How do we learn a lesson from the case of the “wayward” son, the בן סורר ומורה? The תורה advises that because of the parents' recognition of his temperament and behavior that will almost inevitably lead to robbery and perhaps murder, he should be put to death “at the stage in life when he is still innocent,” rather than allowing him to mature to where he will actually be fully deserving of מיתה.
According to the opinion that an actual case of בן סורר ומורה never happened, included in the Torah for the lessons regarding how parents should act when raising children.
Rav Dovid Feinstein, שליט"א, points out that the Torah originally describes the בן סורר ומורה as “he did not listen to the voice of his father or to the voice of his mother.” However, later, when the parents go to the בית דין. There is a subtle change of language: “He does not listen to our voice.”
This subtle change is teaching us an all-important parenting rule: At the outset, the parents were not of one opinion. It is only when the child has already left the proper path that the parents come and sadly tell the elders of the court: לקולנו “to our voice. We have a unified voice and we now know that what our son is doing is wrong.” Unfortunately, we see that by then it is too late.
When a child hears mixed messages from his parents, it’s a recipe for disaster. Raising children is one of the most challenging jobs in the world. However, there are clearly certain things that can make our job easier. Presenting a clear and unified message of our expectations to our children will eliminate one of the main reasons our children go astray.
Parents may have a difference of opinion, but those disagreements need not be discussed in front of their children. This is an important lesson for the beginning of the year. If you find yourself questioning something which happened in school, please speak to your children’s rebbeim and teachers or discuss it directly with me. Never involve your child or let him know that you are questioning the school’s policies.
When we successfully reach the status of “our voice” with you, rather than “the father’s voice” and “the mother’s voice” (and “the school’s voice”!), our children’s chances for success will be much greater.
Rabbi Gidon Goldberg
Head of School
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