Raising Children

Education begins already from the mothers’ observance of taharat hamishpocha:  this affects the middot and purity of the children. When the mother covers her hair and conducts herself in a way of tzniut this affects the children positively. In the mother’s womb the children are also affected by what the mother eats, sees, does etc. The Rebbe’s mother always said that the Rebbe was holy already from the womb.
Before birth the baby is in the mothers womb learning Torah. At birth an angel (a malach) pinches the baby so it forgets the Torah. But some impression remains. That is why many newborn babies cry a lot because being in the world is a shock after the kedusha they had. Surrounding a baby with holy things helps a lot. And playing niggunim is very important:  a child should hear Jewish music, this calms the soul.

The Jews were redeemed from Egypt in the merit of the Jewish women, nashim tzidkaniot, and in the merit of the fact that they did not change their Jewish names, their Jewish language or their Jewish dress. In other words, they did not emulate the Egyptians at all. This has great significance. Emulating the goyim is the first step of assimilation. We have to teach our children to be proud of whom they are: of being yidden. When the Jews came from Europe to America, they had long peyot at first and wore their traditional Jewish styles of clothing; they spoke Yiddish and they looked like frum yidden. But then some of them felt embarrassed in front of the goyim so they changed their style of clothing to look more modern, they took on goyish names and they learned English etc.
There is nothing wrong with learning the language of the country you live in for the purpose of communicating in order to  get along in society, teach others etc. But there is something wrong with looking up to goyishkeit or trying to fit in with the goyim. Our children should never feel that they have to dress in style. Yes, dress nicely, look beautiful…but in style? No, because who sets those styles? Goyim! We have to teach our children that the tznius style never goes out of style and we always have to dress nicely, elegantly, modestly and in true Jewish style. We should look nice so our children are not ashamed in front of others but we should not emphasize goyish styles or fitting into the goyish society.  We have to teach our children to be proud of who we are, of who our forefathers were. To be proud of dressing like a Jew,  proud of speaking Yiddish or Hebrew. To be proud of looking like a religious Jew even if we are in the middle of mitzraim, in the middle o f a completely goyish immodest society. If our children are embarrassed, that is the first sign of failure in our education.  
We must be an example to our children to give over the right hashkofot (ideals): for example, if children think we care about the trends in styles of clothing, they will emulate that. But if they see that for us the main thing is tzniut (although you can look nice, but the main idea is tzniut) that is what the child will absorb and will become a priority so if later the styles are not tzniut, the child will not think it is anything to copy or look up to). We must be an example of morality. The problem in today’s society is that many things have become “normal” and we stop looking at them as wrong. So we tolerate things we should not and our children pick up the same waves. We have to give our children a strong sense of morality so that they can reject negative influences in society and negative trends.
We must not make a big deal out of goyish things: ie. Children don’t need Barbie dolls. This is a symbol of something untzniut. Buy your children baby dolls so they can play being a mother. The Rebbe said every Jewish girl should have a doll so she can emulate her mother and practice being a mother. But a Barbie doll? No. Don’t allow your kids to look up to goyish ideals. I see people who run after movie stars or famous singers (even jewish ones). They want an autograph etc. Why?? Why should our kids feel we look up to a human being, especially goyim? Our kids should feel we look up to tzadikim only. That is what we get excited about: seeing the Rebbe, seeing a tzadik, getting a bracha. 

Children need to be taught Yirat Shomayim. To know Hashem is watching them all the time.
And we must constantly make a point out of developing good middot, good character traits. We can   teach middot with examples from the Torah (ie. Hachnosat orchim, example of Avraham and Sara) or from examples of tzadikim and their conduct with others. The Rebbe spoke once at a fabrgengen explaining how his mother was an example to him of working with mesiras nefesh to help refugees settle and have food etc. This is chesed. We have to teach our children to do chesed and not to assume they know.

Of utmost importance is to instill in our children respect for Hashem, for Rebbeim, tzadikim, for rabbis, for teachers and for parents and of course respect for the Torah.
If a child is  chutzpadik  we have to teach the children to take negative middot and use them for good:
ie. To be chutzpadik, one should demand from Hashem the redemption; or if a child cries a lot for nonsense, tell the child that he is crying for silly things and it is not nice but he should cry like that for Moshiach etc.

