By Rabbi Dov Brezak, Principal and Director, Talmud Torah Ezrat Torah,
Recently, the principal of a local Bais Yaakov showed up at my friend's house and said he had to speak to him about something important. They both went to a private spot, and he took out a video camera.
"I want to show you a film," he said. He turned the camera on, and my friend began watching with great interest. The film was a non-fiction movie filmed just this past week. It showed a group of boys secretly climbing over the fence after school hours and vandalizing the girls' school. They were pulling off mischievous pranks, not realizing that these pranks were causing losses of hundreds of shekels.
The points of discussion were the stars of this movie. After the mischievous episodes took place just once too much, the principal decided on a very wise plan of action. He planted video cameras in strategic places to film the culprits. That way, he would be able to identify them and bring an end to their costly pranks.
Wondering exactly what this had to do with him, my friend continued watching the film with mounting curiosity. He saw how the boys were smiling to each other, and how they came to the school after hours. They began climbing over the fence and then made their way to some of the classrooms, laughing and knocking on the windows and more. Little did they know that everything they were doing was on film.
As he was watching, he suddenly saw the face of one of his sons come up on the video. There he was climbing the fence with the other boys, laughing with the gang as the group made its way over to the classrooms.
"Is this your son?" the principal asked.
"It certainly looks like him," he answered. He was, to say the least, shocked (and rather embarrassed). As the saying goes, "Boys will be boys," - but not one of his boys. He never dreamed one of them would be caught up in something like that. The camera zoomed in to show the boys dismantling sewage pipes and other such acts of vandalism.
At least his son was not involved in actually doing the damage - but he was there, and that was enough. The principal then turned to the father and said,
"In case he's interested, tell this boy that I'm thinking of turning this video over to the police."
The boy was very interested. So were the other boys involved. It goes without saying that not a single prank or any form of damage has been done to the school since. Needless to say, my friend's son has stopped hanging around with these boys. And you can rest assured that he will not visit the girls' school for many months (hopefully, years) to come.
At first glance, the way this incident was handled appears to be chinuch at its best. The boys were made aware that their unscrupulous deeds would bring them dire consequences, thus discouraging them from similar antics in the future.
However, after careful examination, we realize that this is not chinuch; it is crime control.
The boys, afraid of being caught, will certainly not perpetrate such offenses in the future. On the other hand, after the initial shock wears off, they may find a different school that doesn't have such a shrewd principal. Fear of getting caught is what is preventing them from continuing their mischievous ways. The moment this fear is no longer relevant, what will deter them? (With regards to my friend's son, I think the shock will last him a good few years).
I'm reminded of a question, once asked by a concerned parent: Why is it necessary to have understanding and to show love? Won't we gain more control through toughness?
It is not control we're aiming at; it is chinuch. Chinuch means that even when the policeman isn't looking, the child will follow in the ways we have taught him. "Gam ki yazkin lo yassur mimenu - Even when he is older, he will not turn away from it."
Chinuch can be defined as a system of placing your children on the correct path so that eventually he will choose to follow it of his own free will. Rav Wolbe, shlita, describes the process of chinuch as "holding a match to a candle until the candle's flame burns on its own." Thus, our goal is to bring our children to the point at which they themselves want to do all that we know is right.
While these thoughts ring true when it comes to chinuch in general, they are especially relevant to helping our children overcome difficulties. In the last few articles we wrote, "We cannot help our children past any difficulties if we suppress their feelings or try to force them to move forward without taking their feelings into account. The first step is to recognize that your child has feelings. The next step is to find out what these feelings are. This is followed by understanding and compassion, and, eventually, your decision of how you will act based on what you know. With this combination we can begin to help our children through the various difficulties they experience in life on the road to success."
With sincere wishes for your success and siyatta diShemaya, Rabbi Dov Brezak
Rabbi Brezak can be reached, year-round, by fax at (718) 338-2533, or by e-mail at: email@example.com.
Rabbi Brezak's newly released second tape series, "Chinuch Concepts 2" can be ordered through Irgun Shiurei Torah at (718) 851-8651.