Parents: take your job seriously. Children are the most precious gift G-d has given you — a new life, as unmarked as fresh snow, and you have been blessed with the opportunity to nurture, protect, and teach your child, so that the child becomes a productive and good human being. — The Rebbe
One night, when a rabbi was deeply engrossed in his studies, his youngest child fell out of his cradle. Even though the rabbi was only in the next room, he heard nothing. But the rabbi’s father, who was also studying in his room upstairs, heard the baby crying. He came downstairs, put the baby back in the cradle, and rocked him to sleep. The rabbi remained oblivious throughout it all. Later, the older man admonished his son: “No matter how lofty your pursuits, you must never fail to hear the cry of a child.”
What can a parent do to improve the quality of the family?
It is the parents’ responsibility to build a happy and healthy home. When every member of a family is concerned primarily with himself, the family itself is bound to suffer. When the father stays late at the office, when the mother is wrapped up in her job or community work, when the children care mainly about parties or school projects, they cannot maintain profound relationships within the family. They may sleep under the same roof and eat at the same table, yet be worlds apart.
By introducing spirituality into your home, welcoming guests, and talking with your family about our responsibilities as good-hearted people, you make your home truly beautiful. Your children will grow up to remember their home as a place of warmth and kindness, where people felt comfortable to gather and talk about things that mattered to them. In all likelihood, these children will grow into adults who will create the same sort of home.
How can parents create a healthy home environment?
Whenever a problem arises, particularly a serious one, we should examine the dynamic between parents. A husband and wife must develop a healthy way of communicating with each other. This in turn sets a good example for their children.
It is important to remember that children’s misbehavior is often the result of parental attitudes. Without changing these attitudes, we cannot hope for any serious change in our children. Parents must look beyond their own ego when dealing with their children. Only then can they truly assess the problem at hand and decide how to fix it.
It is often wise to seek the help of someone outside your family, someone who can judge the problem objectively and who understands G-d and your family’s goals and values.
Above all, love is the most powerful tool with which to battle problems. Yes, a healthy home must be run with discipline, but even that discipline must contain love. This cannot be manufactured or superficial, for children are more sensitive to honest emotions than adults. On the other hand, they will react with pure joy when they receive the genuine love of their parents, and they will reciprocate.
What are the roles of different family members?
Although a mother and father are equal partners, they each have unique qualities that complement each other in building a healthy home.
A mother and father must respect each other’s roles and be ready to help at a moment’s notice. When a mother and father treat each other with such respect and cooperation, their children will inevitably learn to act the same. Children must be encouraged to participate in every aspect of family life. Older children should help care for their younger brothers and sisters; then, not only will they feel the love of their parents, but they will get the experience of giving love to someone younger and more needy than them.
Parents must understand the magnitude of their many responsibilities. Building a true home is a job to be taken seriously — more seriously than the job we go to each day to earn a living. After all, there are many opportunities to make a living, but only one opportunity to build a healthy home.
Learn to love your family in a new way. Love them not only because they are your flesh and blood, but because they are G-d’s flesh and blood.
Before putting your children to sleep, give them a new kind of kiss, one filled with the fire of your G-dly soul. Talk to them about love, and how to care for one another. You will see how this new awareness of love carries over into everything that you do.
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