By Horav Yosef Yeshaya Braun, member of the Badatz of Crown Heights
My daughter is involved in seemingly illegal activities and occasionally asks for my help, such as lending her money. I don’t want to be a part of it.
Am I right not to support her with this, which might lead to a colder relationship from her end? As it is, her Yiddishkeit is fragile, as reflected in her lack of tznius and I don’t want to create any reasons on my end for her to weaken any further. I don’t say anything to her when I hear or see her doing these shtick. But actively helping raises this question.
If you won’t be assisting her, she will most likely find a different source of assistance. Since you do not know for sure that any specific behavior is problematic, and refusing to help may have more serious repercussions, you may help her.
P.S. It is hard to put such a topic into writing, a topic that is full of emotion, pain, grief, and sometimes denial, anger, and a feeling of helplessness. We love our children and it hurts to see them making terrible decisions, and we stay up at night wondering where we went wrong. It is even more confusing when a child is exceptionally bright, kind, and a deeply sensitive individual. How can s/he hurt us like this?
The answer is that we didn’t go wrong anywhere. Every neshama is holy and yearns to connect to Hashem. We, as parents, are entrusted with this neshama, along with the responsibility to protect it and care for it – physically and spiritually. Just as we cannot fully prevent our children from becoming unwell physically, we cannot fully stop them from spiritual “illness”. We must do our part, but ultimately Hashem runs the world.
A common mistake that parents make is that they blame themselves for their children’s behavior. This is not only false but also leads to unbeneficial aggravation and frustration (of both parent and child). Remember that Hashem is an EQUAL partner in the creation and upbringing of our children. (Many children went through different forms of trauma that causes a change in their behavior, and the fact that some turn out different than others is proof that this is Hashem’s decision).
Especially as our children are going through a difficult and painful time (for them too!), they desperately need our love, independent of how they dress or act. We need to love them for WHO they are, not HOW they are. A man once cried to the Baal Shem Tov that his son had gone off the path, “you must love him” he replied. “But he has gone so far off!” The man cried. “In that case” he replied, “love him even more”. Remember that Hashem chose Bnei Yisroel as a nation when they were in the worst situation (49 gates of impurity in Mitzraim).
More importantly: experience has shown that the main factor that determines the future of our children, is the warm relationship we maintain with them, especially during this hard time. Even though it may be hard to truly feel this way, we must embrace our child, love them, and let them know that we will always cherish them for who they are.
The Gemara relates a story with Rabbi Yossi the son of Rabbi Elazar (grandson of the great Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai) who despite his lineage and background, left the way of Yiddishkeit and stooped to a very low moral life. When Rabbi Yehuda HaNassi met him, he gave him semicha(!), called him “Nassi” (prince), and dressed him in gold garments. Rabbi Yossi later became one of the greatest Chachamim.
Experience has proven many times that in every situation such as this, the most effective approach is one of love and affection. This does not mean that we need to agree to our children’s behavior, but that we should not be trying to “push” our children to behave in a certain way (even if we are 100% right). We should ask friends (of the child) and others to try to influence them, allowing us to keep a positive and warm relation with our children.