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Educating Children

Educating Children

Compliments, the Foundation of Education

Published on Sunday September 13th, 2020

Let us define what real Chinuch is. Some of you are surely becoming tense and waiting for the 45 lessons that will allow you to become great parents. So, let us summarize it into one word: encourage. If we encourage a child, we educate him. Otherwise, we destroy him. The 45 lessons - if necessary! - would rather be to teach what is meant by encouragement. Let us introduce this with a relevant question.

A child learns to ride a bike. After his first few meters, he falls and gets hurt. If he is not afraid of failure – meaning that he is not in an environment where he is overly criticized - he will wipe his tears, get back on his bike, drive further, and fall again. Without being discouraged, he will repeat this and become increasingly more experienced, until he no longer falls. As the saying goes, 'it is by forging that one becomes a blacksmith'. It is through making mistakes that a person becomes more experienced.

Yet this rule does not seem to apply to certain areas. Mainly in any fight against an instinct - especially, spiritual, or even a dietetic struggle. So many obese people begin a diet, however, the more they try, the less they succeed! The more time passes, the more the risk of giving in to temptation increases. Alone in front of a good ice cream, the obese person promises himself not to taste it. Then after 2 minutes, he tells himself that he really should not taste it. After 5 minutes, it does not interest him to taste it. Then he declares that if he were to taste it, he would be making the mistake of his life. And as he becomes more determined, the breaking point gets closer. Why in the spiritual realm however, does repeated confrontation with a scene not help us to adopt a tactic to win more easily the fight against the yetzer hara?

On Rosh Chodesh Sivan, the Bnei Yisrael arrived at Sinai to conclude their alliance with Hashem. Following Hashem's command, Moshe reminds them of G-d's goodness when He brought them out of Egypt, and he motivated them to accept the Torah with enthusiasm: וְעַתָּה אִם שָׁמוֹעַ תִּשְׁמְעוּ בְּקֹלִי וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם אֶת בְּרִיתִי וכו '-'' And now, if you listen to My voice, and you preserve my covenant, you will be for me a treasure among all the nations.'' Literally, שָׁמוֹעַ תִּשְׁמְעו translates as listen, you will listen. The Mechilta interprets: 'If you now agree to listen, you will listen - If you accept today to bear the yoke, you will discover the pleasant taste of doing Hashem's will, because all beginnings are difficult'. Meaning, only beginnings are difficult, but then everything becomes easy. However, our knowledge of life seems to prove the opposite. When it comes to fighting against instinct, deprivation increases the ardor of desire, as Rav Dessler's explains.

The answer to this question is of paramount importance for chinuch, but especially for our own development. Each new behavior that one strives to adopt is double experience: a success, and a failure - the act of adopting the new attitude, and the act of no longer being what one was naturally. Whatever the type of behavior, reliving the same experience again, sharpens one of these two aspects. The question is: which of these two aspects?

Take the example of the child learning to ride a bike. At his first attempt, he managed to ride a few meters, but he also experienced the failure of falling because he still did not know how to ride a bike. In general, the desire to ride a bike will make him remember his 'successes' and blur his 'failures'. Unless he is brought up in a critical way, wherein a half-empty glass is always noticed rather than the half-full glass. Indeed, this child's lack of self-confidence will surely push him to remember his 'failures' and conclude that he is not made for cycling.

When it comes to dominating instinct, the natural tendency will be by default to retain the experience of 'failure'. Unless you learn to encourage yourself ...

Rav Harry DAHAN

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