I recently met the grown son (20-ish) of a very talented rabbi and educator. The father is an overt ba’al teshuva, and the son a regular bochur who attends a top mainstream Israeli yeshiva. To me the boy seemed to have inculcated the best of what the FFB-and BT-worlds have to offer.
As a BT raising my kids in a FFB yeshivish world, I could only wish for the same success with my own sons. I asked the father how he did it, and the following is what he shared with me as his “recipe.” I understand every home, parent, and child is different and parenting isn’t “one-size fits all” and that the issues below implicate thorny hashkafic issues. Nevertheless, having seen the product and judging the recipe on its own merits, I thought his ideas were worth sharing. Whatever our recipe, may Hashem help that we all merit to have wonderful children!
1. Relaxed atmosphere in the home. I want life to be light, not heavy, for them. But light because Hashem loves us and everything is OK, not light from kalus rosh. Light has nothing to do with circumstance. You can have a parent die, a divorce, monetary problems and life can still be light. (This, to me, is probably most important of all and it’s a tricky balance to find. As a wise man I know once said, anyone can be a great gardener in Hawaii – if you have the right atmosphere in the home, children will naturally flourish, even under difficult circumstances.)
2. No shouting, ever.
3. Mistakes are not terrible, they are part of life. I want my kids to feel it’s OK to be naughty – it doesn’t make them bad people. They just need to apologize if necessary, do teshuva and move on. It doesn’t need to be a big deal.
4. Apologize to my kids when necessary. I’m not perfect either.
5. Very little interest in grades at school – middos are all that matter to me on their reports. This is not just words, I believe it – and my kids know that.
6. No labeling – even good labeling. You did a good thing, not you are a good boy. (If you are a good boy because you did good, it implies you are not good intrinsically – there’s another reason, but I want to keep this short)
7. Similarly, praise the act, not the child.
8. No punishment, rather consequences to actions (tricky balance this one and it’s taken a while to get it right – I learned this as some of the other ideas from Adlerian family counselling)
9. Ask them difficult questions as soon as they are ready for them – how do you know God exists? How do you know he wrote the Torah? Obviously, give them answers also.
10. Encourage them to ask the difficult questions that are bothering them. Value and appreciate a question like, why should I keep Shabbos or how can the world be 6000 years old – it’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s a wonderful opportunity to muchanech.
11. You don’t have to be frum if you don’t want to – ultimately, the choice is yours. You would be crazy not to be, but you do have the choice, nothing is forced on you. You don’t do me a favor by being frum. Do it for yourself – because it makes sense.
12. I try to learn through an outline of all of nach and give an overview of targyag mitzvos with each of my kids separately. I give them cash incentives to memorize Taryag or Avos.
13. The frum world may be crazy, but it’s the best society we have – embrace it, but don’t buy into the craziness, maintain your independence. Better a frummer school and we parents are the open minded ones, than a less frum school and we parents are the closed minded ones.
14. Secular people are Jews as much as we are. Goyim are not to be looked down upon, they are created in God’s image. Secular education is important and valuable.
15. You have a responsibility to support your family. That’s the man’s responsibility, not the woman’s.
If you wish to contact the author, you can direct any inquiries on Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt, firstname.lastname@example.org
Originally published on 8/13/2012