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Tuesday, 5 August 2014

033) When You Think You're Not Teaching - You Are!

The sense of achievement at having raised good children must be one of the greatest joys one can experience in this world. If you have any doubt as to whether this is indeed so, just speak to people who have constant consternation from their children.

When it comes to raising children, some try to take a shortcut and pray that G-d grant them good children. Unfortunately though, the only shortcut is lots and lots of (sometimes thankless) hard word. And then some.

The pragmatic, ‘no nonsense’, ‘no short cut’ Kotzker Rebbe makes an interesting theological and psychological point:
 If you want to raise Torah true children, then – instead of praying for their spiritual well being - simply continue studying Torah yourselfRather occupy yourself with Torah than pray for your children. This way your children will learn from you and also study, instead of learning from you that they too need only pray for their children.
(Kochav HaShachar p161, par1)

In this teaching, the Kotzker makes striking sense by pointing out that children learn subliminally from their parents. When the parent least thinks he or she is teaching their child – that is when the greatest and most enduring lessons take place.

When moms and dads drive their children from one lesson to another, they forget that the only thing the child is really going to assimilate is the ‘lesson’ between the lessons. How the parent behaves in stressful traffic; the language the parent uses; the ability to control the stress of being late and so forth, all form part of the great syllabus the child subconsciously incorporates into his or her own personality.

When dad leaves for shul on Friday night and asks his young son to join him, and the son says he would rather stay home and play, and dad says fine: That is fine. Children need to play. But when fourteen years pass and dad continues to go to shul alone every Friday night, dad doesn't realize what an outstanding teacher he actually was. He managed to successfully communicate to his child that shul is not important.

We recently acquired a little puppy. When I went to collect it from the breeders, it affectionately jumped up to greet me. The breeder said that if I didn't want it to jump up onto people, I simply mustn't allow it to. Otherwise my inaction would be tantamount to actively teaching it that that behavior was perfectly acceptable.

I know that children cannot be compared to puppies but I think the point is well made: When you least think you are teaching – that is often when most of the teaching take place.

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