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Shortcut Parenting

Shortcut Parenting

More than any technique, your child needs your time, your concern and your caring.


There is a story told about George Bernard Shaw meeting a dancer. The dancer said, “Let's get married and have children. Just think -- your brains and my looks.”

Unimpressed, Shaw replied, “But what if the child has my looks and your brains?”

Parents often have the right concepts but apply them incorrectly. An example is what I call "Technique Parenting" - when parents believe an issue they are having with their little progeny can be solved through some as yet hidden technique.

These parents read countless books and articles in search of the golden chart, the ingenious reward system that will turn their belligerent offspring into self-motivating, respectful, high-achieving child prodigies. In other words, if your child is having a particular problem, all you have to do is look it up in an encyclopedia of kids problems, apply the listed solution like some kind of medicine and -- bang -- you will have perfect results.

Now don't get me wrong; I read these books and articles too. Good technique is great. But unfortunately, it falls way too short on what really creates great children and great people.

More than any technique, your child needs your time, your concern and your caring.

Every parent instinctively knows this to be true. Worse than any bad technique, the most damaging thing you can do to your children is to tell them you really don't care about them -- and actually mean it.

I can't tell you how shocked I was when I heard an otherwise rather gifted young boy explain why he had just tried to kill himself. Whenever he met his father, the father would always tell the child how much he hated him.

Alternatively, every healthy parent everywhere, all over the world, says this universal line to their children: “I love you.” Intuitively we all know that this is the best medicine a child can have.

Just saying "I love you" often is nowhere near enough.

But just saying it often is nowhere near enough.

A wealthy father who gets home from work every night just in time to tuck his little girl into bed and whisper, “I love you” is a little disingenuous. His daughter knows deep down that if he really loved her as much as he says, he would come home earlier. Now for some parents, just putting food on the table requires that level of effort, and the child will understand that. But when the father is working long hours for an unnecessary lifestyle, it sends a clear message to the child: I am not as important as a new BMW.

Caring is not just paying for the most expensive school. It's taking the time to meet the teachers, see what kind of children the school produces, check the child's homework. Caring is time, caring is involvement, caring is overseeing.

Caring is values. It's caring what your children believe in, what rules they abide by, how they choose friends.

“Good parenting skills without good values is like having a very expensive radio and thinking it will help improve the programming,” points out Rabbi Abraham Twerski.

Caring is not encroaching or smothering. Think of it as you would a delicate primrose. If every day you prodded and pruned, nothing would grow. If you took no notice, it would be wild and unruly. Tender loving care in the right amount and the right dose is what's called for. Each flower has its own needs, each blossom its own perfection. A tulip won't become a daffodil. Understand who your children are and what they can become, and water appropriately.

Of course it's not easy. But for those wishing to be great gardeners, here is a little secret -- a little self-growth on your part will give you a lot of understanding into the secret life of the nature of plants.

Check out Rabbi Baar's web site:

Published: December 18, 2004

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Visitor Comments: 5

(5) Ezra, June 14, 2011 6:21 PM

Amazing Duty

Thanks to bring me words that help me to meditate about a Shortcut Parenting with my kids [Shamuel (9), Sabdy (7), and Tikva (6)]. Happy Father's Day Rabbi Baars and to everyone that have this amazing duty.

(4) anon, April 13, 2005 12:00 AM

Great Advice

This is a great article. The author states that saying "I love you" is simply not enough. This is very true. However, I would like to point out that if there is lack of proper parenting, lack of love, abuse.... saying these words is better than nothing. I grew up in a difficult family situation. Sometimes I wonder how it would feel to hear one of my parents say those words to me sincerely.

(3) Anonymous, December 22, 2004 12:00 AM

Much better

First, everything written here rings true, and it's something every parent or parent-to-be should read.

Second, I really appreciate the qualification on behalf of parents who really need to work long hours to put food on the table. My parents had to work hard, but they still gave me and my sister whatever spare time they had.

Thanks for some great advice that cannot be overemphasized or repeated too much.

(2) Anonymous, December 20, 2004 12:00 AM

Great reminder

How true. As parents we all know that, and this reminder was very well written.

(1) Anonymous, December 19, 2004 12:00 AM

The Goal

I agree with what Rabbi Baars has written. I would simply like to add that whilst everybody wants, needs and deserves to be loved and to have that love demonstrated, the goal of parenting is to produce functional children who will grow into functional adults and subsequently functional parents so that a multi-generational effect is achieved.
We can learn from three mitzvos how to achieve this: from Kibud Av ve'Eim/honoring parents, from Ve'Ahavta Le'Rei'echa Ka'Mocha/love your neighbor like yourself, and from Ben Sorer U'More/the wayward son.If parents respect themselves as individuals and each other and live according to the dictates that the Rambam outlines at the end of the 15th chapter of the Laws of Marriage, they will instill in their children self esteem and love of fellow and will raise upright and functional human beings.
Whilst this requires giving time and attention to their children, it seems possible even if inadequate time and attention are available as long as the parents model ideal behaviour to themselves and each other.
Yours Sincerely

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