We have discussed the ideal parent, the strict disciplinarian, the wavering parent who is not consistent in his demands. Now let us consider parents who make it a policy to seek a compromise whenever disagreements arise. In order to avoid conflict and friction, or out of just plain exhaustion, they give in right from the start, without any argument, to their children's demands. They lack the strength to put up any resistance to the child's request. When asked what lies behind this practice, they often justify their leniency in the name of maintaining a calm and peaceful atmosphere in the home. The immediate result is that children will take advantage of the parents' "Peace at Any Price" policy to get their way even when that option is not good for their upbringing. The parent is, in effect, surrendering the reins to the younger generation.
While it is true that parents do and should love their children, parental love does not necessarily imply giving in to youngsters' every whim. If there remains no distance between adult and child, parent and son, it will undermine the very basis of child rearing, respect for Father and Mother. Both parent and child must be aware of their unique places in the family framework. As our Sages advise: "One should have awe of one's mentors just as one has awe of Heaven" (Chapters of the Fathers, 4:12).
Parents do everything for their child; they expend all their energies in looking after him. By nature, a parent will do whatever he can so that his child will have a warm, healthy home-base on which to grow and develop. To the best of his ability, he establishes a calm, pleasant atmosphere in the home so that his child will mature into a healthy, productive adult.
How often do parents neglect their own needs in favor of those of their children, preferring to look after their youngster's welfare. When the family budget is limited, Mother will buy new shoes for her daughter, rather than for herself. Likewise, Father opts to buy an interesting toy for his son rather than a new tie or shirt which he needs. This is only natural; such is the make-up of devoted parents, who invest untold time, energy, money and concern in their children. But for some reason, it sometimes appears that together with this great show of concern and devotion to their offspring, parents have forgotten the main role they are meant to play vis-a-vis their children: educators. In our generation of materialistic plenty and stress on enjoying life, not just living it, parents tend to become providers rather than educators and mentors. It is not unusual in our times to find families blessed with more than ample means, and a stress on openness and being “natural”, in which the father is more a friend to his children than a mentor or educator. A daughter may contradict her mother's words as though she were a classmate, or even a younger friend. She has no compunctions about a lack of deference for her parent, as she is already well accustomed to doing as she herself pleases, without any consideration for her parents' wishes and instructions.
This lack of respect for parents is not the children's fault. It is we, the parents, who have failed to educate them to relate to the older generation with respect; it is fathers and mothers who toppled the natural hierarchy of the parent-child relationship, namely, deference and respect at all times, and under all circumstances. We have not been wise enough to bring the child to such a state in which it is self-evident that the father is not just another pal, and the mother, not just another friend. It is we who have unwittingly and unwisely assumed the role of companion and teammate by failing to emphasize the correct and unique role of the parent as distinguished from that of the son or daughter. In the name of “democracy” we have taken the institution of parenthood, stood it on its head, and undermined its basic foundations in the process.
As a result, we will be compelled to watch our children grow up unruly, rude, arrogant and self-centered, because, in the name of democracy, we have failed to train them otherwise. As parents we have placed our children in the center of the family circle, without conveying to them that there are other people who are no less important and deserving than are they themselves.
This is no contradiction to the love which the successful parent gives his children. However, we must remember that this love should must grow and blossom within the framework of the family, where parents are parents and children are children.