12 Kislev 5781 / Saturday, November 28, 2020 | Torah Reading: Vayeitzei
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Don't Take it Personally    

Don't Take it Personally

The notion that a child does such things on purpose is like thinking that a child is a completed adult, and attributing willful maliciousness to him...


Translated by Rabbi Lazer Brody

A big mistake parents frequently make is taking their children’s problems personally. Suppose that a father wants to take a rest, and the children are making noise. He asks them to quiet down, but they don’t listen to him. The father feels insulted immediately, and thinks the children are not listening JUST to make him upset. So the father is taking the situation personally, as if the children are willfully disrespectful and cruel, as if they intend to cause their father pain purposely. The father responds with anger. He'll only cause himself more pain by taking offense and getting upset; the loss is all his.

The notion that a child does such things on purpose is like thinking that a child is a completed adult, and attributing willful maliciousness to him. That's a farce!
Can a young child conceptualize that a mother needs to sleep? That a father would like to relax? Is he capable of empathizing with his dad's challenges at work? Of course, not! Such concepts are beyond his understanding. Even if a parent explains a thousand times that mommy is tired and needs to rest, or that daddy would like quiet now, a child is a child, after all. Children lack tools to consider the needs of parents; they do have the tools of joy and play which burst forth sporadically.
There is a specific age that it’s simply impossible to ask children to be quiet – it’s just impossible! Children can’t sit cramped up. To ask a four-year old to be quiet is a request that he can't fulfill. It’s like asking someone not to breathe because it makes noise…
Therefore, a parent who needs to rest has no choice but to find another solution, besides asking their children to be quiet, because that won’t work. Either the parent should find a time when the little ones are out of the house, and use that time to rest, or send the bigger children out with the little ones to play. At any rate, little children cannot sit quietly and do nothing.
Of course, everything requires proper and sensible boundaries. Once kids have fooled around for 15 minutes or so at bedtime, parents can calm them down by telling a story or by reading them a book. But, ordering them not to fool around as children do, will only turn the bedtime experience into a battleground. Children who are given the freedom to play find it easier to calm down when they need to.
Parents sometimes have difficulty in letting their children be children for several reasons. Either the parents are just not used to such an approach, because they weren’t raised this way, and it feels like anarchy to them by raising children in such a manner. Or, they see other children sitting nicely and listening well, and they think that it must be possible to raise quiet, submissive children. Or, it could just be that the parent himself is embittered, and cannot deal with happiness or laughter…
Some answers to these issues are:

For parents who did not grow up this way: Don’t make the same mistakes that your parents made with you. After all, you have to admit that you have emotional issues, or you wouldn’t have trouble accepting the "childishness" of your own children.

For those who see other children who behave so well: You need to realize the difference between education and training. Education means presenting children with values of life and emuna, joy and lovingkindness. We do our utmost to instill children with desire and positive motivation while encouraging them and showing them our own personal example. Training means to scare and threaten children so that they should behave at least externally. In that way, the children behave like well-trained animals who respond when the masters make a certain sign.

Do we want our children to be trained as Pavlov's dog or educated? Training children is the easy and fast way, which shows results that you can display in your living room, and guests can marvel at the “wonderfully mannered children”. But this way destroys children's souls and their will. As soon as these children mature and are able to free themselves from the yoke of their “trainers”, they’ll run free and far away from their parental oppressors.
The embittered parent definitely needs to take himself by the hand and pray to Hashem for help in loving, understanding, and having patience for his children. He didn’t get married and bring children into this world in order to torture them, and to instill bitterness into them as well. Such a parent has a responsibility to assure his children's happiness and to do everything possible to raise the children with patience and love. Don't forget - your child loves you! With that in mind, don't be insulted by the little ones' antics. They're simply being themselves. It's our task to help them do exactly that while lovingly and understandingly channeling their energies into the very best direction. May you have much joy from your children!

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