Many parents feel defeated throughout the course of their parenting career because they find themselves in situations that are the exact opposite of what they had hoped for. For example, Mrs. Cohen is raising her children with hopes that she is really teaching them to be nice to their siblings. A few years in, she begins to notice that more often than not the children are yelling and screaming at each other in condescending ways. She is wondering how this even came about if there is nothing more in the world she wants than for her children to be kind to each other. Since they were very young, she always made a point to read them books about respect, and tell them all sorts of stories about the importance of being kind to one another.
What Mrs. Cohen is not realizing here is that she is allowing a different goal to take precedence over the goal of teaching respect. She has mistakenly been acting as if what is most important when challenges arise, is that things turn out exactly the way she wants them to. The children have been getting a hidden message that in life it is important to have what I want right now. If she is talking down to them in order to get them to stop doing what they are doing, the message is: my mother is modeling how to get what she wants at any cost. That is what they will believe is the goal in their interactions with their siblings.
If, however, she is mindful that her goal is to model for her children that everyone needs to be treated with respect, then she will speak to them in that way knowing that modeling is the best way to teach anything.
Can you imagine what would happen if you were using a GPS to try to get somewhere but did not put the destination on the GPS? You would not be so shocked to know that the GPS was just taking you anyway it wanted. But if you put your goal, your destination, on the GPS and you simply go off course, you do not need to worry because the GPS knows what the destination is, and you simply need to just get back on track.
When you are engaging with your child in a difficult interaction, ask yourself what your goal is. I like to think that some of my goals are to raise children who know that everybody is important and deserves to be treated with respect, that any challenge that gets sent my way is uniquely designed for me as an opportunity for growth, and that I have all the tools I need inside of me to get through any challenge in life.
Most often, when people are disappointed about the way things are panning out with their children it is because their methods of parenting are not aligned with their values. Ask yourself what your goals are in raising your children and then create methods that correspond to that. Unlike the goyim, we don’t have to guess our way through life. The Torah maps out for us exactly how to think, how to live, and how to be in relationships. All we need to do is take that information and use our unique talents to apply that to our family lives.
So next time your children are screaming so loud that you can barely hear yourself think, look ahead 20 years and ask yourself what you want your children to have remembered about solving life problems from that interaction.