An Important Parenting Tip From Yaakov
Yaakov Avinu’s dreaded encounter with Eisav harasha concludes happily with Eisav’s invitation for Yaakov to accompany him. Yaakov declines, explaining that his children are young and he is overladen with sheep and cattle. Yaakov, therefore, urges Eisav to set forth without him and proclaims “va’ani esnahal l’iti liregel hamilacha asher lifanai uli’regel hayiladim — I (Yaakov) will travel at my own pace congruent with the task at hand and the ability of the children.” Chazal derive many important lessons from the entire Yaakov/Eisav encounter. One particular insight is gleaned from the above response of Yaakov Avinu to his brother Eisav which provides us a critical perspective into Chinuch Habanim.
Parents have dreams for their children. Often, we set up expectations based upon our own personal goals and agendas. Sometimes, we push our youngsters hard towards these goals. Other times, we assert a laissez faire attitude toward their responsibilities. In general, we want them to like what we like and think how we think. We may even live vicariously through a particular child. All of the above can be a formula for disaster.
Yaakov Avinu teaches us that in order to arrive “shalem”–with our family spiritually whole and intact, we must set the ambitions for each of our kinderlach “l’regel hayiladim” – at the pace of the children. Indeed, in setting goals for the spiritual, personal and academic growth of each child, we must consider his or her strengths, weaknesses, tendencies and character traits. One mold just won’t do it. To the contrary, we must tailor the nurturing of our children to their individual abilities and guide them toward being Ovdei Hashem with the G-d given talents they have been blessed with.
Interestingly, the posuk concludes with Yaakov Avinu telling Eisav that he (Yaakov) will keep pace with the children “ad asher yavo el adoni s’eirah.” Rashi notes that Yaakov Avinu never intended to journey to Eisav’s home, rather he was speaking of the future, the yimos Hamashiach of which it says, v’alu moshiim b’Har Tzion lishpot es Har Eisav. Clearly the unspoken message is that our ability to individualize our chinuch habanim is a significant, if not the requisite, force in bringing about the arrival of the ultimate redemption. An era of shleimos can only be delivered by our developing the sheleimos of each child in our care. Indeed, Hashem Yisborach has placed a unique neshama in each of us. Developing the individual potential of each child entrusted to us is our greatest responsibility and its potential affords us the greatest nachas of all.