Shalom in the Home: Smart Advice for a Peaceful Life is written by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, a solution focused systems trained therapist. I love case studies and that's what this book is: case studies from the TLC show Boteach hosts where his solutions hearken to the early days of the profession-radical, edgy and risky. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. Boteach weaves his Rabbinical training throughout as he addresses the importance of masculinity, womanhood, fatherhood, parenting, childhood, divorce, infidelity, grief, family dinners and materialism. Each case study focuses on a particular topic, with many references to Boteach's Orthodox Judaism as well as the Old Testament and God's relationship to His people.
A brief sampling of the wisdom Boteach shares;
"Material goods will not bring your children happiness. Rather, the more purposeful we make our children feel and the more we can liberate them from the incarcerating cell of their own selfishness, the happier and more stable they will be."
Easier said than done. I know I want my kids to have the best of whatever we can afford. And it's so much easier to buy things for our kids than to truly spend the time and energy required to get to know them, love them selflessly, ignite their passions, set them free on the path God calls. One of the biggest challenges I've had as a parent is to really take time to listen to my kids, putting my own agenda aside, praying and supporting their gifts, passions and purpose.
"There is no such thing as a bad kid. Children are utterly innocent. They are tabua rasa- a blank slate. We as parents determine children's actions by the way we ourselves act; it is our characters that determine how their characters will develop."
In the past week we've had 2 couples say how respectful and thoughtful our children are. Both comments were said about all of the kids but then the commenter's focused in on Feche-boy. One lady said, "He told me he hoped I had a great day and to enjoy my stay!" This was said in total disbelief as she went on, "You never hear a teen-age boy talk that way to an adult. Most of them never make eye contact with you at all!"
The other commenter said that she was, "Very impressed with that young man. You can tell he is respectful and kind."
One of my pet peeves is parents who don't train their kids to interact with adults. They think it's cute somehow when the kids mumble a greeting, roll their eyes, or whatever other discounting behavior they do when being introduced or interacting with someone older than them. Just for the record. It's NOT cute. It's a reflection of your poor parenting.
And I'm not saying my kids are perfect, far from it. But they are consistently respectful. We have taught them the important concept of Imago Dei. They are created in the image of God. As is every one else. And we show them respect. We are not perfect and have our own idiosyncrasies and stuff to get over, but we foster respect in our home. No name calling, no secrets,no pigeon-holing a person, basic stuff like that, along with helping each other out, serving each other, doing nice things for each other just because we love and respect one another. We teach servant hood in our home. #1 way to foster respect in a child. And for kids we go with the "fake it till you make it" belief. They don't have to believe that serving their sibling is important. They just have to do it. There will come a day when the value is internalized and you'll stand in amazement when your kids buy the perfect birthday present for each other, or take one another out for coffee "Just because." Don't let your kids childish attitudes get in the way of training their behavior in the right things.
"I don't want children who are circus monkeys, trained to perform for their teachers and parents by bringing home A's. Rather I want kids who can overcome boredom- life's biggest disease- by always finding life, people, and facts fascinating."
Yes and yes. Fascination is easier to foster when electronics, T.V. and entertainment are controlled and kept to a minimum, along with a healthy dose of self discipline. Feed your kids a steady diet of the big outdoors, books and stimulating conversation and their imaginations will grow and develop rather than atrophy and wither. Train your kids to internalize self discipline and they will have what it takes to do anything God puts in front of them.
This was a fun and easy read but challenging nevertheless. It's easy to get complacent enough as spouses and parents, and Boteach admonishes to seek and find, no matter how difficult, the very best for those we love. Oftentimes that means getting over our selves, relinquishing our innate selfishness, in order to minister to our families and disciple our children well. Preach it Brother Boteach.
Find out more about Rabbit Shmuley, hailed as one of the most fertile minds of the Jewish community here: http://www.shmuley.com/