Children & Parents
The relationship between parents and their progeny has changed drastically over the centuries. Especially in America is that the case. Jewish children and the values of their elders have been doubly affected. The members of the younger generation are held in unusually high esteem, are protected, coddled, adored and are encouraged to live the “good life,” most often to their detriment.
The result of such adoration can be harmful to the children that have been handled with not only “kid gloves” but with silk gloves. We know that silk gloves tear while leather and woolen gloves are resistant and strong in comparison. Thus are the overprotected adored darlings of today’s young generation. They take for granted all the sacrifices that the parents have made to keep them dressed well and to afford them everything that their hearts desire, no matter how hard the parents have to work to provide all of the goodness that their elders never had. Parents are rarely appreciated for their unrealistic generosity and their adoration of their sons and daughters. On the contrary; more and more is expected both in word and deed. Parents are afraid to deny their cherubs anything. This makes for a weak personality. Such children have no derach eretz, do not honor their parents and have great and unreal expectations. Many do not care to work; they play, and protect what they believe are their own interests. Vacations from the easy life they already have is their goal; they do not think of tomorrow. They desecrate their parents, speak “loshan horrah” (evil words) about them, enumerate any inconvenience that may have come their way, spend earthly goods almost totally on their pleasures. Parents do not tell the “truth” or reality to them. Children will move out, become hostile and domineering, and cannot accept the harsh reality of everyday life that adults in our society must face if they are to become successful human beings. Koved does not exist. Roles change as parents change and as they cannot do or provide as much as they were once able. As the once all giving parent becomes frail he or she is denigrated. The “children” make themselves the “parents” of their elderly mothers and fathers. They direct them, find flaws, hurl insults, do not want to visit them, when invited become rejecting, and let it be known that it is a great effort for them to celebrate occasions with their elders. They are doing favors to the two people who have been their teachers, their mentors, their philanthropists, their protectors, their guides. All those deeds are denied and forgotten. These children do not share much about themselves as they come to maturity and denigrate their parents’ guidance and interest in them with disdain and with hostile silence. Their “friends” are most important to them and naturally these folks will agree with all the “loshan horah” that the perpetrator declares and will always agree to such utterances.
One is reminded here of a Jewish widow who raised her only son by herself. She became a cleaning woman to her wealthy neighbors, fed her son the finest food she could afford while she ate chicken feet, leftovers and libation that was filling. She wore the same clothing that she had for years while she bought her son whatever she could to make him acceptable to his classmates. She slaved to see him through medical school. When he graduated he did not invite his mother to the graduation because he was ashamed to be seen with her with her cheap mended clothing and unfashionable hairdo.
Looking back in history at the European Jews who escaped to the New Country, AMERICA, we see how far they came. They were ambitious, worked from childhood in whatever they could find, were multitaskers, were never afraid of work, honored their parents, and did every and all that they could to become strong human beings.
Let us all remember that coddling and overprotecting our children makes for disrespect, for distortions, for anger, for weaklings. Let us go back to guiding our juniors to be healthy and self-reliant. Remember an old parable in a biblical quotation: The mother who told Absalom when she disciplined him: “Wenn du wirst schlecht sein gibt mir die Welt die Schuld” (If you will become evil the world will hold me responsible).
Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.