Bitul/ kabbalat ol: children must be taught bitul to Hashem, to the Rebbe, to parents, women to their husbands etc. and to take upon themselves the yoke of Torah and mitzvoth without asking why.  The children have to know if the mummy or the tatti say no to something, it is no. they don’t have to question why. Sometimes parents don’t even know why they say no to something; they may just instinctively feel this is not good for their child. The child has to accept that and not demand an explanation for everything. This is how a child learns kabbalat ol.

Chassidishkeit: what is Chassidut? Baal Shem Tov taught us to serve Hashem with simcha. We have to make our children happy and teach them to be happy and to accept what happens with happiness. If they don’t win something or they cannot do something, they have to be happy and realize there is a reason and it is for the best. We have to teach our children to go through life with an upbeat happy attitude. We have to create an atmosphere of simcha in the home. The woman creates the atmosphere in the house. So it is very much the mother's responsibility to create a feeling of joy in the home.

There is a concept in Chassidut that the mind rules heart. Kids must be taught to rule over their yetzer haras.  We have to teach our kids to say no to their yetzer hara. But first they have to recognize what is yezer hara. We as parents have to know our childrens’ yetzer haras as well so we can help them. One kid may have a yezer hara for food, another for goyish videos, another for not wearing their kippa or putting tzitzit or whatever. We have to teach our kids to deal with their personal yetzer hara. And in general to say no to their yezer hara. For example, if a kid is offered a candy without a hechsher he has to be taught to say no and not to feel bad about it. He should feel so happy that he did not give in to his yetzer hara and he made Hashem happy and proud of him and he also did not dirty his neshomah. The Rebbe started tzivot Hashem to reward kids in their battle against the yezer hara. Kids have to learn that we do not have to do whatever we want or to have whatever we want. 
It is so important for our children to learn that they dont need everything they want. They do not have to get whatever they ask for or desire. This is a very important part of chinuch and of not becoming spoiled or overly demanding. Children must BE TAUGHT TO APPRECIATE WHAT THEY HAVE.
Children also must be taught bitul: to be botul to Hashem, to the Rebbe, to a tzadik, to a teacher, and certainly to one's parents. If a child is chutzpadik and rebellious, this is not a proper attitude to cultivate. A child must be taught respect, bitul and to listen. Nevertheless children must be learn self respect. the more a child looks down at themself or feels they are good for nothing or incapable, they will strive to prove they are okay but often that can result in kids being too self assertive or even chutzpadik.

We have to teach our children to sanctify themselves in what is permissible/ emphasize we are a nation of priests, a holy nation. To instill in them the idea that Hashem created this world to have a dwelling place in the physical realm, which means that whatever we do in life has to be elevated and used for holiness. If your child wants a blackberry, ask why? will he or she use it for good things? or will they speak too much loshon hara? if your child wants a computer, wil he or she use it to learn Torah classes or will they use it for nonsense....the child has to be trained to think how to utilize every aspect of life for good and how to reject the negative things in life and those things which are not permissible, not holy, not kosher.

It is important to teach our children to be connected to a tzadik. Hiskashrut to the Rebbe, the leader of klal Yisrael, requires understanding what  a Rebbe is. The word Rebbe means Rosh Bnei Yisroel. A neshomah klalit: all souls are contained in him. Like Moshe Rabbenu. The Rebbe has no ego, no animal soul. There was once a woman who went in for a private meeting with the Rebbe and she did not stop talking. It was late and the Rebbe was busy but the Rebbe listened to her and did not say he had to leave. The secretaries wanted to ask the woman to leave. But the Rebbe did not want to embararss her or disturb her. He regognized her need to talk. Others in such a situation would have become annoyed but not the Rebbe.  And when she finally did leave, the Rebbe himself called later to ask bochurim to escort her home.  This is true care, true concern for another person. This is what the Rebbe did all day and all night: took care of others. He was totally selfless. He had no existence of his own. He was very simply the Rebbe to every Jew in every corner of the world.  

