Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

1 Sivan 5761 - May 23, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family
Preparing to Meet the Confrontation

by R' Zvi Zobin

Torah values are eternal -- especially where they concern chinuch, and passing fads and trends will eventually fall flat in comparison with the guidelines received at Sinai

How do you deal with a child who refuses to do as he is told?

A common approach is to offer the child a number of choices so that he agrees to one of the choices. Instead of meeting the child head-on, with all the anguish and conflict that might result from it, advisors often recommend bringing the child into the decision-making process.

This type of counselling was first proposed in the middle 1960s, an era which was revolting against the last of the restrictions and attitudes left over from the so-called Victorian era.

The breaking of barriers of modesty was a reaction against the hypocritical constraints of that era in which some even covered the legs of tables and chairs.

"Women's Lib" was a revolt against the condescending attitude of the Victorian era which relegated women to a servile, underprivileged status.

Children, too, were treated as chattels, usually used as cheap slave labor and employed in dangerous jobs such as chimney sweeping and working in mines. The common by-line when dealing with children was, "Children are to be seen but not heard." Education, such as there was for children, was often brutal and based on abuse.

The innovation of the child psychology of the mid-sixties was that you can talk to children, reason with them, listen to their side of the situation and generally treat them as intelligent human beings. It also reorientated the role of the parents whereby parents, instead of being dictators, become advisors.

Balanced, authentic Judaism does not suffer from any of the excesses of Victorianism, therefore the changes of attitudes of the Sixties are irrelevant to us. However, because we live in an open society, some of those new attitudes have seeped into our environment.

Women do not have a servile status -- as any rebbetzin will tell you -- therefore the concept of "Women's Lib" is irrelevant to us. Similarly, children have never had an underprivileged status. On the contrary, the tinokos shel beis rabbon are held in high esteem. Parents are to regard the development of their children as their prime focus in life -- and on the Seder night [and even at times at the Shabbos table], children are the stars of the evening.

As mentioned in previous articles, the secular world has little experience in educating children, as compared with the thousands of years which we have devoted to chinuch, and which is based on the absolute knowledge derived from the Torah.

Though the reasoning behind the "New Child Psychology" seems logical, the therapists promoted it without knowing what will be the long term effect. Now, 35 years later, we can see how the fabric of secular society is rapidly eroding. The huge increase in divorce rate -- amongst the few who bother to get married, and the horrors of drugs and juvenile crime and violence, all point to failure of the system.

The basic fallacy of the "new attitude" to children is that they assume that children are young adults with a similar degree of reasoning power. We know, from our gedolim and from our experience with children, that this is not correct.

On the contrary, including children in the decision making process, asking them to reason intellectually beyond their ability and pressuring them to perform adult-like tasks when they are not yet ready, can do damage and lay the seeds for major problems later on.

Obedience in children is not simply a convenient subservience for helping adults tell children what to do. It is essential for their development and for their safety. It is also necessary for helping them to accept the yoke of Torah and mitzvos when they become adults.

Tactics like, "When do you want to go to bed? In fifteen minutes time or in thirty minutes time?" makes life easier now, but they push off the time for "the Big Confrontation" when the child refuses to be manipulated by such tactics. And the more that moment is pushed off, the older and stronger and more set in his ways the child becomes.

Including the child in the decision making process also gives him an unreal self image that he is really capable of making important decisions. It makes him an equal partner with his parents and teachers and bestows on him the option to reject advice and information when he considers them to be unreasonable. It provides a basis for him to reject all authority and to become intolerant and insensitive.

A child knows that he has his limitations and he relies on his parents and educators to train him. Firmness and the setting of well defined limits allow the child to relax and develop confidence.

If rules of behavior are set down from the very earliest age, obedience will be a natural part of the child's nature.

Sometimes, a parent might decide to tell the child the reasons for a decision, but it should be clear that the decision is not based on the child's agreement to or acceptance of the validity of those reasons.

Obviously, parents should not be totally dictatorial for the entire life of the child; they will need to train the child to make his own decisions. They also need to get feedback from the child to know the child's likes and dislikes. They need to talk with the child, to help him express his feelings and talk out problems and feelings and help him deal with situations.

But adults need to recognize that, often, children have neither the data- base of knowlege and life experience, nor the neural maturity, nor the intellectual development to make a reasonable decision. And, ultimately, accepting the Yoke of Torah means sometimes having to do things even when we do not understand why.


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