Parenting with Fire
by Pam Nelkon
As a mum of young children you are naturally interested in ideas & strategies on how to bring up your family. As a grandma this interest is rekindled, & I recently read “Parenting with Fire Lighting up the Family with Passion & Inspiration by Rabbi Shmuely Boteach.In this book Rabbi Boteach describes how he is bringing up his eight children. I’d like to share some of his thoughts & beliefs.
As a framework he uses the letters of the word “PLANT”:
P for PROTECTION
L for LOVE
A for ACTIVITY
N for NOVELTY
T for TRADITION
Rabbi Boteach sees his primary parental role as the protector of his children.
He is there to love & support them, to entertain & educate them but his primary role is to make sure they are safe, physically, emotionally & spiritually.
Though he emphasises parents first role is not to love their children but to protect them, he states the unconditional love we give our children is essential. Most importantly they need to know that we extend that love is not because of what they do or how they do it but simply because they are.
In creating a world safe for his children Rabbi Boteach keeps all trash magazines & trash culture away from his home. He advocates no television on weekdays, monitors the programmes & where possible watches programmes & films with his children.
Also he is very strict about monitoring his childrens’ friends getting to know them & their families. He says find ways to incorporate your childrens’ friendships into your family life instead of letting them take place away from it.
Be their playmate & confidant yourself. Indeed there is such a tremendous focus on spending considerable time on joint activities with his children.
An important principle is it is essential for us to come up with & participate in wholesome & enjoyable activities with our children. (When I read this I thought – Scouts). Don’t outsource responsibilities – limit after school activities – we must be the centre of their lives. Arts & sports classes should not interfere too much with time spent with the family. Eating dinner together as a family as often as possible is the objective. Success will come first & foremost from emotional stability.
Rabbi Boteach encourages his family to hold on to their natural sense of wonder, see the miracles in nature & the magic in the seemingly mundane. Recreational shopping in malls on a Sunday afternoon shows children that novelty comes through acquisition (Brent X). Go on a hike instead so they don’t become shopaholics rather they will become sensitized to the awe & beauty of nature.
In the chapters on tradition, Rabbi Boteach focuses on both American & Jewish traditions to give children an identity – a sense of themselves. Once again he emphasises family. All the things we do to support our traditions we do together as a family & as a community. Tradition engenders meaning & children need meaning in order to be mentally & emotionally healthy. Giving our children a tradition makes them feel like they’re the guardians of an ancient heirloom; the torch has been passed to them to protect. By teaching our children that they are an essential link in an unbroken chain of tradition we are telling them the two most important words in the entire vocabulary of parenting – You Matter. When our children feel connected to something larger than themselves they understand that what they do really matters.
For our children & grandchildren, they matter & what they do matters!