Busy? Parents today are swamped, stressed and overwhelmed. So where does that leave the kids? We turned to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, dubbed “America’s Rabbi” by Newsweek, and international bestselling author of 23 books, for the answers. His books on the American family, Parenting with Fire and Ten Conversations You Need to Have with Your Children were both launched on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Rabbi Shmuley shares his insight below.
Is there something that parents today need to work on?
Rabbi Shmuley: Parents today need to work on prioritizing their children. Perhaps never before have children struggled to earn their parents’ focus amid countless and innumerable distractions. Children are competing against smartphones, emails, television, the internet, workaholic parents, their parents’ social calendars and so many other distractions.
The problem is that if kids don’t feel that they have their parents’ attention, it begins to erode their self-esteem. Kids conclude that if their own father or mother doesn’t listen to them or want to spend time with them, it must be because they have no value.
How can families become closer?
Rabbi Shmuley: Families become closer by focusing on quantity time as opposed to quality time. I’m not a believer in quality time. It's not enough to say to your child that you don't have a lot of time for him, but when you are together, it's quality time uninterrupted by any distractions.
That's wonderful that you're not allowing other interference to come between you and your child, but it’s no substitute for quantity time.
Families are also drawn closer together by family members acknowledging any pain or hurt they've caused one another and by taking responsibility and apologizing. This includes parents apologizing to their children.
What is your greatest concern about kids today?
Rabbi Shmuley: My greatest concern about kids today is that they don’t feel loved, and they substitute the absence of love with its cheap cousin, attention. Notice how many children today simply want to be famous. They don't even care what they'll be famous for. They simply want to be in front of the camera, winning American Idol, being a movie star or being a famous rapper. Why? Because so many children feel neglected and hence worthless. They believe that if they have the validation of the masses they will suddenly become valuable. Little do they realize that nothing outside of you can ever make you feel special. It must be something from the inside. It must be an internal experience.
How do we keep our kids from growing up too fast?
Rabbi Shmuley: You keep kids from growing up too fast by speaking to them about the importance of childhood. It’s not a stage in life that can be or ought to be skipped. It's like building a home. You don't immediately build the roof. And if you do so without a solid foundation underneath it, the roof will fall. We must tell our children that there is a beauty and wonder to their childhood years and that they should indulge those years, appreciate those years, and not to be envious of the adult life. That when they grow older they will miss their childhood and explain to them why. We must, to be convincing, be able to identify the core values and characteristics of childhood.
How do you try to bring your family closer? Share your thoughts and stories in Comments below.
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