In old dictionaries, one might still find the now obsolete term, “obligations.” This term was used to express the idea that people had duties and responsibilities towards society in general, towards others and towards themselves. Obligations towards society and others are now viewed as altruism at best and as stifling and overbearing at worst. As for obligations towards oneself, many people will have you believe that it is the cause for stress, anxiety, etc.
Nowadays, we have this remodeled human being who feels entitled to and expects everything from everyone, but will shun the idea of being obligated to do anything in return. It seems that along with the urbanization of Western society came the idea of self-entitlement and one-way streets.
In one Rosh Yeshiva’s words: “Children have to learn to do things because they are required to do so. Rewards are good for younger children, but there comes a time when kids have to move beyond that stage and do things because that is their obligation.”
Another side to the idea of obligations is that nowadays, parents are afraid to engage in true old-fashioned parenting. They believe that it’s all about being positive and nice to the children. There is this religious belief in the new commandment, “Honor thy son and thy daughter.” Parents have lost the confidence in imparting the message that their children need to do certain things simply because it has to be done. It may not always be convenient or comfortable, but it has to be done.
Can it be done? Yes, it can! Parents need to feel confident in their parenting role. Remember that it’s not so much their adolescent’s opposition that parents need to deal with; it’s their own discomfort with their parenting roles that hinder effective parental guidance. Children are obligated to listen to their parents, not vice-versa.
About the Author: Rabbi Langsam is a licensed mental health counselor with offices in Lakewood, Brooklyn, and Monsey. Rabbi Langsam works with adolescents in helping them overcome relationship issues with parents and peers and a variety of behavioral and mental health issues.
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