Children must be taught the idea of giving nachat to parents, to the Rebbe, to Hashem: this is what kids should have in mind when doing a good deed or studying etc. This should motivate them to behave good and to constantly do good.  Children naturally want approval and it is important to train them to think about giving nachat. Always tell your children “you have to give nachat to us (and to Hashem)”. Or when they do something special, tell them “wow, that really makes Hashem so proud of you. I am sure He has a lot of nachat from that.”

Food is a Jewish yetzer hara. Tanya discusses the reason that Jews like to eat and often have a tayveh (a desire) for food is because we can elevate the physical world and hence can elevate the food. So we have to teach our kids to elevate their food/ to elevate the gashmiut as it says in Tanya. Not to eat for the sake of the taste of the food but to eat with a higher purpose, to elevate the food to its spiritual source.

It is important not to spoil our children: they should not feel they can have whatever they want all the time. Children who have limits are happier, healthier and more humble.

Children must learn to think about what others need/to have consideration. They must learn to be selfless, to care for others and to go out of their way for others. Constantly thinking about what they want to do or get or about what they enjoy is training a child to be self centered. That is not right. A child should learn to focus on others, not on themself. If we allow our children to simply sit on their ipad or in front of a video machine all day, learning to become self centered and oblivious to the world around them, we do them a great injustice. Children need to learn to be aware of their surroundings, to learn to help where needed and to care and be considerate (quiet when someone is sleeping, helpful when their mother is tired, caring when a baby is crying etc. etc.)

We as parents have to remember that children under bar/bat mitzvah have mostly a yetzer hara. We must  understand that and not expect them to be perfect. After bar and bat mitzvah they have even a bigger struggle because the yetzer tov enters and yetzer hara challenges that; there is constant fight. But if kids are taught when small to do the right things, later it is habitual and helps them in their struggle against the yetzer hara.
Kids must know that all negative emotions and feelings come from the yetzer hara. One has to emphasize the positive.
We have to make it a point to teach our children that they have two neshomahs that fight each other: one the nefesh Elokit (the G-dly soul) and one the nefesh habahami (the animal soul).
A child has mostly a yetzer hara until bar or bat mitzvah: at that time the nefesh Elokit enters fully with the yetzer tov. Then the fight really begins! Until then one is basically educating the yetzer hara and that is why it is very important because habits reign supreme and once a child is accustomed to a proper frum life they will not depart from it even when they struggle later with their yetzer hara.

There is a great importance in teaching kids Jewish minhagim (customs): they make a strong impression on a child. Why on Pesach do we begin  the seder with minhagim (ie. Dipping the bitter greens into salt water etc.)?  Because minhagim are what make a child strongly connected to Torah and mitzvoth.

We must educate a child according to his way he will never depart from it. Education starts from the time a child is born.

It is very essential, especially in today’s society, to teach our children to be bsimcha, to be happy. Put on music, dance with your kids, show yourself to be smiling and pleasant.

We also have to instill in children emunah/btochon (faith and trust in Hashem).  

Parents must be example to their kids. The way we react to things teaches kids a lot: if a child comes complaining about another kid or a brother doing this or that, we have to first of all say “Is that loshon hara?” if they are saying something not nice. And instead of immediately agreeing with the kid of how terrible that other friend was etc. we should think how to teach our kids to make peace with their friends, or to try to understand the other person etc.

We have to teach our kids how to look at life: ie. If it is raining, we can complain how terrible it is or we can say Baruch Hashem, rain is a bracha etc. Let's give our children a positive outlook in life.

Children should be taught the Importance of prayers/ tehillim. In spare time they should not play silly games; should do extra learning, extra tehillim. (that does not mean they cannot play and have fun but the idea is what we emphasize at home)

Learning torah bal peh  (by heart) very important. This ingrains Torah into the mind and hearts of the children.

The Rebbe said that a child’s room should have Chumahs, tehillim and a Tanya in it as well as a pushka. It should be a holy room. A place of Torah, tefilla and tzedaka.

