Let me start with a disclaimer: I generally shy away from “parenting recipes” that claim to turn your children into model citizens in five simple steps or less.
I tell people all the time, parenting is not like baking a cake. It’s not about just reading the ingredients, adding water, and voila, perfection! There’s no magic formula or pre-programmable process. You just can’t make a script for being a great parent. There’s no one thing you can do that changes everything.
But wouldn’t it be nice if there was?
What if there was an incredibly simple technique that required no discerning mastery, no subtle judgment — just a black and white simple rule that would virtually guarantee highly successful and fulfilled children?
Well, that’s exactly what we have in last week’s parshas of Tazriyah and Metzorah — one super parenting tool coming right up.
And it really is the simplest of advice to follow. With this technique it’s practically “in the bag” that your children will blossom and thrive. What is it?
That is, don’t.
If you and your family vigilantly practice the Jewish principle of never gossiping, you will have phenomenal children that are self-motivators, honest, hard-working, and always excel. And just about every ailment parents struggle with their kids today will disappear.
Why? You see, every human being has an immense need to be the best they can be (this isn’t just in the army). In fact, this drive is so fierce within us, very few things can really impede us on our life journey.
Let me explain. There are two main ways to win at dieting — the hard way and the easy way. The hard way is to control our eating, join a gym, and buy lots of celery. The easy way is to “fix” the scale.
It may be stupid, but it’s incredibly popular. Many people engage in all kinds of self-denial about all kinds of behaviors they would rather not deal with. Dieting being the least of the issues. It’s a lot easier to simply buy bigger clothes sizes to make a person feel more thin.
Every goal we have in life has these two basic options — you can work at being all you can be, or the easy way, fix the scale.
How is this achieved?
By demeaning others we, by default, feel better about ourselves. When, on the other hand, we forbid gossip from our lips and our ears, we are left with the only way to make ourselves feel better — do better.
On the surface, gossip looks harmless, but Judaism says that gossip does hurt. Not only does it injure the person spoken about, but as I have explained, it destroys the one who says it, and even those who hear it. Every time we speak badly about another, we feel less inclined to improve ourselves.
In Judaism, gossip is defined as relating negative information about another, even if it is true. (Slander is when it’s not true.) And not only does the Torah enjoin us not to speak gossip, but even further, we are required not to listen.
A family that engages in gossip creates a real fear that any mistake will be looked at in a disparaging light. Children develop a fear of failure, knowing that their faults will be harshly examined, illuminated, and even publicized in a demeaning manner. And, on top of that, they will be discussed behind their backs, with no form of defense or recourse. Closed court and no jury!
However, once you train and accustom your home to stay far from gossip, it becomes habitual and subtly forces everyone who lives this way to engage in the only conversation left — productive and fulfilling issues.
As the Chafetz Chaim said: “Before you speak against someone else, think how you would like it if someone said that same thing about you.” This applies even if the information is true, and even if the one spoken about wouldn’t mind. And watch your children bloom.
Originally from London, Rabbi Stephen Baars resides in Rockville, Maryland and serves as Executive Director of Aish Seminars. He did nine years of post-graduate studies at the Aish HaTorah Rabbinical College in Jerusalem, and has been an educator and marriage counselor for the past 25 years. Rabbi Baars and his wife, Ruth, are blessed with seven children. Learn more about Rabbi Baars at www.getbliss.com and www.core9.live.
By Rabbi Steven Baars