For the second year, Torat Hayim’s Outreach Center, known as Yachad, hosted scholar-in-residence Rabbi Noach Orlowek over the Shabbat of July 11th. Rabbi Orlowek is an international lecturer and educator from Yeshivat Torah Ohr in Jerusalem. He is also a successful author having written about the ways we can raise spiritually healthy children in today’s society.
The subject of the talk he gave was, “Creating Love and Harmony in the Family.” Over a hundred people, families as well as singles, attended. The rabbi explained that happiness is derived from the home and that it is easy to observe which children come from secure, happy homes and which children come from disrupted homes.
Rabbi Orlowek spoke of the necessity of happiness as, “an asset, not a goal,” meaning there is nothing more crucial for a peaceful home than the work we invest in creating it. Happiness is not something to be ‘pursued’ but rather an imperative choice that every parent must make as they try and raise a healthy family. Recent studies show that a positive attitude in the home positively correlates with raising children with good self-esteem. It can be fostered by playing happy, upbeat music in the home. It is also evident when parents speak softly to their children without having to repeat themselves. “Tell your children requests only once—otherwise they will get into the habit of tuning you out,” he reminded the audience.
When children see the parents are happy and at peace, explained Rabbi Orlowek, they will be more confident and exude a natural sense of healthy self-esteem. Moreover, to raise happy children, the children’s strengths need to be recognized, appreciated, and utilized. If you have children who love cooking, praise their ability to cook and provide for them opportunities to do so, he suggested.
He also emphasized that while frum communities highly value good academics, not all children are good at learning. “If you have children who are good learners,” said Rabbi Orlowek, “that’s wonderful, but don’t expect all your children to excel at learning. Some children are good learners. Some are good at midot (character traits). Some are good with their unique talents.”
It is a matter of importance that we recognize each child’s natural talents and bring those talents to the forefront. When children see that academics is all that their parent appreciates, this can damage their spirit, especially if they are not academically inclined. Those children might have other strengths such as musical and artistic talents that are unappreciated or undeveloped because they are less valued.
Besides academics, it is important for parents to pay attention to their children’s social life. Most children will get along and make friends with their peers but if you notice that your child is having difficulty, then you can make it easier for them. The rabbi suggested inviting the children’s friends over and easing the social situation by providing them with a table of nosh and allowing them to slowly overcome their shyness.
The last factor that is within parents’ control is the love within the family itself. When children feel loved and have a sense of security coming from their home, they can overcome outside influences more easily. It is not necessary to constantly denounce society, or music, or different world philosophies and religions in order for your observant lifestyle to be credible to your children. Concerning those baalei teshuva whose grandparents or cousins are not observant, children can still value their own lifestyle without their parents disparaging others’ beliefs.
Do your children believe that the life you live is good? If so they will carry their beliefs with pride even if they see their values in conflict with the rest of their family or society. Rabbi Orlowek, emphasized the importance of speaking to grandparents with respect, whether or not they are religious. Without this, children will hear and investigate a perceived conflict and this can be unhealthy for the entire family. It is important to teach children they must not speak lashon hara (slander) and they must be respectful to other people. It is most valuable to maintain a good relationship with one’s parents and parents-in-law as long as mutual respect exists between parents and grandparents.