We have to train our children to be  giving/selfless: to give tzedaka, to think how to help others. One time the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe , when he was a small boy, was given some watermelon. He went out to his yard and shared some with his friends. Later his father called him over and told him that he noticed he did share his watermelon but he did not do it with a totally happy heart. The child felt so bad that he threw all the watermelon up. This is education. 

Kids need to learn responsibility and to have jobs to do in the house etc. Children must not grow up thinking their mother is a maid to do everything for them. They have to feel  appreciation to their parents and feel a responsibility to help. Daughters should be taught to help in the kitchen, help serving, cleaning up etc. Boys should be taught to do heavier chores or even to clear the table etc. when they are home from yeshivah and have time to help.
Even if you have a maid or five maids, teach your kids to work. Boredom leads to problems. Keep kids busy.
And teach your children to appreciate all the blessings they have: to verbalize what are the good things they have and to thank Hashem for everything.

Teach kids to have their priorities straight: family and home are priorities.  Going out, having fun, going to Disney World are NOT priorities and should never be stressed to a child. Many times the things we “think” we need are just our perceptions anyway….we find out we can do with a lot less than we imagine in the material realm of life. It is the spiritual that needs development and pursuit….and  that is good for children to see. To put things into perspective. To learn to make do with less, to appreciate what we have, to be happy at home and not feel we have to run around outside to find happiness.
I think most of today’s society feels they have to entertain their kids all day, taking them here or there, getting them out of the house….why do we feel such a compulsion to get our kids out of the house??? And then we complain and suffer when they are teenagers and want to go out with friends all the time and we worry where they were and wish they would just stay home! But didn’t we raise them with that attitude that home is boring and they have to go out all the time to be happy or feel entertained?? I think we have to take a good look at the standards we instill in our children and redo our attitudes. Being forced to stay home can be positive in a lot of ways. Children should be happy at home. If not then something is lacking in the family.

While we are on the topic of education, the Rebbe spoke many years ago about the kashrut of toys (not to get attached to treif animals, etc.  This is the idea of refinement.  Mobiles were covered with aleph bet letters. Children should not develop an emotional attachment to a non kosher animal , even a stuffed toy. 

It is important not to have goyish books and magazines in the house; no TV or goyish videos; no goyish music, as all of that negatively impacts the pure soul of a child.  What a child sees makes a lasting impression subconsciously. Mothers traditionally always sang Torah songs to their children.  

We should do our best to teach our children how to look at life through Torah eyes: how someone bothering them is an opportunity to work on their ahavat yisroel or middot; how someone who comes for Shabbat gives everyone the chance to do hachnosat orchim and to put themselves out for another person.

It is very important to take time to teach our children about Divine providence, hashgocha protit: nothing is by chance. Whatever happens is from Above and we have to learn not to get upset or frustrated if things do not go as we plan. For example, if we have to wait a while to find a taxi, it is from Hashem. Maybe we have to say a pasuk of tehillim in that place. If we go shopping and cannot find what we want, it is not meant for us to buy that item, or perhaps not the time yet. This also encourages humility.

Discipline: kids need limits. They feel secure with limits. They also need consistency. Parents must show consistency even if they make a decision they regret after. Children have to know their actions have reactions. But it is best to use positive parenting when possible rather than harsh punishments.
Too much freedom is what is destroying our kids. They have too much freedom, too much money to spend and they are spoiled. They don’t know what it means to work hard. Kids who work hard don’t get into trouble. They are too busy.
In today's society children feel they need constant entertainment. They no longer know what it means to be happy with simplicity, just staying home with the family. They want to go out, they need an I pad and a computer, they need to see friends and to have 'action". but these are the things destroying our youth. Children need to learn to be happy with simple things. To be happy at home. To be happy within themselves. they should not learn that happiness is from external stimuli. Children need to develop inner contentment. And we parents need to be the example of that!  

