In this week’s parsha we talk about the importance of encouraging compassion in our children.
A child once observed his father busily arranging a corner of the attic. He watched as the man dragged an old bed frame, threw on a worn mattress and spread some torn sheets. “What are you doing? Who is going to sleep up here in this dusty attic?” he asked curiously.
“I am preparing a place for your grandfather to stay when he gets old,” was the reply.
The child was silent. Later that evening, the father looked for the boy to wish him a good night, but he was nowhere to be found. Finally, he located him in the attic. In the untouched corner, the young child was quietly putting together another pathetic-looking sleep area. “What’s that?” asked the father sharply.
“I am preparing this place for you, Dad, when you get old,” was the response.
As adults, it is crucial that we recognize the powerful role we play in the education of our children–not through lectures or lessons, but through living. At every moment, whether we realize it or not, we are imparting a message. We all know that “do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work. But it’s more than that: through our actions, we are not only teaching children how to act; we are training them how to think and feel. We are shaping their perspectives.
Perhaps nowhere is this idea more blatant than in the area of human relationships. There is no way of preaching love; if we are genuinely there for our children, they will learn how to care for others. The opposite, of course, is true as well.
Many working parents leave their children for periods of time with babysitters. A child can understand that if his father and mother are stuck at work, he may be picked up from school or fed dinner by his nanny. He can handle that. But what if a parent does not work? How would you explain to your child that you were too busy shopping to fetch him after a long day? And what messages will he absorb about the way to look at family?
When the Jews left Egypt, G-d could have sent angels to care for them. Any heavenly messenger could have led them to freedom. Yet G-d Himself chose to do the job. “I, not an angel,” redeemed the Jewish people, says G-d, as we read in the Haggadah. Why?
It was because He truly loved us. And maybe, through demonstrating His overwhelming love and care for His children, the A-mighty was also teaching us how to be there for our own.
Ask yourself honestly, “How much do I care for others, especially the important individuals in my life? What messages do my actions impart to them?” There is no pretending; our deepest sentiments will scream from every action, for better or worse. And ultimately, our children will reflect that which they see.
Are you happy with the education you are giving your kids?