Sourcing Childraising Difficulties
Our generation is witnessing a strange phenomenon. Despite the abundance
of books, shiuirim, (both live and recorded), and parenting classes
dealing with a wide spectrum of child raising issues, we are experiencing
more child-raising problems and difficulties today than in previous
generations. There are many reasons for this phenomenon. Firstly, parents
who fail to feel the responsibility of their children’s chinuch or who
lack parenting skills, (as previously mentioned), will certainly encounter
However, there are two more primary causes of child-raising problems that
are mentioned by contemporary rabbanim and educators:
1. parents’ approach towards chinuch, and
2. the is the negative influence that our anti-Torah society has on both
parents and children. (Other reasons will be mentioned at a later point.
A. The Proper Approach Towards Chinuch
Rav Yechiel Yaakovson (one of the foremost Israeli lecturers and
authorities on child-raising and children off the derech), once remarked
that when parents speak or complain about their difficulties in child-
raising, their intention is how to respond when a child isn't behaving.
Many parents are under the misconception that chinuch is how to react to
negative behavior of children, and invest very little time and energy into
genuine chinuch and how to apply its principles. This results in the
majority of their efforts being directed towards how to punish their
children and applying the commonly used methods of anger, screaming,
giving rebuke and mussar to assert themselves. Furthermore, parents are
constantly telling their children what they are doing wrong, for example,
not sitting and eating orderly at the table, or not behaving properly,
without taking out the time to explain patiently what, how and why they
should be doing them properly. This approach is NOT chinuch as Rav Shlomo
Wolbe writes, “How foolish are parents whose thoughts and ideas on chinuch
are limited to the question, ‘When should we hit our child?’ Woe to such
chinuch!” (Alei Shur Vol. 2 p. 219).
This approach is counterproductive since children who are constantly
criticized and punished by their parents have a tendency to resist being
mechunach from them.
B. The Influence of our Society
The Rambam writes “people are influenced by the society in which they
live.” (Hilchos Dayos 6:1 ; Rav Chaim Friedlander, in his preface to the
Guide for Chasanim writes that lack of patience is a cause of many
problems in family relationships.) Our society, which is replete with
impatience, bad midos and anti-Torah hashkafos on chinuch and family
relationships, is wreaking havoc on the Jewish family.
One of the key midos that is necessary to succeed in child-raising is
patience. As Rav Wolbe writes, “Only with limitless patience can parents
educate their children” (Alei Shur ibid). Yet, 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. Although by making life easier, people can accomplish more in
less time, nevertheless the big downside of these many conveniences is
that people are not trained to face the challenges of life.
Therefore, when parents experience child-raising difficulties, 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
doesn’t. 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 parents 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.
Lack of patience will cause a person who encounters difficulties in his
child-raising to seek instant solutions and become frustrated if these
solutions are not readily available. A parent who becomes frustrated will
either become a “control freak” to his children order to enforce
discipline or let the child do whatever he wants. Either way is harmful
for the child’s development.
The conveniences of our affluent society are another cause of frustration.
When purchasing food, clothing, appliances or electronic devices, we can
usually acquire or order the exact make and model that suits our needs;
settling for the second best has become a thing of the past. This
lifestyle has lessened our ability to cope with life’s challenges because
we also expect that everything in our lives should suit our exact needs.
Therefore, when we encounter difficulties in life, whether it's between
husband and wife, parents and children, at the workplace or in school, we
become frustrated because we are not prepared to face these challenges if
the situation or relationship is not suitable for our individual needs.
How other influences of our society create new challenges in child-raising
will be mentioned in the forthcoming chapters.
Main points to work and focus on:
- 1. Parents must learn proper child-raising skills (parenting
classes and workshops are a good source).
- 2. Chinuch is educating the child how and why to do what’s proper in
the eyes of the Torah, not to constantly focus on telling the child what
he’s doing wrong or how and when to punish him.
- 3. Parents must learn how to apply child-raising principles to their
- 4. There are no instant solutions for child-raising. Much patience is
needed to raise children properly. (Our society, which is the antitheses
of patience, is adversely affecting our ability to properly raise
Text Copyright © 2008 by Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern and Torah.org