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A Parent Confesses    

A Parent Confesses

Parents continue to yell at their children, breaking them down in the most heartless way. One parent took a good look at herself, and now confesses...


I live in an affluent, modern-orthodox neighbourhood, where all the kids go to at least three after-school activities a week, and all the parents are professionals. Everywhere you go, you trip over doctors, lawyers, accountants and hi-tech people. The lawns are manicured; the kids are smartly-dressed; and the parents are always popping out to Torah classes, or listening to 'Hilchot Shabbat' classes on their iPhones. It sounds like heaven on earth - and for a long time, I really thought it was.
Until a couple of years' ago.
I've been an avid reader of the Breslev Israel website for around five years now, and whenever a new Rav Shalom Arush book comes out in English, I devour it. Every book I've read has had a massive impact on my life, but none more so than the Garden of Education.
I read that book cover-to-cover, and when I finished, I knew I had to make some massive changes in the way I was relating to my children. Like a lot of people, I genuinely do love my children, but I wasn't raised in a loving, Torah-observant home, and I realized that a lot of my parenting ideas were completely warped.
For example, until I read the Garden of Education, I didn't have a problem with verbally bullying my children into doing what I wanted. I rarely called them horrible names, but I certainly had no qualms about destroying their self-esteem and their self-image, to get them to 'behave' better and to be more docile.
My husband and I went through a lot of soul-searching after we read that book, and we took some drastic decisions:
1. No more using anger to terrify our children into obedience;
2. No more breaking our kids down with insults or negative comments; and
3. (the hardest thing of all) To focus on what was best for our kids, above what was easiest or most convenient for us.
It was really tough going to even start changing, but two years' on, my relationship with my children has transformed, and they are blossoming into confident and happy individuals, thank G-d.
But then, a strange thing started to happen: a lot of my friends also read Rav Arush's book (at least, that's what they said) - but very few people wanted to discuss his ideas with me, or pay them any attention.
The same people who were dragging their ADHD kids off to shrinks and educational psychologists and pumping them with pills refused to even consider Rav Arush's teaching that kids are just mirrors of the parents, and that something fundamental needed fixing in the home. It was the teacher's fault; the school's fault; the educational psychologist's fault; the peer group's fault - everything and everyone was to blame, except the parents themselves.
Initially, I was baffled by the way my friends would close the conversation down so fast, when we got around to any idea that we, the parents may need to change how we were relating to our children. We all love our kids, right? We'd all do anything for them, right? We'd do anything for our kids to turn out happy and well-adjusted, right?
But slowly it dawned on me, that the answer wasn't always 'right'.
Especially when it meant that me, the parent, would actually have to change.
In the meantime, we continued our 'zero tolerance' policy for parental anger and emotional and verbal abuse in our home (which doesn't mean we never got angry, but we stopped justifying it to our kids and made it clear it was very bad behaviour on our part, and that we needed to make a lot teshuva about it.)
The less shouting and abuse that happened in my own home, the more I started to realize how much it was going on all around me. Last Spring, when the windows were open, you could literally hear verbal abuse and yelling pouring out of some people's houses 24/7. These were homes were parents routinely snarled commands at their children, and promised terrible reprisals if their demands weren't immediately met.
And the worst of it was, that I began to notice that this wasn't just happening behind closed doors - it was everywhere I went. In the supermarket; at the doctor's office; in the park; at the ball game, in synagogue. Everywhere I went, I started to notice parents' shamelessly verbally and emotionally abusing their children in the most horrible way.
Now, it's true that even the best parents occasionally blow a fuse, and occasionally yell at and abuse their children. But when it's an isolated instance, it only happens once. When you see it happening in the park, most days; when you walk past the house and hear terrible things, most days; and then when those kids walk around angry, or disturbed, or abusive themselves - then it's not an isolated instance. It's child abuse.
And that horrible, destructive child-abuse is rife in my affluent, middle-class neighbourhood that prides itself on learning Torah and keeping mitzvoth.
I know a lot of people will be very upset by what I'm saying. But it's time we stopped accepting the unacceptable, and turning a blind eye to the verbal and emotional abuse (that the Torah calls 'onaas devorim') that's happening right in front of us.
Just because it was done to us, doesn't mean it was right. Just because 'everyone is doing it', it doesn't mean that's acceptable.
If we really love our children as much as we say we do, we have to swallow hard, and try to change. We have to take a stand, and completely outlaw anger, manipulation, and insults in our homes. And if we do, our kids will grow up to be happy, well-adjusted adults who can really live up to their full potential.
And if we don't? We're child-abusers. And whether or not we acknowledge that to ourselves, there's no fooling G-d.

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  Thank you!!!
Rachel Leah3/17/2014 4:32:31 AM

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