12 Shvat 5781 / Monday, January 25, 2021 | Torah Reading: Beshalah
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Father Knows Best    

Father Knows Best

A father cautions and the child disregards. We have an inborn tendency to flaunt authority, to want to discover the truth through our own experiences. This can have dire results...


I just spent three weeks visiting my son and his family in Australia and I had a wonderful time. Menachem and Avital are good people, caring parents and God fearing Jews. Their children, thank God are affectionate and well-educated.


They are a normal, happy family and like all normal, happy families they put a lot into raising their children to have proper values, using the best of their ability.


Looking down from the rung on my ladder, I see my son and his wife facing the usual challenges. Fussy babies, toddler tantrums, hormonal pre-teens and the classic bickering among siblings that is part of growing up. The difference between parents and grandparents is in the perspective.


I remember how seriously I took my kids behavior, especially their misbehavior. I wanted more than anything to produce emotionally healthy children. I read lots of books and discussed child-rearing problems with friends; I sought advice from my Rabbi. Many times my husband and I disagreed on strategy and technique. I feared he was sometimes too tough and he didn’t like when I interfered with his discipline. The standard conflicts.


What made it especially challenging was that we had not grown up religious and it is hard to pass on what you never had.


And yet, even for my son and his wife, who were raised religious and who are much more confident, efficient and educated than I was, raising kids is still tough. No matter how much you know, it’s hard to think clearly when an over-tired baby is screaming in your ear, when a two year old is on the floor, yelling and kicking his legs in frustration or when your twelve year old daughter is getting emotional because she doesn’t like her skirt.


I saw my son and his wife coping and it brought back a lot of memories. I had learned so much raising nine children of my own. I didn’t want them to make my mistakes. I had lots of advice I would have gladly dispensed.


I noticed, however, that it wasn’t being sought.


And I realized that kids, no matter what their ages, “want to do it by themselves!”


It’s their turn to be the parents now and they have their own ideas on how to do it.


And yet, I have so much experience! Believe me, I have been there and through my own trial and error I have learned which battles to fight. Please let me share my insights, the ones I learned the hard way!


But that is not how it goes.


And I imagine God in all His wisdom, having the ability to sort us all out with an e-mail from heaven telling us just what to do and how to do it.


But that’s not how it works.


He withholds Himself and lets us manage, hoping that we have learned at least the basics from the ultimate book on child-rearing, the holy Torah.


There are so many lessons in there if we know how to find them. And if that is too difficult we have many reputable people we can go to for help. There is a wealth of Torah literature and classes offering guidance to parents.


The Garden of Education, by Rabbi Arush, is a great place to start.


I tell my kids that there are two things to learn from their parents. What to do and what not to do. I know we made mistakes and I hope that they will recognize those mistakes and find better ways.


I also pray that they will emulate the things we did right, which I like to think are partly responsible for the fine people they have all become.


I decided to give compliments to my son and his wife when I noticed them handle a situation skillfully and lovingly. If I disagreed with anything they did I was silent. No one needs “advice” during a tense time. Especially from a mother-in-law!


Once, at a fitting moment later on, I delicately shared an observation and a memory of my own challenges raising children. But this can only be done with great skill and warmth, if at all. Take care!


At my age I have come to the conclusion that young kids are very resilient. Even without perfect parenting they are quite capable of growing up into fine adults if they are treated with kindness, good boundaries and good values. Parenting styles do not make or break a kid so long as there is no cruelty.


The night before we left Australia, my daughter-in-law served hot chicken soup for dinner. My grandson Dovid, who is four, was sitting in his usual place beside my son. My daughter-in-law carefully placed a bowl in front of Dovid, warning him that it was hot. My son cautioned him as well, saying twice, “Dovid, wait. The soup is very hot.”


Dovid stuck his spoon into the soup and lifted it to his lips. He yelped in pain clutching his mouth. He felt so silly that he began to laugh.


And I laughed as well because Hashem had just shown me quintessential human nature!


The father cautions and the child disregards. We have an inborn tendency to flaunt authority, to want to discover the truth through our own experiences. This can have dire results.


God willing we will learn, sooner rather than later, that our loving Father in Heaven has so much good advice. May we merit the wisdom to be open to His holy instructions and follow the Torah and its commandants fully so that we can enjoy what He gives us without the burn!



* * *

Rebbitzen Yehudit Channen began her career as a Crisis Intervention Counselor in Silver Spring, Md. in the seventies. After moving to Israel, she worked as a marital mediator and social skills instructor for kids. Following the death of a son, Rebbitzen Channen became a certified bereavement counselor and worked with young mothers who had suffered loss. Most recently she worked at the Melabev Center for the memory-impaired, as an activity director and group facilitator for families coping with Dementia.  The Rebbitzen has written for numerous magazines and newspapers and recently led an interactive creative writing course called Connective Writing. Yehudit Channen is the wife of Rabbi Don Channen, Rosh Yeshiva of Keter HaTorah.  They are blessed to have nine children and many grandchildren and live in Ramat Beit Shemesh. Today, Rebbitzen Yehudit Channen is a certified Emuna Therapist for Breslev Israel.

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