5 Tamuz 5781 / Tuesday, June 15, 2021 | Torah Reading: Chukat
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Our Little Friends    

Our Little Friends

Being stuck in the house with the children all day has only highlighted our need to work on ourselves and how we treat our little friends…


All of us want to be loved and appreciated. The main way that we are judged by others is through our interpersonal behavior.  A wise,  powerful,  or  wealthy  individual who is deficient in how he treats others might be appreciated for those qualities, but in their hearts, people look down upon him due to his poor behavior between himself and the people around him. Therefore, anyone who wants to truly be successful must work on his character traits and make it a priority to improve the way he treats other people, and properly fulfill the commandments “between man and his fellow man.” 


The “Fellow” That We Don’t Recognize 


Our relationships with others are integral to man’s purpose in this world. That is why a significant portion of the commandments relate to how we treat others. I think most of us know already about the importance of this topic. What most of us do not realize is that the laws “between man and your fellow man” applies fully to our children as well. 


“Your fellow man” includes anyone who was created in the image of Hashem. Our children aren’t any less than our friends at work or at shul. Not only are they not less, rather, they are much, much more than anyone else! We also must treat them nicely, have patience with them, and use all our good traits – just like everyone else. We must also be vigilant to keep ourselves far, far away from becoming angry with them, insulting or embarrassing them, and of course resorting to violence or abuse of any kind.  


Children are not our property. They are holy souls. They are the children of the Creator of the world that are untrusted to us. True, it is our responsibility to educate them and set for them healthy boundaries. But we are obligated with the utmost responsibility to treat them nicely and with respect, love them, and build their individual personalities. This is not at all contradictory to properly educating them – in fact, this is true education! 


Certainly it is an important task to improve our relationships with everyone, but we must primarily work to improve ourselves within our own homes and with our own children. Your true measure of improvement is with your own family. Your first obligation is towards them. Internalize that your children are included in the mitzvah of “love your fellow as yourself,” and with regards to them, this is especially “a great rule of the Torah”! 


Relationship Skills in the Home 


There is, however, an important difference between your colleagues and even your spouse, versus your children. If you yell at your friend, it can really hurt him. But if the friend is emotionally healthy, he will be able to get over it sooner or later. However, if you shout at your child, you bury your child in the ground. It is not so certain when, or if, the child will ever come out of it. 


A child is a delicate and fragile little thing. Even if he runs wild, he is still only just a little child. But you are so big compared to him! To him you are this big scary giant, who rules over his life. As long as you are loving, pleasant and friendly to him, then he is happy and content, since he has a backbone. The strongest people he knows are by his side and are there to help him. But the moment you turn around and become his enemy and scream at him, he is gripped by terror and feels that his life is in danger – totally lost.  


A Child In Front of a Roaring Lion 


It is not much less than standing in front of a roaring lion. In front of a lion, you are helpless and when he attacks you, you become paralyzed with the fear of death. That is the child in front of you that is helpless and terrified, and when you attack him, he feels the exact same thing. Even if you don’t hit him, the fact that you shouted at him makes him deathly afraid. You literally traumatize him.  


Are you really prepared to give your child such a terrifying experience... with your own two hands?! If a similar trauma would befall your child from an outside source G-d forbid - you would surely invest time and money and go to experts to help him with the trauma. However, when you yourself are the cause of the mental scar, you don’t notice the tremendous damage it does! It is a great mitzvah to internalize and understand this truth.  


Prefer the Fiery Furnace 


This same concept applies to embarrassing and shaming our children. Our holy sages teach us that someone who embarrasses another – it is literally as if he killed him. In fact, it is preferable to throw oneself into a fiery furnace rather than embarrass someone else. Since this is true of an adult who has a strong backbone, even much more so it is true with regards to our children.  


After all, a child has no confidence of his own. He has no knowledge of his innate self-worth. His entire self-image comes directly from his parents. Any damage or injury that comes from you burns deep into his personality. He grows up with a crushed self-image that’s not certain to ever be restored. This is true beyond any doubt - any person that is unsuccessful in life, it is because their parents hurt, insulted, and shamed them in their childhood.  


If you can just be honest and think to yourself how well you manage when embarrassed, and what this does to your emotions, and how hard it is for you to cope with situations like this - you’ll easily be able to double and triple those feelings and think about your child, who in the same situation simply does not have the capabilities to digest and cope with those strong emotions. This is a fatal internal injury.  


This Is the Time 


Most of us were stuck in the house together with the children for days and weeks on end, in fear and uncertainty. The pressure was maxed out, and friction was inevitable. Now, it is time to make a fresh start, and begin again, and restore our relationship with our little friends.  


We must work on ourselves every day in order to achieve this. We must set aside time every day to speak with the Creator of the World, and ask Him to help us fix our character traits, and accept everything with emuna including whatever the children do. We must develop and teach ourselves, and naturally this will express itself in our relationship with our children. In the way that we want to go, Heaven will help us, and enable us to raise successful children who are strong and healthy in body and soul. The cherry on top will be the wonderful pleasure we receive from our children as they grow into the people G-d created them to be. 


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