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    Keep the Fire Burning

    A three-year-old boy whose yarmulka keeps falling off his head; the girl who bentches and is itching to run outside already; the growing bochur who gets up late for davening; your daughter dressing borderline tznius — How do we instill chayus in matters of Yiddishkeit, Chassidishkeit, and Moshiach? We spoke with mothers of children at all age levels and they shared with us what they do to • By Beis Moshiach Magazine • Full Article

    Yael Schneerson, Beis Moshiach

    Whether you’re a mother, a teacher, a counselor, or a big sister – I have a reminder for you: the children see you. And even if you haven’t noticed, they see and learn. Many of us know the above situations all too well, particularly when as mothers, we have a job to do – educating our children, the generation of Moshiach, with an everlasting chayus and vitality in all matters Yiddishkeit. However… how can you make this chayus truly everlasting?

    RECHARGING OUR CHASSIDISHE BATTERIES
    Tamar, mother of three children – ages four, two, and two months, shares her personal experiences:

    “As a mother of small and closely spaced children, baruch Hashem, life sometimes feels like one big whirlwind. Running from place to place, the obligation to do numerous things at the same time, and even the need to have a moment of quiet for myself. All these can tend to cause us to forget a little about our daily parental activities, which are truly the most important, such as providing an uncompromising Chassidishe education.

    “For some time, I found myself ‘forgetting’ to help the children wash their hands in the morning or say brachos with them, word by word, and this hurt me very much. I really wanted to succeed in instilling the Chassidishe education I believe in so much without feeling that it’s a ‘burden’ to me.

    “I didn’t want the situation to continue in this manner. I imagined my children getting up each morning with a smile, quickly washing their hands and saying brachos loudly on everything they eat. I realized that in order that my children should love and be connected to mitzvos despite their young age, I first need to strengthen things within myself. One of the things that makes a tremendous change in our lives and greater stringency on the little things with our children is setting fixed times for Torah study, which leads to regular joint learning of topics on education. Each week, we sit together for an hour and recharge our Chassidishe batteries. If there was anything good that came out of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was the establishment of a new era of powerful lectures, shiurim and farbrengens – without ever leaving the house. Baruch Hashem, we have been privileged to hear numerous Torah classes and lectures that have helped in the revolutionary changes we have made in our home during the last few months.

    “We recently watched a marvelous lecture delivered by Rabbi Yehuda Leib Nachmanson on the subject of educating young children (you can find it on the Internet). Such things speak to me directly. I felt how relevant this is to our lives. It influenced me so much that I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and I was happy for the opportunity to pass it on to others.”

    EDUCATING OUR CHILDREN TO LOVE THE MITZVOS

    Rabbi Nachmanson explains that the question of “How do we educate children to love the mitzvos?” is one that each parent must deal with:

    It is known that when a child enters “cheder” for the first time, we have him lick honey off the letters in order to teach him how sweet the holy letters of Torah and mitzvos are to us. We don’t want our children to get the impression that mitzvos are mere tasks we have to fulfill. Therefore, it’s important to us that we emphasize to them their positive side. Here are a few tips for you:

    At the first stage, when a small child does some mitzva, it’s important that we show him how impressed we are by his actions. The more we demonstrate how much we appreciate his efforts, the more this urges him to fulfill mitzvos with even greater consistency. However, what is the right thing to do when, baruch Hashem, our children are wiser and understand more quickly when we are really impressed and when our enthusiasm is merely to urge us on? We should show the same reaction we would give to an adult. For example, call a friend and tell her how delighted you are that your child regularly reviews his Alef-Beis or stringently does neggel vasser near his bed. When we show such great enthusiasm, he gets the impression that we’re really talking about a great action that would be appropriate to mention to other people.

    Stage Two: Our mitzvos, both positive and negative, have a certain degree of coercion – reward and punishment. Of course, we don’t use this approach with our own children. It’s not appropriate to tell a child: “If you don’t bentch, you’ll be punished,” because it’s a virtual certainty that we’ll get the opposite results.

    Many parents use the concept of compensation. For example, the use of a points table with the objective of receiving a prize. The innovation is that not only isn’t this education, it’s also a form of coercion – even though it comes in a positive way. The child does a mitzva to earn a reward.

    So, what is the proper thing to do? We need to understand that the points table and its resulting compensation are merely the halfway point. The education is that even when the child does this to get a prize – we have to show him how impressed we are, i.e., he shouldn’t think that the mitzvos and their respective compensation are a form of buying and selling. What’s truly important – far more than the reward the child receives because he made an effort and did a mitzva – is the fact that he knows how precious his mitzva fulfillment is in our eyes! First, I force him, as it were, to do the mitzva to earn a reward, and then I praise him for his efforts.

