It began with an email. The email said,
“Dear Rabbi Ross. My kids are very inconsiderate to others. They only think about themselves, and it drives me nuts. Here’s an example. My kids like strawberries, so I went shopping and bought them the pre-checked ones. When I came to the fridge an hour later they were all gone. My eleven-year-old had eaten the entire package without thinking of his siblings. Is this normal?” Name Redacted in Cedarhurst
It was a fair question. I actually know the person that sent it, since she had signed her name. I wasn’t going to publish it, since it would have been unfair to her kids. She sent the email on Wednesday night, and I put it in the folder of questions I had intended to respond to and publish.
Motzoai Shabbos arrived. After father-son learning, I went with my kids to Central Avenue to get them pizza. We parked in the lot to avoid the madness, and as we walked towards the middle of the block, we heard a racket. Many cars honking, and some people shouting. I turned to my boys and said, “This is why we park in the lot.”
As we came closer, we saw what the issue was. Someone has tried making an illegal U-turn in middle of the block, but since there were cars parked on either side, she didn’t have enough room. The cars that were driving on both sides had moved up, and she was seriously stuck sideways in middle of Central Avenue. The street sign on the sidewalk she was facing clearly showed a “No U-Turn” symbol.
I walked over to help. Wouldn’t you know it, the woman driving the minivan was the one who had written the email. Some other people came over to help, and in a few minutes, we managed to extricate the car and get traffic moving again.
After she finally parked her car on the side of the avenue, I walked over to her and said, “I think I see what the problem is. When you’re inconsiderate to others, your kids pick up the same Middos”. She lamely tried to defend herself by saying, “It was quicker for me to get home if I made a U-Turn”. I replied, “That’s my point. You inconvenienced many people because it was better for you.” I then asked her permission to use the story in this email, which she allowed.
So, there you have it. Most of the basic habits that our children pick up are from the home. Very often, we are blind to our own issues, and we only recognize them in others. It could be in our friends, our spouses, and, of course, our children. I once saw a dad getting upset at his son for cracking his knuckles loudly, when he had done the exact same thing about 30 seconds earlier. We just don’t recognize our own faults.
The lesson we can take from this, is that we need to be very careful as parents. Whatever we say or do is going to be observed, or heard, by some very attentive children. Whether screaming at a slow driver, getting aggravated on the phone, or walking in late to Davening, our children are watching, listening and learning.
Have a good Shabbos!
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a Rebbe and has been working with parents and kids for many years. You can read more about him in the "about" section.