If thou know not, O thou fairest among maidens, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock and pasture thy kids, beside the shepherds' dwelling. (Song of Songs 1:8).
The first step in the process of educating our children must be to curtail as much as possible the influence of modern society. We might say that it is the parents, not the children, who must take the first steps in the right direction. They may have to re-order their priorities and change their way of thinking; it may be time to introduce more flexibility in their approach to life.
One of the first principles the parent must internalize is that his children's education ought to be at the top of the ladder of his priorities. The highest rung of the ladder of Jewish values is not one's career, social status, freedom of expression, nor social advancement. True, these all may have their place, but education outweighs them all.
True education comes through authority. Parents have authority and therefore bear the responsibility to do the best for their children, namely to advance with the child along the path best suited to his personality and abilities, by building up his character. Mold your child, instill values in his heart. True building means forming the character of the child or student, providing him with a set of values, internalizing refined personality traits and learning how to meet the challenges he will face as an adult.
Let us conclude with a parable:
A father and mother are riding in the family car together with their children. The parents are in the front seat, with the children on their laps. Two children are grasping the steering wheel while the parents chat with friends, each one using a cell-phone. Overhead, the DVD screen also holds their attention as they discuss the latest news with their acquaintances.
We heartily advise the parents to take the wheel back in hand, to transfer their children to the back seat, and strap them in safely with seat belts. Likewise, they should turn off their cell-phones and the DVD player; then they would do well to tune to their children are saying. A last step would be to add a sticker to the back of the car: “Children on Board! Keep a Safe Distance!”
The power of the bond between parent and children is awesome, if we know how to build it and harness its power for constructive education. As we drive along life's highways as adults, parents should take hold of the steering wheel and grasp it firmly, without relinquishing control to the children. The trip will be far safer. In addition, our children will go further in life, and get to their destination much faster.
A myriad of opportunities lies open before our children. They are still young, and have not yet exploited all their capability for growth. Right now, they are not in a position to evaluate their own emotional maturity or spiritual height. Nonetheless, their potential is immense, almost unlimited.
To enable them to achieve the maximum, we must provide them with clearly defined guidelines and limits. This will help them to focus on their inner world. We must remain alert and help them to tear down inner barriers and stumbling blocks, and facilitate emotional growth and development. A child must feel confident that he may ask questions and that his questions will receive serious answers. He must sense that he is free to be curious about his world and to explore the new and unknown, to examine and express his feelings. It is the task of the adult to provide the child with a framework, but also to broaden that framework as the child grows and matures.
In this way, we nurture the child's strengths and talents, helping him to realize his full potential. Regarding the spiritual heights such a child can reach, the sky's the limit!