Parenting Made Easy
Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11-34:35 )
No matter how objectively good and valuable something is, if it is given and not earned it will inevitably be abused.
What makes parenting so difficult is this universal principle of human existence:
"No matter how objectively good and valuable something is,
if it is given and not earned it will inevitably be abused."
This principle explains why, for example, if you give your son or daughter a new Ferrari for their 16th birthday, you will be lucky if by their 17th birthday, the only thing in ruins is the car.
They didn't earn it.
One of the most consistent truths we have learned from history is that mankind destroys what he hasn't built (i.e., earned). This powerful idea has destroyed and ended countless empires, civilizations, nations, businesses and family riches.
Others seem so surprised to read headlines about the children of prestigious families who bankrupt pedigreed fortunes. To the untrained eye it seems so unnecessary.
But the truth is, as the Torah testifies, it cannot be any other way. The greatest physical good ever created was the Garden of Eden. It was merely a question of time until Adam did something so that he would be exiled from it.
He didn't earn it. (Editor's note to author: So why did God give it to Adam knowing he would ruin it? Author's note to Editor: Good question, we will get to it.)
Similarly, in this week's Torah portion, it was practically inevitable that the Jewish people were going to build a Golden Calf, or something similarly offensive. (Editor's note again: Curious - why did God do all of this if He knew they would abuse His gifts? Author's note to Editor: Same question, hang on there.)
Giving someone else a better life, whether the giver be God or a parent, is one of the most perplexing struggles of existence.
Let me explain. Hopefully you have raised your standard of living so that you don't live the way you grew up. You therefore have a choice, to raise your children in the lifestyle you were raised, or give them the advantages from which you have earned.
Do you see the dilemma? Why did you work so hard if not at least to help your children? Unfortunately though, the more you give them, the less they can earn themselves, and therefore, the less they will value what they have. It's probably the vast majority of parents who say, "I have worked hard so my children won't have to go through what I went through." "I want them to have better opportunities than me." Unfortunately, these well intentioned sentiments are misplaced.
Because you wouldn't be a better you if everything you have earned was just given to you instead.
By example, Jane grew up in abject poverty, struggled and studied hard and eventually put herself through Harvard Law School. She graduated and immediately got a great job and eventually became fabulously wealthy. Jane saw education as her ticket out and up.
Within a week of the birth of her new son Daren, she naturally (and equally mistakenly) signed him up for the best education money can buy.
Clearly, Jane and Daren are not going to have the same lives. When (and if) Daren graduates Harvard it will not mean nearly as much to him as the same event did to Jane.
You can't give your children twice the good stuff and half the bad of what you had and think you figured it out. If your parenting strategy (intentionally or unintentionally) is one of trying to make your children's life as easy as possible, then it's only a matter of time until you see them make it incredibly more difficult for themselves.
Easy parenting is not making life easier and removing every obstacle for your children. This will not equate to a better life - in fact, it will inevitably lead to many more difficulties, for them and you. Lowering the barriers will not help them run faster or jump higher.
Alternatively, making life difficult for your children doesn't help either. It may simply leave them to not try at all. Neither ease nor difficulty inspire children to succeed.
The only thing that inspires children is inspiration.
At the heart of all successful people was a moment of inspiration that made every obstacle vanish in their minds.
The mistake parents often make is in trying to recreate that experience and motivation for their children, they remove the obstacles and forget the inspiration. Children are not overburdened - they are simply under-inspired.
Parenting is made easier through inspiration. If you inspire your child nothing will stand in their way. That is parenting made easy.
(Author's note to Editor: Here is your answer.) It's just a matter of time till we find our way back to the Garden of Eden and Mount Sinai, because God started by inspiring us.
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Question 1: Who do you think has an easier time raising children, the parent who financially lacks nothing, or the parent who is constantly struggling to make ends meet?
Question 2: Would you buy your 18 year old a Ferrari for their birthday (if you had the money)? What about a lottery ticket?