The Real Truth-Seekers
By Rabbi Yeshaya Weber

Children have the talent of being able to "see what is heard and hear what is seen." A child’s development is spent working and searching for the source. They constantly make comparisons between what they see and what they hear. When there is a correlation between what is seen and heard, they accept it as the truth. * The following article addresses the questions: When should one react and when should one not react? Does one always have to react and what should one look out for? * Care must be taken to avoid being perceived as untrustworthy by a child.

Our children make sure to put us in situations in which we must deal with their chinuch under pressure. We find ourselves wondering: to react or not to react? If yes, how and when? What shouldn’t be said? Should we risk a hasty, uncontrolled response, or delay our reaction and lose the impact of an on-the-spot reaction?

For many people, making immediate decisions is difficult. It isn’t easy to instantaneously find educationally sound answers to important questions. That is why we often find ourselves reacting spontaneously, without thinking whether the reaction is the right one and without weighing the results. In order to quiet our conscience, we avoid taking responsibility by saying that we aren’t experts in chinuch and that we are doing the best we can and cannot be responsible for the results.

Perhaps there is some justification to this claim, and indeed, if we aren’t sure, we have to react as we see fit at the time. This, however, does not absolve us from deriving a lesson after the fact; we have to scrutinize ourselves to see where we failed to act properly and determine a better response for the future.

In situations where we aren’t pressured to react on the spot, it is important to examine what our reaction should be. Reacting or not reacting has a great influence over negating a negative behavior pattern or, chalila, allowing it to continue.

These are the rules for reacting properly:

1) There must be consistency. We must always react to the undesirable behavior and always teach the same message.

2) The educator has to have clear guiding principles.

3) The message must be positive.

4) The message must be presented without judging, and must be clear so that children can understand the point being made.

5) The reaction should be short and to the point, without a debate.


Consistency is the Key

Consistency is the foundation of providing a successful education. Consistency on the educational front is a two-way street. On the one hand, parents watch their children’s behavior to ensure that they constantly behave in accordance with the lessons the parents have taught. On the other hand, children constantly test their parents to detect: 1) How consistent are the parents in their demands? Do the parents insist on proper behavior only once, although they may be aware of the repetition of an unacceptable behavior, or do they reprove the child at random? Do they reiterate the message over and over whenever they encounter the undesirable behavior? To the child, consistency means the parent is serious. It demonstrates the level of importance the parent ascribes to that subject. 2) Is the parent consistent about those same values in his/her own life?

Chassidus explains that in order to know whether something is true, you have to test its continuity and its permanence. I heard in the name of the mashpia R’ Shlomo Chaim Kesselman, a’h, that somebody asked him, "How can I know whether I succeeded in giving my children a proper Chassidic education?" R’ Shlomo Chaim answered, "If your grandchildren and great-grandchildren continue in the same path, it will be a sign that you did indeed give your children a proper chinuch."

The truth is that of all family members, a child is the most concerned about truthfulness. From the very start he seeks the truth, absolute truth. Fraud or illusion upsets him. Not keeping a promise angers and frustrates him.

One might ask: But it’s specifically children who are known for lying! The answer is that very often this "lie" is, in fact, their individual truth, whose source is their imagination, which in a child is highly developed. The horizons of his thinking and imagination are broad and lack boundaries, including the boundaries of physical reality. Sometimes a child will try to avoid a scolding or punishment, and he will imitate the denial he saw in the adults in his environment. At the same time, he recognizes the value of truth, and yearns and seeks it.

The truth, integrity, and trustworthiness that the child sees on the part of adults will affect him so that he will also acquire the attribute of truth and internalize it until it becomes an inseparable part of him.

In the Rebbe’s sichos kodesh, it says that children are gifted in that they can "see what is heard and hear what is seen." Generally, a child’s development is fraught with effort and the search for the source of things. A child constantly compares what is seen and what is heard. When the two channels are in accord, both the visual and the auditory, the child accepts it as truth.

When does it pay to mix in to a child’s life and when should we leave them to their own devices?

There is an old approach to education, which still has its devotees, that asserts that adults should be involved as little as possible in a child’s life. Too great an involvement will just disrupt the child’s individual development and ruin it.

Chassidus, of course, disagrees with this approach. Chassidus demands of parents constant involvement and consistent direction when it comes to chinuch. At the same time, one must stay away from everything that isn’t true, i.e., eternal.

Occasionally one can imagine that a little fudging of the truth can be useful, for lying, to a certain extent, is easier than telling the truth. It’s more flexible and can be used to avoid, maneuver, or cut corners. However, even when you are greatly enticed to do so, you must internalize this rule: Whatever isn’t true, doesn’t last. When you are looking for something to last eternally, you have to use tools of truth, tools of eternity.

Being involved in chinuch leads us to constant confrontations with the "truth detectors," our dear children. Therefore, we have to be extra careful to ensure that our behavior reflects the values we stand for, which we want to instill into our children. Simply put, we must be living examples.

This can better be understood by an example from daily life. When parents want their children to be well-mannered at the table, they have to set forth clear rules which all household members have to abide by, including the parents, and stick to them. Mealtimes, where meals take place, proper behavior at the table, what is permitted and what is forbidden, and so on – the parents must exemplify these rules. Without this personal example, you just can’t train children to eat properly.

As we said, a consistent reaction is of utmost importance to achieve the goal. You shouldn’t allow a situation to develop in which you sometimes point things out, sometimes demand, and on other occasions turn a blind eye from that issue. This gives the child the message that we aren’t really serious about the principles we are trying to instill in him.

True, it isn’t easy, and it demands a lot of perseverance and energy. There are many excuses and they are all convincing: we are busy with dozens of different things; we reach a point where we are exhausted; sometimes we just feel powerless and want to give up. But we must remember that by not reacting, or by reacting passively, we are strengthening the negative behavior.


Consistency: Even a Hundred Times

We learn the importance of consistency in rebuke from the verse, "Rebuke your friend" – even a hundred times, say Chazal. The point is not to limit the number to one hundred. On the contrary, Chazal are saying that rebuke is endless. We must rebuke as many times as we encounter the situation that requires rebuke. Employing this method sends a message to the friend that we are genuine in our rebuke. He will not feel that we are bothering him or making his life bitter. He will feel that we truly want to stop him from the negative or undesirable behavior, and he will take the rebuke seriously. With time, the friend will internalize our message, for "words that emanate from the heart, enter the heart."


The truth is that of all family members, a child is the most concerned about truthfulness.



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