Similarly, a friend of mine told me that her friend’s father, Mr. Klein, was followed home after a trip to the ATM where he had withdrawn 500 pounds. The man demanded that he hand over all his money. Mr. Klein called after the thief’s retreating back, “It’s a loan, not a gift, and I expect to see it back in 2 weeks time!” Of course he didn’t think he’d actually see the money, but within the next few days the thief returned with the full amount. Mr. Klein was also shocked, and asked the man what had made him return the money. He said, “You’re the first person that ever believed I could do something good.”
These are just two cases out of many that illustrate a crucial premise in chinuch. Every person wants to be good. Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman, the Gadol Hador, says that whatever children do, it’s not to make their parents upset – every child wants to please his parents. There is always a reason for negative behavior. Although sometimes a child does simply get a thrill from pressing a parent’s buttons and seeing the resulting reaction, he’s just having fun;he doesn’t have an agenda to hurt his parent or to do bad. Negative behavior can stem from so many different issues, looking only at the behavior and not thinking what might have led to it is completely disregarding the child.
Picture this: a family has some irreligious guests over for Shabbos. The children have been coached about being on their best behavior and making a Kiddush Hashem. After Kiddush, as the grape juice is being handed out, the seven-year-old boy suddenly jumps on the table, grabs the Kiddushcup and drinks.How might a parent view such behavior? “How dare he?! Not only was what he did completely unacceptable underany circumstance, but it was in front ofguests! And not only that, they’re not religious, and I told him specifically beforehand to be on his best behavior! What chutzpah! And such a chillul Hashem! Now the guests will think all religious people are coarse and rude and don’t know how to raise their children.”
This may be a common reaction, but such a thought pattern doesn’t take into account the child’s side of things at all.
This scenario actually took place in the home of a well-known educator. He realized that something must have triggered this behavior in his usually well-behaved child. So he went over to the boy and asked gently, “Why did you do that? Was something bothering you?” the child said, “Abba, I saw you giving Kiddush to everyone and I thought maybe there wouldn’t be enough for me. I’m so hungry and I know you can’t eat if you don’t have Kiddush, so I panicked and jumped to grab some so I could eat!”
The child forgot himself in his distress. Does such a thing not happen to adults at times?
Children are children. They are works in progress. They want to be good and they want to be viewed positively, just like every other human being.There is no truly abhorrent reason for a child’s behavior.