12 Kislev 5781 / Saturday, November 28, 2020 | Torah Reading: Vayeitzei
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Recipe for a Happy Summer Break    

Recipe for a Happy Summer Break

Parents expect things from their children, and the children have their own expectations of summer break. Everyone is unhappy; what’s the solution?


As I am wont to say: “No one has ever changed because of criticism.” If you want someone else to truly listen and change – you must do it while radiating love, understanding and happiness. 


This is why the phrase “Smile!” is not just some nicety to put on a bumper sticker. A smile is deep service of Hashem which testifies to the wholeness of the heart. It is work that requires a real connection to Hashem. It also has tremendous power tawaken deep inner happiness.  


Everyone is thirsty for a smile and a good word. Smiling is a huge kindness to other people, and literally saves lives as Rebbe Nachman teaches in Rebbe Nachman's Wisdom (Sichot HaRan, 41). Smiling is a big mitzvahand oftentimes a Kiddush Hashem - sanctification of Hashem’s name – as well. 

A face that radiates happiness and love ialso the first condition for someone who wants to help others return to HashemYou can help someone return to Hashem just by smiling at him, without even saying to him one word.  


You Call This a Vacation?! 

Let’s bring this home even more. Summertime is a difficult time for parents, with all their children home from school. The parents expect things from their children, and the children have their own expectations of summer break. This is a recipe for disaster, with both sides going back into the school routine bitter and angry. 


The parent’s frustration can arise from many different causes: The children don’t wake up to pray on time, or they refuse to open a book and learn something, or thefight with each other... The parents try to push and pressure the kids, or even offer treats and prizes if they do what they should throughout the break – but it doesn’t always help. So, what’s the solution? 


The answer is: Radiate to the children love, warmth, and happiness! If you aren’t happy serving Hashem, then don’t expect that the Torah will rest in the hearts of your children.  


Also, remember that in the be all and end all, your children are – just children! They don’t have the understanding yet to know, let alone feel, how wonderful it is to learn and pray. Kids just want to eat, play and sleep in late – they think they have it all coming to them! 


It’s true that we need to educate them. But the only way to educate them is with happiness, love and understanding. As the verse says, “Love others, and bring them close to the Torah.” The love must come first – there is no other way. If you don’t start with warmth and love, then instead of bringing them closer to serving Hashem, you’ll only push them away G-d forbid. 


Who Wants to Suffer? 

All the inevitable fighting over getting the children to pray and learn as they should can make them hate these holy and important things, G-d forbid. Everyone hates fighting, and everyone hates being forced to do something. 


It is an extremely serious issue if they ask themselves“Why am I suffering so much?” and the answer is learning Torah and prayer. You can’t expect them to love the Torah or their studies if they are put in a situation where they resent it. If this is the case, then what are you gaining from all your “education”? You are training them the way you train a monkey or a parrot, while they just wait for the first moment that you don’t have power over them any more... 


Remember very well, that the ones who lose the most from this entire situation is really the parents! No parent enjoys fighting with their kids, and they also end up frustrated and upset. In the future, they will be even more upset when they reap the bitter fruits of all that fighting, and the children go in a bad direction G-d forbid – which is one of the worst forms of suffering that exists. 


The Good is Even More Powerful 

The good news is that as bad as the situation can be with pressure and fighting – with even a little bit of love and happiness put into the equation, it is possible to have a fantastic summer break for everyone. Everyone will be happy and relaxed. Even more importantly, the children will receive a real education – an education which will give them strength to return to their studies fresh and with renewed vigor, and will accompany them their entire lives. Even better – it doesn’t even cost money! 


Don’t forget that kids really don’t need attractions, nor ice cream and treats. What kids need more than anything, is a smile and encouragement. You can give someone everything and a perfect “education,” but if you haven’t given them love and encouragement – you haven’t given them anything. Children are thirsty for happiness and positivity from their parents, and yearn for our praise. 


Make sure to take a little time out to be a part of their lives. Talk to each child privately at least once a week or go for a short walk together. Play with them from time to time, even just for a few minutes. And of course, don't scold and rebuke them with every move they make. 


A Special Opportunity 

This does not mean that you should not maintain some form of order and schedule, or that you should stop caring that your child prays and learn properly. Absolutely not. You can expect a lot from them – but know that this requires a lot of input on your part of happiness, warmth and loveAnd if they don’t live up to your expectations, don’t push, criticize or complain. Just know that you haven’t showed them enough happiness and excitement. You haven’t shown them enough how beautiful prayer and learning is. Strengthen yourself and keep going. 


Summer break, or “Bein Hazmanim” shouldn’t be a curse. Rather, it’s a special opportunity to have more time than usual to give the children a lot of love and excitement to serve Hashem, and a lot of smiles and encouragement to take with them into the new school year. 


If we merit to smile and radiate warmth and love properly to everyone around us, and especially to our family – then in return, Hashem will radiate that same warmth and love to us. He will “smile back at us” so to speak, and give us peace, blessing and goodness. 


Remember, even though I applied these teachings to summer break, educating children with love is a year-round endeavor. To learn more, read my book: The Garden of Education


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