Rabbi Shaya Cohen, Founder and Director of Priority One, shared his wisdom and experience in chinuch and parenting in a virtual interview with Rabbi Yaniv Meirov, CEO of Chazaq on Tuesday evening, August 30. Rabbi Cohen has been working in the field of chinuch for over 40 years, and he has dealt with children at risk or children who went away from Judaism. He has an outreach yeshivah, a kollel, and a branch in Israel. His emphasis is on educating and training the educators.

Rabbi Cohen shared some important tips for parents. “We are living in challenging times with a challenged generation. It is a confusing time, he said. The three most important words are listen, listen, and listen.”

He acknowledged that parents and teachers want to talk, but in order to help our children to trust us, we have to listen to them. We will guide them and influence them and forge a great relationship with them through empathetic listening. Listen with your heart. Children need a lot of time, and a relationship with our children has to be positive. Criticism is devastating. Yaakov waited until he was on his deathbed to rebuke Reuven for something he had done earlier.

He emphasized that we should never ever criticize a person. We can point out an action or word as inappropriate, but not at the moment it happens. Later, over a nice dinner or lunch, you can point out the mistake in a way that the child doesn’t take it personally. A parent-child relationship needs a lot of positive reinforcement. Rabbi Cohen pointed out, “They don’t take our love for granted.” We have to let them know by telling them and showing them that we love them. Don’t miss their milestones. He added that we, as parents, have to respect our children. We need to respect their time, space, and feelings or we will lose them. Respecting them validates them and helps them to feel good about themselves. When parents show their love, and they respect their child’s space, time, and opinion, this validates him. “When I become the source of my kid’s happiness, I forge a great relationship.”

He explained how sometimes peer relationships take over because peers respect one another. If we don’t have that nonjudgmental attitude, then we can be the source of our child’s unhappiness.

Rabbi Meirov asked how we give over passion for Torah to the next generation. Rabbi Cohen shared that they have to see us as a model. Our passion in learning and mitzvos is a model of passion for them. You have to know your child. You don’t want to show too much passion, because this may overwhelm the child. He added that pressure is not good or healthy in religious influence.

Children have to understand the benefits and importance of Torah and how it makes their life happier and better, because our actions have meaning, and we are refining our character and coming closer to Hashem.

He taught that connection to Hashem is critical. We don’t speak about that enough. We need to bring Hashem into the picture. Everyone wants a relationship with the Creator. We have to model and inspire by showing how we trust in Hashem and how we believe that there is a G-d in the world who loves us and cares about us. We need to talk about it at the Shabbos table. We need to talk about serving Hashem for our benefit and how, when we become closer to Him, this is everlasting.

Rabbi Meirov asked how we can make sure our lessons will carry on. Rabbi Cohen stated a lesson is most effective if it is reflected by other people, not just by one person. Both parents need to be on the same page. Choose schools on that page. The more we can expose our children to like-minded people, the better. He emphasized that it’s important to recognize that the goal of chinuch is long-term. Chinuch is the beginning entry to a way of life. “We have to keep our eye on the future.” We have to overlook certain things and deal differently with each child.

We should influence our children’s school and teachers to invest passion. Our children’s education should be respectful and meaningful and connect them to Hashem.

 By Susie Garber