This past week in Parshas Kedoshim we read the posuk that states, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Many have extrapolated from this posuk that our parenting style in today’s world must be one of “unconditional love.” Parenting experts in the face of the many “kids at risk,” including the voice of many Torah sages, have suggested that we must teach our children with love. They cite the fact that we live in a trying generation, where outside social and emotional influences threaten living a Torah lifestyle. Others have come to realize that a world without boundaries leads to a very chaotic world in all circles. Upon examination we quickly realize that every child is different and the chinuch for each child is different, and while for some children the mantra of “Only with Love” is true, we also realize that a loving approach is crucial for most children but must include boundaries. A recent article, which I have enclosed, extracts key phrases from “Love is Not Enough,” in which Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks identifies and discusses this dilemma:
Rabbi Sacks asks: Why does Parshas Kedoshim stress two great commands: love of the neighbor and the stranger? The answer is profound and very far from obvious. Because this is where love belongs – in an ordered universe.
Jordan Peterson, the Canadian psychologist, has recently become one of the most prominent public intellectuals of our time. His recent book Twelve Rules for Life has been a massive best seller in Britain and America. He has had the courage to be a contrarian, challenging the fashionable fallacies of the contemporary West. Particularly striking in the book is Rule 5: “Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.”
His point is more subtle than it sounds. A significant number of parents today, he says, fail to socialize their children. They indulge them. They do not teach them rules. There are, he argues, complex reasons for this. Some of it has to do with lack of attention. Parents are busy and don’t have time for the demanding task of teaching discipline. Some of it has to do with Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s influential but misleading idea that children are naturally good, and are made bad by society and its rules. So the best way to raise happy, creative children is to let them choose for themselves.
Partly, though, he says it is because “modern parents are simply paralyzed by the fear that they will no longer be liked, or even loved by their children if they chastise them for any reason.” They are afraid to damage their relationship by saying no. They fear the loss of their children’s love.
The result is that they leave their children dangerously unprepared for a world that will not indulge their wishes or desire for attention, a world that can be tough, demanding, and sometimes cruel. Without rules, social skills, self-restraint, and a capacity to defer gratification, children grow up without an apprenticeship in reality. His conclusion is powerful:
Clear rules make for secure children and calm, rational parents. Clear principles of discipline and punishment balance mercy and justice so that social development and psychological maturity can be optimally promoted. Clear rules and proper discipline help the child, and the family, and society, establish, maintain, and expand order. That is all that protects us from chaos.
That is what the opening chapter of Kedoshim is about: clear rules that create and sustain a social order. That is where real love – not the sentimental, self-deceiving substitute – belongs. Without order, love merely adds to the chaos. Misplaced love can lead to parental neglect, producing spoiled children with a sense of entitlement, who are destined for an unhappy, unsuccessful, unfulfilled adult life.
Peterson’s book, whose subtitle is “An Antidote to Chaos,” is not just about children. It is about the mess the West has made since the Beatles sang (in 1967), “All you need is love.” As a clinical psychologist, Peterson has seen the emotional cost of a society without a shared moral code. People, he writes, need ordering principles, without which there is chaos. We require “rules, standards, values – alone and together. We require routine and tradition. That’s order.” Too much order can be bad, but too little can be worse. Life is best lived, he says, on the dividing line between them. It’s there, he says, that “we find the meaning that justifies life and its inevitable suffering.” Perhaps if we lived properly, he adds, “we could withstand the knowledge of our own fragility and mortality, without the sense of aggrieved victimhood that produces first resentment, then envy, and then the desire for vengeance and destruction.”
Parenting is a crucial responsibility for every family and since each child is a whole world we suggest that chinuch questions require constant hadrochoh from our personal Rav. We bless our entire parent body with nachas and hatzlochoh with their children.
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman,