A parent's bond with his child is expressed not only by means of the material benefits he provides for his offspring. A healthy parent-child relationship finds its highest expression in spiritual giving, namely, helping the child to acquire values and to know what is right. Likewise, the parent guides the child in formulating his outlook on life. A well-educated child knows just how his parents feel about a multitude of issues which arise in life; furthermore, he is equipped to stand up for these values and to explain them to others.
This sort of bond is far more valuable to the child than any material gift the wealthiest parent may bestow on his offspring. There is no end to the variations of the standard complaint heard from parents who are disappointed with the products of their childrearing years. Again and again, we find the parents' dissatisfaction revolves around a lack of gratitude.
"What didn't we buy you? The most expensive walkie-talkie, electronic games, your own computer, the latest cell phone – whatever you asked for, and more. We waited in line until 3 a.m. to buy the latest volume of Harry Potter! In the summer, we sent you off to expensive camps and exclusive white-water camping trips. We gave you the moon and beyond. We worked ourselves to the bone to give you everything! Why aren't you grateful for it all?"
Money, games, entertainment, trips – all these are not enough to mold a child and to develop his character. The basic ingredient, moral values, is still missing. One cannot build a bond by writing out a check or swiping a credit card. Wallets don't bond with hearts, and vice versa. The only true, lasting bond between parent and child must be built from one heart to the other. If you truly wish to belong to your child, and have your child belong to you, close the gap between one heart and the other. It can't be done automatically, and it certainly cannot be purchased by spending money alone. Invest time, effort, sincere concern and love. Even the fact of biological parenthood does not open the heart; it is only when that parent invests something of himself in his child that the child will respond with love and respect. Externals, such as toys and treats, can sometimes supplement an internal bond that already exists. They may serve as an expression of that bond. However, they cannot create it in the first place.
The child who is showered with playthings, expensive clothing, and exotic treats, but rarely gets to spend time with his father, will be less happy in life than his classmate who wears hand-me-downs and has no toys but the swings in the park, yet enjoys a deep and significant bond with his parents.
Why? The answer is simple. This father pours his heart and soul into his son. Parents who know how to listen, how to share the child's world with him, parents who laugh together with their child in his hours of joy, feel his pain when things go wrong, share his moments of excitement and review the day's events with him, on his level – are raising a child who is keenly aware of their love for him. Over the years, he will develop an appreciation of their efforts to raise him and educate him for life. Such parents stand every chance of reaping much satisfaction and joy from their children. Giving of oneself is the key concept in building a warm, loving home and family circle. Successful parents give their utmost to each member of the family, young and not-so-young.
Man is a complex, intellectual creature. Therefore it takes him many years to learn how to navigate the highways and byways of life. A child who feels close to his parents and his home, will acquire many habits and develop tactics for dealing with life's challenges. The Torah places prime importance on the family as a unit. It is within the home that a person's future is built; it is here that he lays the foundation for the rest of his years.
A central theme of our times is the struggle to escape the pressures of daily life. Relaxation techniques, holistic massage, aroma therapy, and many other tactics are offered, not to mention a plethora of medications. None of these compares to a warm family home in its power to instill calm and warmth. He who is blessed with a positive home atmosphere has a combined goldmine and fountain of youth at his fingertips. No competition taints such a home; there is no need to run after an elusive client or to catch up with the sales record of the rest of the staff. Surrounded by people who have his best interests at heart, he can then be calm about leaving to G-d what is beyond his current powers to accomplish.
When the parents incorporate this attitude into their home life, their children automatically absorb their principles and make them their own. The clouds of tension and competition fade in the warmth of a sunny home, like a fog in the warm rays of the sun. The "magic pill" for successful education is a warm, pleasant home, a snug corner to which the child – and his parents – are pleased to return to.
True, it does not come easily; such a home is not built overnight. The rewards, however, justify the effort. The joy to be found in the Jewish home is empowering beyond imagination. The sweetness of Torah and the beauty of a life enhanced by the ways of the Torah cast their rays of hope and promise on all who enter such a home. Children shine with the radiance of inner joy and confidence. Every drop of energy the parents invest in building such a home will reward them many times over.
It pays to keep in mind that our children's upbringing is our foremost priority; it is the very foundation on which the future of our nation is based. Our Forefather, Abraham, is described by the verse as he "who will command his children after him to do kindness and justice." It is the path in education that Abraham blazed for us all which has preserved us as a nation. In its merit, he was chosen to become the founder of the nation which continues in his ways to this very day.