    Another thing that can really make the mitzvos cherished in the eyes of our children is to show them in actions how important they are. Let’s take for example Netilas Yadayim near the bed. When taking the child to buy a special neggel vasser set for him, write his name on it, tell family members about the special gift he received, etc. Such a child will want to do this mitzva regularly. At first, it will be due to the gift and the family’s interest, but later it will become an integral part of his life.

    It’s appropriate to emphasize a very important point:

    Sometimes, there are virtuous children who understand on their own the importance of the mitzvos, and they want to fulfill them without receiving anything in return. Such a child is worthy of a double portion of praise and for a longer stretch of time. The whole matter should be powerfully illuminated to show how much we appreciate that they are doing mitzvos, not to receive a prize, but because it’s truly important to them.

    In conclusion, in all matters connected with small children, there’s no need to rush. From a halachic standpoint, we educate the child to fulfill mitzvos when he is willing to do so himself. While it’s true that it’s important to us that our children conduct a Chassidishe way of life, it’s also permissible to loosen our grip a little and understand that he’s only a child. Thus, if there’s something that’s hard for him to do, we should wait for a while until he grows up and then he’ll be willing to do the mitzva himself.

    LEARN HOW TO LET GO A LITTLE

    Mussi, a mother of seven, ages 15-24, joins the discussion:

    “One of the greatest gifts and challenges in our lives as parents is educating the children. Every parent asks himself virtually on a daily basis: ‘What is the right thing to do?’, ‘What is the proper reaction in a situation like this?’, ‘How do we answer the children’s questions?’, et al.

    “I’m ashamed to admit this, but during my first years as a parent, I primarily ‘relied on myself’ and I failed to seek proper advice. Today, baruch Hashem, from the vantage point of forty-two years of parenting, I know that there is no substitute for good advice, constant learning, and working on yourself. It’s not that you don’t need to ‘rely upon motherly intuition’, however, there are a few things where it would be correct and proper to seek the advice of educators and other professionals. Our children don’t stop surprising us and the continuous study on the subject of educating children is critically important.

    “Once, someone asked me a very painful and direct question: Do I feel that I made a mistake that I regretted in my children’s education? The question caught me unprepared. Do I really regret things that I did or didn’t do with my children as a young mother? The answer is that there is no answer. Every parent has to do everything he can to give his children the best possible education with the values most important to him. Furthermore, we constantly have to daven that Hashem will help us in leading our children to the straight and narrow path.

    “I would like to share something personal that we experienced in our home. Our firstborn son Mendy – an amazing, intelligent, and goodhearted child – chose a different path from the one we outlined in our home. He persistently asked, investigated, and inquired, refusing to relent until he found an answer. We didn’t always know how to deal with this, and we sought the assistance of experts in the field of education. To maintain our family’s privacy, I won’t get into details. However, I can tell you that today he shows great respect for the chinuch he received at home, as he tries to observe those mitzvos that are important to him. We accept him with great love and daven that he will find the correct path for him back to the path of Chassidus.

    “By Divine Providence, I came across a unique letter from the Rebbe MH”M (Igros Kodesh, Vol. 12, pg. 191) that touched me very much.

    “‘Regarding the girls, it would be proper that after learning with them, the teacher or the lecturer should try and have them ask questions, etc., to draw and interest them more in the topics learned in particular.

    ‘At these meetings, since it’s quite possible that someone might happen to ask an unusual question, you naturally should not be affected by this, and if even someone asks about an inappropriate issue, i.e., a weakening in strength in matters of our Holy Torah, et al., this surely would be a minority of a minority, and perhaps not even that. In any case, they will surely always find there the proper signs on how to remove the undesirable effect, and if this proves impossible, at least signs to nullify the question and its existence. Suffice for the understanding.’

    “This letter came to me at the best possible time – during an extremely difficult period when we weren’t at all certain how to handle his questions, and as a result, those of his younger siblings. As I noted earlier, we sought advice and made inquiries as best we could. Nevertheless, we soon realized that not everything is in our hands. In the final analysis, there are things over which we have no control. We are filled with faith that our efforts and investment will not go to waste, and with G-d’s help, we will soon merit to have true Chassidishe nachas from him.

    “I would like to take this opportunity to convey a message to my fellow mothers dealing with a crisis of faith with their children: It’s important to remember that alongside the investment and thought about a Chassidishe education, you also need to know how to let go, understanding that not everything depends upon us. And if there’s one effort we should make that may be the most important in such situations, it’s ‘leaving the door open.’

    “Show your dear child through your speech and action how he is truly welcome and wanted, loved and accepted even if he isn’t following the path you have paved out for him. While I can’t promise that this will cause him to return and live a Chassidishe lifestyle as soon as we would want, I am certain that you will merit to reveal a wonderful child with a warm Jewish heart, even though he may appear outwardly as someone who doesn’t belong. You should know, however, that he does belong – more than anyone else in the world!”

    *

    The magazine can be obtained in stores around Crown Heights. To purchase a subscription, please go to: bmoshiach.org

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