How To Raise Successful Children

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Rabbi Ari Wasserman interviews Mrs. Chani Juravel LCSW, popular orator and therapist in Rockland County, NY. She lectures across the world, and in her private practice treats individuals and couples. Mrs. Juravel combines Torah-true hashkafah and psychological insights relevant to women of all ages and stages. Her extensive experience spanning over three decades both in the world of chinuch and counseling combine to offer a fresh approach and much food for thought.

What’s the most important ingredient nowadays in successful parenting?

Mrs. Chani Juravel: My husband once expressed the best answer to this profound discussion. We know that one of the ways that Hashem runs the world is that there are always equal and opposing forces of positivity and negativity. The biggest threat to our children these days is accessibility. Everything and anything is so accessible to our kids. Our focus, therefore, has to be on being accessible to them. Being there for our kids is a challenge in itself because we are pulled in so many directions and have so many stresses. Letting your kids know that you are there for them is critical. Children need to know that you have their presence, interest, and involvement.

What’s a second ingredient that is pivotal in efficient parenting?

CJ: Curiosity is the one word response, and that has consistently been true since the beginning of time. After Adam and Chavah sinned, Hashem asked “Where are you?” even though He obviously knew their whereabouts. But, He wanted to hear from them regarding their needs and desires. Likewise, we must try very hard to really listen to our children without making assumptions and setting an agenda. You have to just let them know that you genuinely want to hear who they are, what makes them tick, where they are in their life journey, and how they are seeing the life they are living via their struggles and successes.

How do we instill proper values in our children without being too pushy?

CJ: When it comes to teaching our children how to behave on an interpersonal level, that’s a very dynamic process that involves teaching, instructing, and modeling. Regarding teaching children about mitzvot that have to do with a person and Hashem (bein adam laMakom), I think it’s all about modeling. Our children learn most from what we are most passionate about. It’s less about getting the rules right and really being real with them with who we are and sharing that with them via modeling. In terms of values, I would say that accountability, resilience, and feeling loved by and loving toward Hashem are critical elements to instill in our children.

Are values such as accountability and resilience also taught primarily through modeling?

CJ: Yes. For example, I don’t remember everything my father did correctly, and he did a lot of things right, but I remember every single time that he apologized for something that he would have wished he had done differently. When our children see us wanting to grow or talking about how we are evolving in a relationship, I think those items speak volume.

What are common mistakes that you see parents making?

CJ: I think there are two categories where most of us can relate. The first concept is to relate to our kids personally. This means what our children do or don’t do become about us, their parents. Afterwards, we feel guilty and blame ourselves. Consequently, children sense this pain and feel that they are overbearing on their parents. It’s not about us; our kids are not meant to be our accessories. The second notion is that we have become very afraid of our children and, as a result, we treat them as fragile, however this is a big mistake. In the long run, people want to know that we see them as capable and competent. If our children sense our fear towards them, or that we are not real with them regarding their responsibilities, it will end up costing them in the long run. It is essential that we give our children a sense of belief that they are more than capable in meeting the high expectations and standards we outline. We shouldn’t see our children as fragile.

When shouldn’t we discipline our children?

CJ: If it’s something that the children will grow out of and if it’s natural for their age and standing in life, then there’s no need to really discipline. Yet, if it’s something significant and you think the behavior is age inappropriate, discipline is absolutely necessary. But even then, one needs to know how and when to discipline. Not punishing is not an option. We shouldn’t be afraid of parenting.

What do you tell a new parent just starting out who asks, “Briefly, what do I need to know?”

CJ: A parent with questions on raising their children must understand that they are bashert (fated) to be that child’s parent. They must cherish this fact and exhibit confidence. We all have moment where we err, and as much as it will entail a process, as it does for all of us, be mindful that this child was intended to be yours and yours alone.

Any final thoughts?

CJ: I once heard that the commandment of honoring your parents is not just for the child. It’s also for the parents to honor the fact that they are the parents of their child and that’s bashert. Hashem had the confidence in you to be what this child needs most. We really need this self-assurance to be successful parents. Finally, I would also tell new parents to utilize the third parent, Hashem. We must pray to our Creator for the knowledge to raise our children fruitfully.

I recall a wonderful couple who had a child that was acting out in public and was high maintenance, causing the couple a lot of embarrassment. The mother turned to me for advice. I told her that she was doing everything spot-on, but the next time she was in the grocery store and her child acted out, she should just look up to shamayim and say, “Hashem, it’s obvious that people are going to know that my son is nothing like us, but we don’t want him to make You look bad.”

This article is based on Shiur 382 (8/6/22), Parenting, What Makes “Successful” Children? What Are the Common Mistakes Which Should Be Avoid from the Halachic Headlines podcast, hosted by Rabbi Dovid Lichtenstein. This episode was guest hosted by Rabbi Ari Wasserman.