An adult daughter once asked her mother, “Do you feel you were successful in raising your children?”
The mother responded by providing an outline of her and her husband’s main goals of chinuch, and then she asked her daughter to evaluate for herself.
Just as every institution has a mission statement that is reevaluated regularly, each family needs to have a vision and central focus in raising children, and to be flexible when necessary. While every family, hopefully, has religiosity as a goal, the question is: how do we define what that means, and how do we go about achieving that goal? What is an effective formula for raising children who are strong in their beliefs and have a real relationship with Hashem?
Part of this question is how much of our chinuch mission is entrusted to the school system and how much of it we personally pursue at home. If you walk into a preschool you will hear the children singing the famous song, “Hashem is here; Hashem is there; Hashem is truly everywhere.” Unfortunately, for many of those children, that song is the closest thing to Judaism they will ever know. Most schools make the assumption that knowledge of Hashem is a given, and they can start teaching His Torah and mitzvot. The results are students who know the laws of Shabat, verses in the Tanach, but they lack any meaningful relationship with Hashem or emotional connection with the Torah.
It is not surprising that many of these students decline religiously, and at worse, they feel that observance of mitzvot is simply a waste of their time and energy. This tendency is particularly strong among those who don’t solidify their commitment by spending a year studying Torah in Israel after high school. Many of these students have a Jewish education but they are spiritually hollow. Many of them feel that Judaism is a burden that gets in their way of their personal freedom. Some of these students are looking for some sign of relevancy regarding the Torah they’re studying. They want to find the meaning of Judaism in this “modern world.”
The first thing parents need to understand is that it is important for them to be actively involved in establishing the foundation of their children’s Torah education. Some parents delegate this important role to the school system. This is a mistake. Teachers will not be able to plant the spiritual seeds that a parent can. The chinuch process begins and ends at home.
Read Part 2 For More Insights