Kids need to be told when they do something that is not nice. They need to be corrected, but in a good way, without anger.  We have to correct our children when they do wrong but not judge them: it is very important to avoid being judgmental or too critical. We have to correct but in a positive way, without hurting the child’s self esteem or making them feel they are no good.  A child always needs to feel loved. If your child falls and does something wrong or goes in a wrong derech, it does not mean you failed as a parent. Every child is different by nature. And kids get affected by many things including peer pressure. But your job as a parent is to be there to guide your child and support in a caring but firm way; not to judge or reject your child. But also not to blame yourself that you ruined your kids life. We have to do our best as parents and the rest is up to Hashem. Kids have to go through different things in life. We cannot always prevent that. But we have to give our kids the tools to deal with life properly so they will do teshuvah and return and we have to leave the door open.

But if a child does something very inappropriate, they also have to be told this is not acceptable.You don’t have to tolerate wrong things: you have to set rules.  For example, if a child does something on purpose that violates Shabbat, chasve shalom, this cannot be tolerated in your house. First it is a wrong example to other kids, and also the child cannot see that you accept this at all. But the child should still feel loved. You have to be firm but kind. Kids have to know their limits.  You as a parent have a right to demand your respect and to demand certain standards in your home. In fact, you have to do that, especially for other kids to see.

We as parents must have patience educating kids: Hashem has patience with us.  If you see your friend’s kid misbehaving do not be too judgmental: realize it takes time to change a kid or bad habits. Your friend may have told the child to behave but perhaps the child did not listen right away.  We should not be judgmental towards our friends or neighbors just because they may have a child who is not behaving nicely.

We as  parents know our own kids: we cannot be too hard on our children or it can have a negative affect.  We should get in the habit of punishing with chesed: left hand pushes away, right hand embraces, as it says in Torah.  Positive parenting is important. We tend to criticize our kids a lot but we have to see the good and not think their negative behavior reflects on us. When we feel that way, we feel angry with the kid and tend to be critical. If we see the good and try to develop the good and ignore the negative, the results are much better. By constantly mentioning the good points we want to cultivate in our children, we help those good points to flourish and develop. By mentioning negativity we give it life and energy and we really should try not to do that, as much as possible. Positive parenting is the key. 

Peer pressure and the desire to be accepted and approved of motivates children a lot. We have to teach our children to have socially acceptable behavior but not to run after approval . We have to focus our children on caring about approval from Hashem rather than their peers. We have to teach our children not to feel hurt if friends are mean to them; they have to understand friends may not be well educated, may not have good middot, may be jealous of them etc. We have to teach them to go above and beyond such tests and such painful situations. Rejection is very painful and we have to teach our children, when they go through a difficult situation, to learn from it what NOT to do to someone else. Emphasize to your child: what you would not want done to you, do not do to others. This is a good way to stop your child from doing something not nice as well (such as touching their sisters or brothers things etc.)

Parents have to watch carefully who their childrens friends are. The Frierdike Rebbe said that a parent has to control who their children play with or whose homes they go to etc. If a friend is not having a good influence on your own child, you have to discourage that friendship. Your child should be taught to be nice to everyone but not to be a close friend of someone who is not a good influence.  Your child can be taught to mekarov others and bring them to a higher level but never to be influenced to go to a lower level.
Parents have to talk about the education of their children for about half an hour each day: this is the Rebbe Rashab’s advice.

Many kids think everything is a joke. They will tell you “ma don’t worry, it is no big deal” or “Ma, don’t worry, I know what I am doing. I am a big girl.” But that is precisely when you have to worry. Never assume your kid knows what they are doing.  Even a grown up child needs guidance. Some kids of course have a better understanding of what is right or wrong, dangerous or not dangerous…but some kids need supervision constantly even when they think they know what to do in life. You have to guide them cleverly, not to make them feel you don’t trust them, but at the same time to really watch carefully.  Nowadays sending kids away from home can be very problematic. The longer you keep your kids at home the better.

As parents we have to be very careful what we emphasize to our children and instill in their minds and hearts. They see what is important to us, what we look up to. If we look up to goyishkeit or secular wisdom or to doctors and lawyers, that is what our children pick up. If we look up to Torah scholars and we constantly tell our children that parnassa comes from Hashem, then the child will not be worried.

We have to believe that our children will turn out good: the belief in itself helps the child to become good. Think good, it will be good.

