When I tell people that I come from a home of ten children, I often see reactions of surprise, mingled with a dose of pity. What is unique about my family is that despite the largeness of it, or perhaps because of it, each family member is different and independent, and has a strong sense of self-confidence and direction. What are the secrets to my parents’ success?

I think much of it has to do with the following 7 points:

1. They were strong roots.

They inculcated within us a strong sense of values, morals, and priorities. Despite our being independent, we always had a ‘direction map' that we learned to turn back to in case of any uncertainty. Our strong base of knowledge of right and wrong that came from our strong Jewish upbringing provided solid roots that stood for us through the storms of challenge.

2. We were encouraged to think for ourselves.

We were always encouraged to ask, probe, question, and to challenge even commonly held beliefs. Doing the right thing was praised, while blindly following the masses was never something held in high regard.

3. They treated each one of us as a unique individual with unique potential.

We were each treated like an only child. I was acknowledged for who I was, not criticized for who I was not. Each one of us was educated according to his or her individual strengths and challenges. We were never compared to our siblings. Different responsibilities were handed out to each child, and we even attended different schools and camps. There was little or no jealousy among us because we understood that each child was given the tools that he would need to succeed in life.

4. They weren't afraid to teach responsibility.

Household chores was a given; we were expected to play our parts as active members of the family. If we ever asked for a toy or gadget that was extraneous, we had to earn it on our own. In fact, most of us learned to handle money responsibly at a very young age. I remember that as a girl, during school breaks I babysat, my sister worked in a family business as a cashier, and my brother sold sodas.

5. We were given room to make mistakes.

If a child isn’t given the chance to experience failure, then when he grows up one mistake can leave him devastated and helpless. We weren't over coddled. We made mistakes, and grew from them.

6. We laughed a lot.

Laughter is the best vitamin. It is like an invisible rope that draws hearts close together. My parents always joked with us, played with us, and toiled to create a home that vibrated with laughter. Though all of my siblings are different in personality, through song and laughter, we learned to love.

7. I knew that my parents were for real.

We knew that my parents put in a tremendous amount of self-sacrifice for the holy cause of raising a healthy family. I never felt that we were expected to fill their sense of satisfaction, to be a mirror image of who they were, or to represent what they wish they could have been themselves. Their devotion and sacrifice for us was pure, selfless, and genuine.

I have my parents to thank for who I am today. I hope and pray that I live up to the ideals they imbued in me and learn to pass them on to my own children.