are not the parents’ `possession’, but they are a sacred trust from Hashem, the third partner in creation.

What might the wrong attitude look like? Anyone who views his or her child as an extension of him/herself, may tend to be overindulgent, helping to foster the emergence of a spoiled, self-centered child. Then, when this spoiled child does not meet the parents’ expectations, frustration is magnified, and hard feelings and estrangement replace what was once a seemingly unshakeable bond. The parent is left with neither a `possession’ nor a well-brought up child.

On the other hand, a parent who focuses on proper Chinuch, examining his or her actions and decisions vis-à-vis the child through the prism of what is best for this child’s growth and development as a mentsch and a Ben Torah or Bas Yisrael, will take an entirely different approach, that will guide towards the development of a genuinely good person.

For example, when determining how much independence to give a child, there are several paths to follow. This critically important issue should not be decided based upon what satisfies the parents’ need –I need to be in control; or I need my child to need me – therefore I’ll make sure she stays dependent on me for as long as I can. On the flip side – I have no time or strength for my child – he or she can manage their own time and activities – I trust them. Was this decision reached with the child’s best interest in mind?

An effective parent will analyze each situation as it comes up, consult with experts and make a decision based upon a thought out understanding of the best interests of this child’s future development. This is where the parents’ loyalty lies – to the best possible future for the child – all other considerations are secondary.

A bright and promising future for our children was in the forefront of everyone’s mind as we saw an unprecedented effort this past year in our community to put the issue of the Internet in the forefront of our consciousness. At this serious, introspective time of year, we need to take a good hard look at our obligations towards our children and Internet exposure, and make decisions based upon their long-term interests. It is precisely households with young children who need to think about this and establish practices and policies that will protect our children from abuse by the Internet. By the time the children enter High School, it will be too late to change what goes on in your home and in your child’s world. Now is the time to habituate your children’s technology behavior to one of safety and sanity. It must be now, while the allure of pornographic material is not strong within a young child, that good habits must take root, because without good, safe technology habits, the children will stumble when they get to middle school and beyond. Ask High School educators in our community what level of exposure to Internet filth exists among their students – it will shock you. Once a child is hooked, it’s almost impossible to retrieve him or her and reclaim their innocence and purity. Some may even develop addictive tendencies, which will require significant therapy to uproot, at best. Ask older friends to be honest with you about their children’s experiences – it will be quite sobering.

No Torah family can contemplate Internet access in their home without an effective filter, and monitoring program. No one who understands this can afford to wait even one day longer. No child can be allowed any Internet access in the privacy of their own room – it must be in a public space in the house. No parent can go to sleep at night before being absolutely certain all devices with Internet access are secure and out of reach of the children. By showing your loyalty to your child’s future, and taking action now, you can make a huge difference. Furthermore, you will be demonstrating to Hashem that you appreciate the confidence He placed in you and that you are serious about taking care of this special trust.

As we stand in prayer during the Yamim Noraim, praying for our families and our people, surely Hashem will listen carefully and answer our prayers for good when we have made the commitment to take good care of His children.

Best wishes for a Kesiva V’Chasima Tova,

Rabbi Kalman Baumann

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