Translated by Rabbi Lazer Brody
You can't tell someone to take a crumb off their lips when you're walking around with a gigantic stain on your shirt. We have to fix ourselves before we fix others. Anyone who wants to instruct others should first be actively implementing what he wants to teach, otherwise his students will never accept his message. People have built-in sensors for detecting insincerity and hypocrisy, both of which no one likes.
Child education is a prime example of the above principle: when you work on your own awe of Heaven and love for your fellow human beings, as well as your good character traits, holiness and purity, this will educate your children!
Contemplate on where you, the parent, must educate yourself. Your difficulties in child-rearing allude to your needed self-rectification. There are noquick solutions in rearing children, because there are no quick solutions for correcting ourselves, only steadfast, committed hard work.
A woman who wanted to get a divorce came to me to seek counsel. Her husband was in a state of depression and she tried to muster up some strength to work on her own joy while trying to lift him out of his depression. It really is a miracle that she was still working on her own joy, thanks to the fact that she had listened to our CD lessons and read our books. One couldn't expect that she would have the superhuman energies to lift her husband out of his deep depression. The husband's sadness darkened the entire household. A woman cannot keep going like that; her happiness depends on her husband, as is written: And he shall make his wife happy. When both father and mother are not functioning, the children have nothing to lean on, creating an emotionally destructive environment.
As this case illustrates, the fact that the husband was not working on himself set the tone for the entire household and weakened it. What type of education can possibly be instilled in the children in a household like this? This is a point that every parent must understand: If they have taken it upon themselves to raise a family, they must take hold of themselves. This is not a matter of going above and beyond the call of duty; it is an absolute necessity. Otherwise, the household may crumble, as we unfortunately so often see.
Parents must work on their own faith and joy. Joy is a very important factor: The house must be joyful. Parents must know that if they want to properly educate their children, they must put everything aside and work on themselves!
When a person works on and refines his character traits, he imbibes positive energy and contentment. He can in turn give positive energy and contentment to his children and educate them. Self-improvement is thereby a foundation of education. In addition, a person who works on himself also attains the status of one who has Yirat Shamayim - awe of Heaven. Our sages teach that "He who fears Heaven, his words are listened to." Words from the hearts of sincere parents will readily enter the hearts of their children.
Everything depends upon parental self-improvement. It's a pleasure to live a home where the parents work on themselves; the home is filled with truth and positivity, which is most of education in a nutshell. Children grow up happy in such a home.
A parent who does not strive for self-improvement will have a hard time properly educating his children. The best case scenario is that such a parent will not cause them damage; in most cases, he certainly will cause damage, G-d forbid. A parent who does not strive to better himself is actually trampling his children's souls.
When a parent is in the process of self-improvement, he can already educate his children, even if he is still far from perfect. One engaged in self-improvement admits to the truth, and he who admits to the truth merits Heavenly assistance. Even his mistakes are regarded with lenience. Clearly, nobody can learn from a person who lacks the element of self-evaluation, for such a person criticizes others as if he were perfect.
Don't ever forget that your efforts in correcting yourself are the best way to insure your success in educating your children. May you have limitless joy from them, amen!