Holy and Secular – “I want some orange juice,” the child screamed. His mother, who was weary at the end of a full day, poured him a full glass. The boy looked at the glass with great joy. He grabbed the glass and quickly ran to the living room with a cry of victory. “Where are you going?” his mother yelled to him. The boy did not have a chance to answer – he bumped into a table, and the glass flew onto the splendid French sofa in the room.
“What have you done, you rude boy?” the mother screamed at her son. “You don’t care at all about anybody else. You completely ruined the priceless French sofa. Why don’t you care about us at all?“
The boy heard the scolding, and he saw the serious way his mother looked at him. One fact was burned deep into his mind: To ruin a sofa is very serious, even if it is not done on purpose.
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The children were deeply engrossed in their new game of Monopoly. The sister threw the dice and moved her piece. “It was my turn,” the boy said to his sister. “No, it wasn’t,” his sister yelled at him, “it was my turn!” The boy tried to prove that he was right: “What do you mean, your turn? Your piece just landed on Boardwalk!”
“How many times do I have to tell you to keep quiet, you rude children?” shouted the father, who had been woken up from a deep sleep. “You know how hard I work, why don’t you take my needs into account?”
The children heard the rebuke and saw the serious way that their father looked at them. One fact was burned deep into their minds: To wake up a parent is a very serious thing, even if it is not on purpose.
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The boy came into the room to look for his new toy crane. The room was dark, and he switched the light on without thinking. When the boy returned to the living room, his mother said to him, “Did you turn on the light by mistake on Shabbat?” And the boy answered, embarrassed, “I am sorry, I forgot.” His mother patted his head gently. “If you did not do it on purpose, it is not so bad. Try not to do it again.”
The boy listened to his mother’s comment and saw the way she looked at him with pity. One fact was burned deep into his mind: It is wrong to desecrate the Shabbat, but it is not so terrible if it is not done intentionally.
* * * * * *
The boy held tightly onto the ball. “I will not let you play with it,” he said to another boy. When the game was over, his father said to him, “You played very well, but it is a pity that you did not let the other boy play too. He is a new immigrant, and he has almost no friends.” The boy heard his father’s comment and saw the forgiving look that his father gave him. One fact was burned deep into his mind: It is important to give a helping hand to new immigrants.
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Sometimes a child should be spoken to calmly so that he will accept what his parent wants to tell him, and at times he should be rebuked harshly so that he will understand how serious the matter is. But it is important to realize that children are very sensitive to nuances. When we react in anger to some events while we have a forgiving attitude with respect to others, they are quick to understand what is more or less important to us.
We are responsible for educating our children, and we also share our living quarters with them. Our comments to our children are sometimes about things we want to teach them and sometimes as a reaction when they disturb us. These things are often intertwined – we make a comment to them about what we want to teach them, and these same events often irritate us. When something gets on our nerves we react very harshly, which is natural. It is very hard to stop this, but the more we curtail our personal involvement in these comments, the better we will succeed in our educational task.
Reprinted with permission from Zomet Institute (www.zomet.org.il).
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.