Thursday, May 1, 2008
How to Keep One's Children on the Derech
I have one Briach Hatichon, one unifying factor, behind virtually every detail of every decision involved in raising my children, from the "big decisions" to the "little decisions" like how to speak or how to discipline in dozens of situations each day. This is that live with the reality there is no guarantee that my children, like many other children in the frum community, will decide to remain frum in their teenage or adult years. Therefore, I am always mindful, when deciding how to do anything involved in parenting, of the ever-present question, "Will doing this make my children more or less likely to stay on the derech?"
You may be screaming at your monitor: Dixie Yid! I am surprised at you! Shouldn't there be a little bit more to the Meleches Hashem, G-d's work, of parenting, than doing so based on merely trying keep your kids frum?! Isn't that setting the bar kind of low? What about shooting for something higher? For instance, shouldn't you be trying to raise your kids to big ovdei Hashem, Talmidei Chachamim, Bnos Torah and Bnos aliya?! Raise your kids to be big ba'alei Avodah! Why settle for constantly focusing on just avoiding something bad? Explain yourself Dixie Yid!
Dixie Yid responds: Dear reader, your assumptions are wrong! If you think there's any other way to keep your kids frum at all other than shooting for the stars in Avodas Hashem, then you're making a big mistake. As I see it, the only way my children will stay on the Derech is if they see that living Yiddishkeit is, by far, the best way to live. If you think that there even exists a way to ensure that one's children will just stay "regular frum," then you're in for a big surprise. If you shoot for the starts, with Hashem's help, your children will choose to continue being frum and hopefully much more than "just frum."
From my daily interactions with my kids, I want them to see that I love them and that there's nothing I'd rather do more than things in Yiddishkeit. As the Aish Kodesh says in Chovas Hatalmidim, the soul of a human being craves excitement. And that desire will be fulfilled. The soul cannot tolerate a vacuum, so that desire for excitement will be satisfied. If I can create an environment for my children whereby they have the greatest chance of seeing that the excitement and fulfillment their souls desire through Yiddishkeit, then IY"H, they'll seek it there.
However, if my children see that excitement is to be found at ball games, in front of a TV screen, at concerts, theaters, shopping malls or furniture stores, then even if I'm frum, they will seek their soul's excitement through things other than Yiddishkeit. And then, frumkeit will seem like an afterthought at best, only observed out of guilt, at best, or an unwanted burden to be cast off as soon as feasible, at worst.
This plays its self out not only in "big" ways, like I've been talking about in the last two paragraphs, but also in small things. If I have a choice between taking away a snack, or taking away a child's participation in kiddush, or the Shabbos seuda, as a consequence for some infraction, I choose the snack. Or if I'm considering whether or not to force, by threat of punishment, some mitzvah, like davening, on one of my children, I'd rather choose to let my child forgo the davening for the time being (even a long time being) rather than have such unpleasant feelings become associated with davening.
There are no guarantees with one's children. Raising them to Torah requires great care and a lot of davening.
May Hashem help that my, and all of Klal Yisroel's children, will find their excitement in Avodas Hashem and stay on and grow in Avoad Hashem ad bias Goel Tzedek Bimeheira Biyameinu.
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