Evening of Chizuk Inspires and Educates Parents and Teachers
Teachers and parents drew inspiration and acquired practical strategies at the annual Evening of Chizuk, entitled Keys to Unlocking the Child’s Potential. The event was hosted by the Los Angeles Teacher Center of Torah Umesorah at its new location on La Brea Avenue. Introducing the program, Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn, Dean of Yeshivat Yavneh, said, “Everyone here wants to bring better future… We are coming together to do something bigger than all of us… [Chinuch] is something bigger than information. It’s about connecting our children to our mesorah in the deepest way possible.”
Introduced by Rabbi Einhorn, Rabbi Ephraim E. Shapiro of North Miami Beach, Florida, gave a powerful inspirational talk, outlining the four chinuch principles we can learn from the story of the navi Elisha reviving the son of the Isha HaShunamis. The process consisted of four steps: Elisha closed the door, davened to Hashem, then put his mouth on the child’s mouth, his eyes on the child’s eyes, and his hands on the child’s hands. Then the child’s body became warm.
In chinuch, the first step, closing the door, corresponds to giving our children undivided attention. When we are speaking to a child or student, we close the door to the rest of the world in order to be able to focus on them. “Don’t be so busy!” said Rabbi Shapiro passionately. “Don’t let your children ever think you are too busy for them!”
The second step, tefillah, is “very practical, pragmatic, and sensible,” said Rabbi Shapiro. He told a story about a boy whose learning abilities increases dramatically after his rebbi’s continuous heartfelt tefillos.
The third step, aligning one’s body with the child’s, corresponds to seeing things from the child’s perspective and speaking to them in the way that they understand. A crucial component of this step is believing in your child or student and letting them know that you believe they have inherent potential and are capable of fully reaching it.
The fourth step is showing children genuine caring. “They are craving affection, love, warmth,” said Rabbi Shapiro. He urged parents and teachers to treat each child as their only child and make each one feel loved and cared for.
The next speaker, Rabbi Zev Brown, Ph.D., a rebbi and psychologist in Yeshiva Darchei Torah in Far Rockaway, New York, spoke about being imperfect, but “good enough” parents and bringing self-awareness into the picture to help us navigate our parenting journey. “How much of what we want for our children is for us and how much is in our children’s best interests?” he asked. “We invest every ounce of ourselves into our children.” Rabbi Dr. Brown encouraged parents to assess their motivations and ensure that our chinuch is truly motivated by the desire to help our children achieve their potential. “The more we sort it out in our head the more effective we can be,” he said.
Rabbi Dr. Brown spoke about “the most powerful mechanism we have”—our relationship with our children. “The chances of our children developing into healthy adults depend on the health of our relationship with them,” he said. “Before we teach them, they have to know that we care.” To succeed in life, children need to feel unconditionally loved and accepted by their parents. The more we invest in this relationship the more children will be willing to accept our influence. While we should have standards and expectations, our children need to know that we love them even when they disappoint us.
Our job as teachers and parents is to maintain that careful balance between setting standards and providing unconditional love. Rabbi Dr. Brown spoke about three styles of parenting: authoritarian, permissive, and authoritative. Our goal is the authoritative style, where we set clear expectations while at the same time stay responsive to the child’s needs. “The challenge is to create levels of accountability without creating a battle,” he said. “We’ll lose the battle all the time.” To achieve this balance, Rabbi Dr. Brown outlined four primary components: attitude, accountability, consistency, and respect.
“At the end of the day, the outcome of our parenting is beyond our control,” concluded Rabbi Dr. Brown. “We do our hishtadlus. There are no tricks. It’s hard work.”