People are often confronted with difficult situations and have varied reactions to them. Most of them only consider the immediate effect of those situations and their reactions, and not the long term effects.
The following analogy expresses this concept. When I had my first driving lesson, I pulled out of the driveway. Within seconds my driving instructor began screaming at me. That didn't surprise me. What surprised me was what he said, "Why are you looking directly in front of the car?" I told him that I thought I was supposed to look there. He then explained to me that if I look directly in front of the car, I'll miss everything that is happening to the left and the right. I'll even miss what's
happening directly in front of me, until it's too late. What I should do is to look 500 -1000 feet in front of the car. This will allow me to see everything, directly in front, far ahead, and to each side of me.
Since then, I've, applied this lesson on a broader level to life. In addition to looking far ahead, and on both sides, people must also look behind themselves.
Many people live their lives focusing on today. They think of their bills, appointments, jobs, and immediate family needs. Most don't pause to consider tomorrow's needs and goals. Food is a short term need and it doesn't take much thought to accomplish this goal. In addition, food is a tangible issue, something that can't be ignored. Self esteem is a long term issue and is intangible. Poor self esteem is usually out of our range of sight, and sneaks up on us.
Even when dealing with existing problems, people must also consider the long term effects. Considering only short term effects, will result in problems being simplified. For instance, a child who is constantly waking up late, may not wake up on time even after having been given a privilege, (e.g. a musical instrument or computer game). The obvious next step may seem to be to take away that privilege, either for a few days or forever. There seems to be a direct cause and effect flow. (I believe that people learn best from experiencing the cause and effect of daily life. Parents, being Mechanech their children, should apply the cause and effect approach as much as possible.
Nevertheless, as with every significant life decision, consideration of the multiple effects of those decisions must be made before drawing final conclusions.)
However, when one looks in all directions including forward (the future), this decision may not be correct. Looking in all directions may make the parents realize that their child is the only one without this particular privilege. Taking it away may cause intenseresentment, something that may be more damaging than the consequences of waking up late. On the other hand, taking it away may cause the child to continue being bored, making him/her more prone to look for other, more damaging, forms of entertainment. Looking forward, parents must consider that taking away the privilege may damage an already strained relationship, causing future rebellions.
I'm suggesting more than just a balance between the short and long term. The long term is much more important. If the only way to increase the chances of a child remaining interested in Yiddishkeit when s/he gets older is by giving him/her "space" while younger, then the focus should be on the long term, even at the cost of the short term.
This approach is particularly true when parents are confronted with children who have both religious issues with Hashem, and resentment issues with their parents. Parents must focus on their relationship. This may require significant time to repair. While doing this they may have to look away when their child skips Mitzvos. Those parents, who insist on fixing the problems today, will find themselves repeating the same situations with little gain, and often with increasing damage.
To help explain my approach, I'll give the parents the following analogy. Imagine a business that may be facing bankruptcy. In order to save the business, the owners will have to acknowledge a loss of money for the next six months. They'll accept the short term loss in order to direct their energies to the future. They'll have to create changes now, even though they'll only be noticed months later.
Parents must also realize and accept that for the coming months their children will
continue their negative behaviors and that they shouldn't do much about it. (There may be some things they can do, but these should be discussed with a professional Mechanech to make certain they're not causing more damage then good.) Instead, the parents' focus should be to recreate their relationship with their children, and build their children's self-esteem. Only after they've accomplished those two goals will they be able to work on their primary goal, that of helping their children become religious again.
Sometimes they'll have to look behind. Many people don't learn from their experiences. Instead, they'll explain to themselves how, "this situation is, again, different". Our Chachomim tell us that if you ask advice from a Rav, you should know that the older he is (in most cases) the more experience he has. Their experiences enrich their advice. I've spoken to many parents who weren't willing to accept the fact that the events that took place with their older children were exactly the same as those that were taking place with the present ones.
I mentioned earlier that the parents should look forward to insure that their responses are helpful. A second, important, reason to look forward is as a source of hope. When people focus only on today, they may not be able to envision the hope that will require weeks or months of waiting. They may conclude that their situation is hopeless. Most people don't have the natural foresight to appreciate that when one deals with these issues, in most cases, they are successful. If they train themselves to look forward, they can overcome their natural inclination to be disappointed. With hope comes emotional energy. With renewed energy comes an increased chance for success.
To sign up for Rabbi Horowitz’s weekly emails, please click here.