The Hanukkah story is filled with heroic incidents of self-sacrifice, courage and leadership that influenced the entire history of the Jewish people. The Maccabees stood up to an enemy of thousands to safeguard their faith and their people. Yehudis, a young Jewess, used her beauty, wit and courage to slay a powerful Greek commander and enemy of the Jewish people. Chana, a mother of seven sons was a living example of moral courage and self-sacrifice.
But, to quote John Maxwell, “Great leaders are made, not born.” How can we, as parents, influence the making of tomorrow's Jewish leaders? Here are some essential traits and practices to instill in your home to raise leaders.
1. Taking responsibility for yourself
A society which encourages entitlement over obligation and responsibility is hardly conducive to producing individuals with self-initiative. The knowledge that your behavior alone has the greatest influence on your life’s outcome is the first step towards making that difference.
Spoiling a child robs him of independence, responsibility, and self-sufficiency. Grant your children the gift of independence by giving them chores and responsibilities. Encourage them to take responsibility for their actions and to think for themselves. Give them room to make their own decisions so they can learn to experience the consequences of their actions.
2. Taking responsibility for others
People who take responsibility for others don't live in a shell. They know that their actions directly and indirectly have a larger impact on the whole. Their sense of obligation doesn't end just with them alone, but extends to their family and community.
Show your children how to step in to help your family and community to make that difference. Encourage your children to help their elderly neighbor shop for groceries, collect for the community loan fund, or advocate for their people. Teach them that no action is small and what they do can have a greater impact on the whole.
3. A strong internal compass
It is the silent whisper of our calling, that strong inner voice which drives the trajectory of our lives and determines its outcome. Someone with a strong sense of direction is likely to retain his values and vision in the face of conflicts and confusion, because he knows his duty and calling with stark clarity.
Children who are given clear maps for life are able to stand up to take an active, leading role, even when the road gets rocky. Be sure that your kids are as clear about your values as you are. Values are passed down not merely by preaching them, but by modeling them. Be consistent and live up to your ethics so your children will have a crystal clear knowledge of what's important to you.
4. Passion for your calling
True leaders demonstrate their willingness to sacrifice for the truth of their calling. Their core mission and goal in life is not compromised by anything less significant.
Let your kids see that your priorities come with commitment and without compromise. If doing what is right is most important, then encourage your kid to stick to his guns even at the expense of feeling popular or successful. Teach him not to join the ‘bad crowd’ in school, even if he’ll be considered a loser for it. Allow them to stand up to the bullies in school, even if it might compromise on their social standing.
5. Believe in yourself
Every person has the ability to change the world. Leaders have faith in themselves and their ability to make a difference.
Believe in yourself and teach your children to do the same. Recognize your childrens’ strengths and give them the confidence to know that they can do anything that they set their minds to.
Hanukkah demonstrates the heroism of our people. Let us be inspired to transmit the qualities of sacrifice, courage, and leadership to our own children.