And we basically have to daven (pray) to Hashem for constant help in bringing up our children properly and having Jewish nachat from them because ultimately it is only the blessing of Hashem that allows us to succeed in anything in life. So pray for every little and big thing: that is the secret to success.

To sum it all up, if I would say the main things to instill in a child, besides yirat Shomayim and spiritual values of course, are CONSIDERATION, APPRECIATION, AND RESPECT.

We all wish to be the best parents that we can. So I was thinking to myself that Hashem Himself is the best role model of a parent! 
 
First and foremost is love, chesed. Hashem, through His attribute of chesed, shows us constant love and care. A child needs to feel  loved, wanted, cared about. A child needs attention. Hashem takes care of every aspect of our lives with hashgocha protis, paying attention to minute details. We also need to pay attention to every aspect of our children’s lives, yet at the same time giving them space to grow and become independent over time, being there for them in the background. Hashem gives us space to grow. He allows us  to feel independent yet we know He is always there for us and we always have someone to turn to in difficult times.

Hashem makes us feel secure. He gives us boundaries and  guidelines to live by.  A child  needs boundaries. A child needs discipline. This is the idea of gevura. A child  needs limits. A child needs seder and a schedule. Hashem gives us a constant feeling of seder: there is Shabbos every week, yom tovim, Jewish  responsibilities. Just having to pray every day is a form of discipline and  seder. And a child needs jobs to do, responsibilities, a feeling of schedule and  constancy in their life. This gives security and a feeling of warmth and simcha. 

Hashem is nurturing. He tells us what to eat ( in terms of  kashrus) and we as parents must do the same as well as teaching our children  what to eat in terms of nutrition and health. 
 
Hashem has compassion upon us. He exercises His attribute of  compassion. We must show compassion to our children when they need our help or  when they are struggling with a particular problem or issue. Children go through
all kinds of things in life and instead of being judgmental or harsh, we need to  know when to utilize compassion and rachmonos.  We have to know when to overlook our  children’s faults and just love them for who they are and help them grow. Hashem  overlooks our faults constantly and forgives us constantly. As parents we need  to do the same and not be overly critical or expect too much from our children.  

We need to pray and praise Hashem each day. And we need to  instill in our children a sense of gratitude for what they have and a sense of  thankfulness and humility. To teach them appreciation and to teach them to thank  their parents instead of criticizing and constantly feeling they need to blame  parents for anything that does not go the way they like. 
 
We need to teach our children that the foundation of the world  is G-dliness and the tzadikim are the foundation of the world and of our faith.  We need to instill emuna in our children: emuna in Hashem and in tzadikim. This  gives children a sense of optimism and hopefulness and they learn to emulate  righteousness.

 It is very important to teach children to be botul to a tzadik  and to help them understand that all blessings including our emuna flow to us  through the tzadik of the generation, just like the Jews received all their  blessings and emuna through Moshe Rabbenu. 

Hashem also expects respect from us and He wants us to respect  Torah. And this is something we must instill in our children: respect and yirat  Shomayim. 
We know that we need to respect Hashem and ask respectfully for  all the brachos we need. We have to instill this concept in our children towards  us as well…that they should appreciate their parents, not feel we owe them  everything, and they should respectfully ask for their needs and wants.  
If at some point in time children display a lack of respect, or they feel any sort of anger towards their parents (for whatever reason...and remember, children always want to blame parents for their problems in life), the parents must still maintain and demand respect. They must never get down to the child's level, even an adult child. the parents must keep calm and serious and project an image of someone who demands and deserves respect. Always be on a higher level than your child.

Hashem does not always answer our requests immediately. Many  times we feel He is ignoring us. So even as parents there is a place to “ignore” children, to ignore negative behavior, or to know what to pay attention to and  when to not pay attention. We don’t want to feed our childrens egos. If we  overly pay attention to everything or give them whatever they ask for, we feed their egos. If we sometimes ignore them or refuse their requests, they learn  that they cannot do whatever they want or have whatever they want and they  learn to be humble, patient and not to expect everything.   This leads to a nullification of ego. 
So we can certainly learn proper parenting from our Father in  Heaven!