Friday, July 11, 2008

Achieving a Harmonious Shabbos Table - Final Article - Part 7



Part 7

by Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern

Reprinted from the booklet with permission by the author.



Even after trying their utmost to implement the advice presented in this pamphlet, some parents may still have great difficulty creating a peaceful Shabbos meal. Often, with large families, there is never a dull moment. One child may be constantly teasing his sibling, while another is making a mess with the food and another is singing zemiros at the top of his lungs. Adding to the excitement are the infants, who constantly kvetch to be diapered or fed. When their Shabbos meal more closely resembles a Purim party, parents may feel hopeless and may just struggle to survive the meal in one piece.

Although there are no magic or instant solutions for successful child-raising, the following advice can help parents to better cope with the situation, relieve some of their frustration and be optimistic in achieving success.


The first steps for parents to take is to change their attitude toward their children and have realistic expectations. Often, parents think that only their family is disorderly, making them nervous and stricter with their children. This outlook, however, does not work because children often do not respond to nervous and angry parents. Although they may obey their angry or forceful parents, children will not become mechunach by this method. As Rav Wolbe writes, anger and force are not chinuch (Alei Shur, Vol. 1, p. 261).

A lively Shabbos table is very common among families with children. Kids are kids, and some take longer to settle down and mature than others.
In addition, parents should never compare families or children. Just as some families have an easier time earning a livelihood, some also have an easier time raising their children. And just as one’s livelihood is in the hands of Hashem, so too is the amount of tzar gidul bonim—pain of child-raising—that each parent will experience. This is part of every person’s challenge in life, and is determined by Hashem.

When someone asked Rav Avigdor Miller for advice about coping with the difficulties in raising a bunch of noisy children, he replied, “Children are like apartment houses. When one tenant is screaming at the landlord to fix a leaky faucet, and another to repair a burnt wire in one fusebox, the landlord has only one thing in mind—the rent that he will collect at the end of the month. Children are the same—they are your olam haba; you will reap the reward for raising them in olam haba. Focus on this, and their noise will sound like beautiful music.”


Patience is one of the key midos to focus on for success. As Rav Wolbe writes, “Only with limitless patience can parents educate their children” (Alei Shur, Vol. 2, p. 219).

Lack of patience is a cause of many problems in family relationships. The Rambam writes that people are influenced by the society in which they live (Hilchos Deos, 6:1). The mindset of today’s hi-tech, fast-food society is just the opposite of patience. The microwave and ready-made foods offer meals in minutes; computers and cell phones enable people to communicate across the globe in seconds. People become frustrated if, for some reason, the connection takes a few seconds longer than usual.

Likewise, when parents experience difficulties in child-raising, they seek instant solutions. They may read a child-raising book or listen to some tapes, expecting that they will receive the exact necessary advice for their problem. Sometimes general advice works, but in many instances it may not. Problems in child-raising are not like a headache or infection that can be automatically cured with painkillers or antibiotics. Each situation has many variables that depend on the child’s individual make-up, the parents’ capabilities, the existing parent-child relationship and numerous other factors. Realistically speaking, there would have to be tens of thousands of books on child-raising in order to cover every possible family situation. Parents must know how and when to apply child-raising principles to their individual situation, and patiently wait until their children absorb these principles and put them into practice.

There is an anecdote about a couple who were in the midst of a quarrel, when the husband suddenly excused himself for a moment and took out a book on shalom bayis. He remembered that the chapter dealing with quarreling discussed a similar scenario to the one he was having and gave instructions regarding what to say and do to resolve the dispute peacefully. He quickly memorized the guidelines, returned to his wife and started to repeat and act according to the book. To his surprise, the advice didn’t work.

Rav Wolbe once remarked that the purpose of general guidance is mainly to teach us not to do the wrong thing. Finding the proper way to handle any given situation involves many variables and often requires on-the-spot decisions. Even when couples seek counseling, their patience will be limited by their expectations of receiving a solution in one or two sessions. They often fail to realize that deep-rooted problems, especially the ones that exist for lengthy periods, need time to solve.
Indeed, relief is available for parents. They can observe families with older children, where Shabbos meals are quite orderly, keeping in mind that their own children also will eventually outgrow their childhood stages. Remember, as Rav Pam said, like good wine, children will improve with age given time and a good education. Keeping this in mind can be a ray of hope.



After all is said and done and there is still a balagan at the Shabbos table, parents should not forget one of the most important concepts in child-raising—Baruch Hashem, they have healthy children. A childless couple would do anything to have just one healthy child. Crying and kvetching would be music to their ears, and they would not be bothered by a disorderly house caused by their only child.
How much more grateful must parents be when Hashem rewards them with a bunch of happy, healthy children. Active children are a sign of a normal home, and parents must be extrememly grateful to Hashem for being blessed with a home full of vitality and vibrancy.

(Picture courtesy of Theodor Tolby at Chassidic Art)

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