Bringing Torah To Life – Teaching Children Kibud Av V’Eim

29 12 2009

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

The following is one article from this week’s Torat Imecha: Women’s Torah Weekly. To read the rest of the edition and other editions click here.

Also, check out the full length version of this class:

The Mussar Revolution

We continue with our discussion of how to teach children the value of kibud av v’aim, respecting parents. Children from age ten to thirteen are maturing rapidly. You need to move the relationship from imitation to discipleship and friendship. This is achieved by showing the child how much you value their opinion and by sharing beliefs and ideas with them. Inviting a discussion with your child shows him that you think he is important. Recognize that they have their own unique value and that they are not just an extension of you. Rebellion is the consequence of feeling that one can’t have a self. Build a relationship with your child. Nurture bonds of love. The more time you give them, the more affection and intimacy will develop, and the more they will have to lose by disobeying.

Show your child that you value him but expect him to still treat you as a parent. Listen to him and be empathetic. When something about his behavior bothers you, explain it in a nice way and place in his hands some of the authority to correct it. If he respects you enough, he will not want to disappoint you.

At this age, jealousy, lust, and honor are big forces in a child’s life and he will need you to teach him skills on how to handle them before temptation overpowers him. Children may become envious and demand possessions that you don’t think they need. Talk to them about independence and individuality and being happy with what Hashem gives us. If you do a good job at getting the point across with examples and stories, your children will feel less pressured to conform. If you see that they cannot stand up to the test, try not to force them into conflict. Sometimes you might just have to give in. If you really can’t, try to understand them and use your authority to put limitations on how far their resentment takes them.

Kids this age are baalei taava – lustful. Girls should be taught the laws of tzniut and boys should be trained in shemirat einayim. For girls, taavah expresses itself many times in the desire for admiration. Lay down the right foundation by teaching them the joy of discipline. Self esteem comes from self discipline. Stretching yourself beyond your limitations gives you a feeling of satisfaction. Train them to take pride in overcoming base desires. Teach them yirat shamayim by your own example. Listen to them, be willing to extend yourself if possible, and then exert your authority.

Kavod, honor, is much harder to deal with. Children have an insatiable need for acknowledgment and appreciation. If they feel slighted it will be hard for them to control themselves and they may react by saying and doing things they shouldn’t. The Netivot Shalom writes that insulting a child is like pouring oil on a fire. Criticizing and devaluation destroys their self esteem. Always express acknowledgement, validation, and appreciation. If they feel they are being mistreated, listen to them, restate their complaint, acknowledge that you think differently, state the thing they did, and assert your authority. Children who are hypersensitive will interpret any disapproval as complete rejection. Build your ability to acknowledge your child’s inherent goodness. Help them develop a sense of security, value, and trustworthiness. Then you can credibly say, “A girl like you, who I acknowledge and believe in, shouldn’t be doing something like this.”

In summation, in early childhood take advantage of your children’s desire to follow and teach them the basics of kibudav. They should learn to respect and listen to you. In return you should listen to them and make fair decisions with their interests in mind. In mid childhood, be an example for your child in how you treat your spouse and your own parents. Cultivate a relationship of discipleship and friendship in the late childhood and early teen years. Be an empathetic listener but remain authoritative. Get your decision across in a way that the child feels he’s been acknowledged and that it is not your ego speaking, but the Torah. We’ve only touched on this topic which is so broad and complex. Applying these basic principles will get you off to a good start on the challenging road of chinuch.

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