To this end, train yourself to endure his outbursts of impatience or his temper tantrums so that you should not, out of a selfish desire for some peace and quiet, grant him a wish that you would otherwise deny him out of your unselfish love for him. Your child must learn to do whatever you tell him to do and, above all, he must never – even once would be too often – be allowed to think that if he torments and annoys you sufficiently, he can get you to permit what you original forbade him.
An ode to permissive parenting? Hardly.
Of course, nowadays many Jewish parents – secular, and even religious – do not always follow traditional Jewish teachings on parenting. But this move toward a more liberal parenting style is relatively recent, and the results of this shift remain to be seen.
Certainly the parents of most of the Jewish success stories we are familiar with were not “lax and permissive.” Indeed, the notion of permissiveness as a virtue hardly existed until a few decades ago. The stereotypical classical “Jewish mother” of yesteryear – while of course doting – was a no-nonsense presence in the house.
Fathers were even sterner. Some – like the hero of the popular book All for the Boss and Rav Yosef B. Soloveitchik’s father – did not even kiss their children. My own great-grandfather was so strict that he once hit his grown son – who himself was already a father – for making an inappropriate remark at the table. His son’s reaction? He kissed my great-grandfather’s hand and said, “I’m sorry.”
Therefore, to call “Jewish” parenting “lax and permissive” is simply inaccurate. The Jewish parenting style preserved in classical Jewish sources and folklore may or may not be synonymous with Chua’s model of Asian parenting – but lax it is not.
Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and a Ph.D. student at Yeshiva University’s Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies.