I don’t deny their sincerity or dedication in helping children and parents.
- Many of them are stuck on one kind of idea and can’t see around it.
- Too many of them base their methods on Western psychology: shooting the arrow of psychology first and then later drawing a Torah bull’s eye around its tip.
- Many of them have their method, their way of doing things and seeing things, and they can’t see beyond that.
- Furthermore, many have been teachers (meaning that they obviously enjoy spending LOTS of time disciplining and interacting with children) and don’t seem to understand that other people would never voluntarily spend their days in a room full of 20 third-graders or 30 ninth-graders.
What I mean to say is that parents may love their children a lot, but may not be at all inclined to relate to them in the way the former teacher/chinuch expert relates to children—for better or for worse. (Good teachers are sometimes terrible parents.)
I also can’t help noticing that many of chinuch people utilize methods that indulge their particular personality. If they’re high-energy multi-taskers, then the method calls on you to be a high-energy multi-tasker. If they tend to be emotionally detached, then the method calls on you to be emotionally detached.
Furthermore, the personality of the husband is never taken into account in any serious way. The father and how he relates to both his wife and children results in an undeniable impact on the home, for better or for worse. In this respect, mothers who attend chinuch classes are often related to as if they’re widows.
But most of all, one family is way too different from another to successfully follow one kind of shitah.
Example #1: The Serene & Lovely Family
I used to love watching a mother and her three little girls walking down the street. They all wore flowing summer dresses (including the gracefully pregnant young mother) and matching straw hats. The little girls were so well-behaved, the mother didn’t need to hold their hands (except for the youngest) as they glided along the sidewalk (unlike me, who practically needed to chain my boys to myself to prevent them from darting into the path of oncoming cars). The young mother had a naturally serene personality, a kind and loving husband, and they owned their own apartment and could afford household help to boot.
Example #2: The Bursting-at-the-Seams Family
Within the same neighborhood lived another family with 5 kids. This family consisted of a gang of 3 boys and a girl who were all energetic, adventuresome, fearless, diagnosed with ADHD, and were great friends who helped each other into and out of many scrapes. At the tail end of the siblings was the kind of highly sensitive emotionally intense little girl whom many parents find even more difficult to deal with than a hyperactive child. Due to poor finances, the family lived in an apartment too small for their needs. The father thought his children (except for one) were just awful and consequently had no patience for them, blaming his struggling wife for many of the problems. In addition to the in-home struggles, the mother also had to deal with routine phone calls from the school complaining of the boys’ disruptive behavior and from other parents who politely requested that her son not play with their son anymore.
Does any rational person really think that you can give over to each of these mothers the same advice and same method and expect it all to work?
Yet you’ll have these two types of mothers sitting in the same chinuch class, listening to the same advice and receiving the same guidance.
And yes, I fully realize that chinuch people do acknowledge that there are very different situations and personalities, and that raising boys is different than raising girls (I’m not talking easier or harder; that goes according to individual—but it is different), and so on.
But tachlis, those running a chinuch class have a very hard time practically applying this knowledge.
Ultimately, the point is that when people tell you that they highly recommend a chinuch method, you really need to question it.
Questions to Ask Regarding Any Chinuch Method
- What is the exact philosophy of this method?
- Where did it come from?
- What is the method in a nutshell? (Be alert if the answer is that you need to actually sign up and attend months of classes to find out because it’s just not explainable in a nutshell. Bogus. For example, I can say that Rav Arush’s method is basically to use the child’s problematic behavior as message from Hashem regarding what you need to work on in yourself. There’s a lot more to it than that—please read the book!—but that’s it in a nutshell. I can also state that I use this method constantly - and used it with some seriously thorny problems - and that it works.)
- Who says this is the authentic Torah view? (And I don’t mean the mere haskamah of a rav who hasn’t thoroughly reviewed the method because he is basing his haskamah on the recommendation of someone he trusts AND/OR on his impression of the proponent’s sincerity.) Did the approving rav sit down and thoroughly review the method?
- Who is the person behind the method? How old are they and where are they from? How did they come up with this shitah? (People—including experts—are more influenced by their culture and time than they’re often able to acknowledge.)
- What sources can they point to show that their method is based on Torah? (And again, I don’t mean the haskamah of a modern-day rav. I mean sources in Chazal.)
- (If there are claims that this is the Torah method used "pa'am"): If this is the authentic & most highly effective Torah method used by all Jews “pa’am,” then why did it not prevent the vast majority of Jews from becoming Communists, Reform Jews, or secular Leftists?
- What do you consider the father’s role in all this?
Well, I hope you found this helpful.
Because so many people really do feel the need for a chinuch class and some guidance outside themselves and their own talks with Hashem, I'll be posting on what a chinuch class based on authentic Torah sources might actually look like. Stay tuned!