Born in Lithuania in 1910, Rav Elyashiv came to Eretz Yisrael at age 12 with his parents, then spent most of his life in Yerushalayim.
In addition to his vast Torah knowledge covering all topics, he excelled in hasmadah — the dedication to uninterrupted Torah study as much as one possibly can.
In fact, he possibly excelled at hasmadah more than almost anyone else in his time (as far as I know).
Certainly, he could not have achieved the level of hasmadah without the above-and-beyond dedication of his wife, Sheina Chaya (a daughter of Rav Aryeh Levine).
But even with such a wife, most men would still not be able to achieve hasmadah on Rav Elyashiv's level.
So it was definitely a joint effort.
Before telling a story of Rebbetzin Sheina Chaya Elyashiv, Rebbetzin Heller said something like how the Elyashivs' commitment to Torah reached such a high level, it's impossible (i.e. not such a good idea) to share their stories with others because most people cannot follow such an example, and therefore feel frustrated or "Huh?" when hearing them.
I think it helped that Rav Elyashiv was an introvert and not a physically strong person, but these are only contributing factors to his hasmadah and certainly do not diminish from his unyielding heart-and-soul dedication to Torah study.
And this is davka why a famous video of Rav Elyashiv demonstrates such good mussar for parents.
Relating to Your Child as a Sugya in Gemara
After taking a moment in which it looks like he sizes up the situation, he delves back into the Gemara open before him.
Then someone announces the arrival of his oldest daughter, Rebbetzin Batsheva, and his son-in-law & fellow talmid chacham Rav Chaim Kanievsky.
Rav Elyashiv doesn't actually smile, but his entire face beams with joy.
His joy increases as his daughter & son-in-law approach and upon seeing them, Rav Elyashiv smiles.
Rebbetzin Batsheva, in addition to being a tzaddekes, was also a very warm & sociable person. She lovingly pats her father on the arm and asks him a couple of times how he's doing.
Though Rav Elyashiv is clearly happy to see his daughter & son-in-law, I get the impression that at his extremely advanced age and health, plus his innate introversion & dedication to Torah learning (something I think that even social introverts can really relate to), he's not so thrilled with all the noise going on around him (though people are considerate & give him his space), but he understands and resigns himself to it.
After the Kanievskys are seated before Rav Elyashiv, Rebbetzin Batsheva decides to tell her father a joke. It's a frum joke with a mussar lesson — not a meaningless joke, but a joke nonetheless.
She asks her whether a fish in an aquarium feels fear on the Day of Judgement.
(Needless to say, this is because aquarium fish are designated for life and not in danger of being eaten by other fish or animals, or caught in a fisherman's net.)
You can only see Rav Kanievsky's face in profile, but he is gazing at his wife with obvious affection and good humor.
And this is where the big parenting lesson comes in.
Rav Elyashiv automatically turns his entire body & face to his daughter, scoots a little closer to her, and channels his entire focus on her face.
He also places his palm over his forehead in exactly the way he did when he learned Torah and zeroes in on his daughter's face.
Then there is some give-and-take between the two of them as he involves himself with what his daughter wants to convey to him.
Strikingly, throughout the entire exchange, Rav Elyashiv relates to his daughter as if she is a sugya in Gemara.
Did he not realize she was just telling him a joke?
Of course he realized!
And this was the big lesson to me: LOOK at your child when they speak to you.
No matter how simple the conversation is, FOCUS.
Make continuous eye contact. (Or at least keep focusing on their face, if unbreaking eye contact gets too weird or intense.)
Applying Rav Elyashiv's Example in Real Life
Or: "I heard that in my parenting class. What's the big chiddush here?"
Or: "Everyone knows this. No one needs to be told this. You must be a really pathetic mother if you didn't know this."
So the thing is...I thought I knew this too.
And I DID "know" it.
And of course you'll hear this in a parenting class.
I also thought I was doing this! I thought of myself as an attentive mother who both talks and listens to her children.
But when I really started making sure to give my child face-to-face focus every time a child wanted to say something to me, I realized how much I actually hadn't been doing it.
Yeah, I'd been doing it some, but not as much as I really should.
Whether it was "Where's the ketchup?" or a brief humorous comment or something more urgent or serious or conversational, I tried to be like Rav Elyashiv and look them full in the face for however long they spoke, even if I was in the middle of something.
And until like most other women, I'm NOT a good multi-tasker and tend to be one-track-minded. That's just how my brain works. So this proved a bit more challenging than probably for other women.
Especially for very brief comments that come in frequent spurts (like "Where's the ketchup?" and "I found the matching sock!", it's sometimes a bit dizzying to hone in with the proper face-focusing head-swivel each time
Yet it's definitely worth it.
And I got used to it quickly enough (like any other habit) and anyway, I figure if Rav Elyashiv, one of the greatest masmidim in his time, can do it for his daughter's joke-telling, it must be a very important thing to do.
Needless to say, I can't always do this. "Always" isn't realistic.
Sometimes, I just need to finish something or I'm involved with something hot on the stove or coming out of the oven and it's too dangerous to freeze in place and gaze in my child's face as they speak.
Or I forget or simply fail to do so when I should.
The main thing is to do it more.
And with everything they tell you in parenting classes & parenting books (many — but not all — of which also contain a lot of jumping-through-hoops-while-hopping-on-one-foot-&-juggling-bowling-balls, plus advice that simply is not suited to your individual situation even if it's effective for others), this kind of universally applicable essential can get lost among all the other Vitally-Important-Or-Else! with which many of them inundate you.
But watching truly great people can help us get back to basics.
And it's something that you can actually implement and not wave off as "only for really great people" or "not for our generation, which is such a weak one."
If Rav Elyashiv, a supreme masmid who always did everything in his power to avoid bitul Torah & learn Torah under any & all circumstances can focus with Talmudic intensity on his child as she tells a joke, then that means that eye contact & focus must be vitally important.
And this is something truly important & useful to learn from Rav Elyashiv about parenting.