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Rabbi Shmuel Gluck's Areivim program (www.areivim.com) is geared toward helping build healthy Jewish families. To cite the Areivim website, "Areivim offers teenagers, their parents and their siblings, coping skills, educational resources and mentoring services, in order to help the teenagers succeed within the family and educational systems."
This is incredibly important work. I became aware of Areivim a few years ago, and for some time I have been receiving and reading Rabbi Gluck's weekly emails on Parenting. I have found his advice valuable, for myself as well as for use in helping others.
This week Rabbi Gluck began a new series on transmitting Judaism to our children, and he began by discussing the importance of trust in parent/child relationships. With his permission, I am posting part of his comments here; to sign up, please email Rabbi Gluck at email@example.com.
The excerpt begins here:
There are 4 components necessary to nurture trust in any relationship. In a healthy parent/child or teacher/student relationship the four traits are often natural. However, in many homes and schools some, or all, of these four traits are missing, and the parents and teachers must increase their skills in these four areas. Without them, they won't be able to transmit the Mesorah.
Many parents find that their children are unresponsive, unaware, and unwilling to admit that it's their parents' lack of these skills, that cause their negative responses.
The four traits are:
1) Credibility: This is the ability for parents to present themselves as successful people. Children want to "look up" to their parents, but they'll only do it when they believe that they deserve it. Young children naturally place their parents on a pedestal. As they become older, they realize that their parents aren't perfect. Most of them will adjust to this reality; however, if the contrast between their initial views and their present impressions are very large, they'll stop trusting their parents.
Sometimes children will stop trusting their parents for reasons which aren't the fault of the parents. Peer pressure, unrealistic expectations, and frustrations when they repeatedly don't get what they want, are some common reasons. However, in most cases it's the result of the parents' actions that cause their children to change their opinions.
2) Reliability: This is the ability to follow through on their required responsibilities. It includes the ability to keep their commitments on time, the willingness to fulfill their responsibilities, and fulfilling the favors that their children have come to expect. What many parents misunderstand, is that offering excuses, rationalizing their actions, or going on the offense when they fail those responsibilities, will not create or sustain credibility, and leads to a belief of unreliability. Responding in such negative manners to their own failures is a form of bullying, and won't help the children believe in them.
3) Connecting with others: Many parents have been taught, by their parents, that "parents aren't supposed to be their children's friends". Although, in some ways this may be true, nevertheless, appearing robotic or tough, will not endear them to their children. Instead it'll create a "disconnect" between them and their children. Trust requires a relationship, not necessarily of equals, but of people who share more than sleeping and kitchen areas. They must also share with each other, their hopes, fears, and beliefs. (It should be understood that children should share with their parents significantly more than parents should share with their children.)
4) Self-orientation: Many parents have a difficult time thinking of others before they think of themselves. They're always protecting their image, territory,and possessions. They do this even when it unfairly costs their children, their image, territory, and possessions.
Some parents don't place a lot of thought into this. Other parents say that their children are supposed to respect, and sacrifice for, them. Although this may be true to a certain degree, it's not to the extent that some parents apply it. Whenever parents request that their children do something for them, it conveys spoken, and unspoken, thoughts. The request represents the spoken thought. The unspoken thought is the attitude, which ranges from, "I appreciate this and I'll do what I can for you" to, "as my child you must do what I request."
To be continued – Email Rabbi Gluck to sign up for future emails.