Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hanukah parenting message - Love your children for no good reason

At the present time Jews are celebrating the holiday of Hanukah , known as the festival of lights , commemorating the rededication of the holy temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean revolt of the 2nd century BCE. The festival is observed for 8 nights by kindling candles on a unique candelabrum , one additional light on each night of the holiday , progressing to 8 on the final night depicting the miracle of the oil which should have been enough to light the candelabrum in the temple for one day but lasted 8 days until new pure oil could be made.

There is an extra candle called the 'shamash= attendant ' –which is raised above the other candles . The purpose of the shamash is to have a light available for use , as using the Hanukah lights themselves is forbidden. They are meant to be art , conveying a spiritual message and not for personal use.

What is the rationale behind this ruling ?

When we relate to things or even to people in terms of how they can benefit us , we tend to be very judgmental. Parents look at their kids as extensions of themselves , whether they are meeting their expectations , successful or making trouble , teachers do the same with their students and adults with their spouses.

If we can benefit from the candles , we tend to see what they can do for us and this gets in the way of us investing in appreciating the spiritual message of the candles , the power of light over darkness , how a little light , how a small amount of purity can drive away impurity and darkness.

If we look at our children in terms of how they affect us , how they benefit us , how they impact on our lives we will fail to see their uniqueness and specialness. Our love will ultimately become conditional and contingent on how well they behave or how they perform at school.

Alfie Kohn in his book ' Unconditional Parents ' says

'I want to defend the idea of unconditional parenting on the basis of both a value judgment and a prediction. The value judgment is, very simply, that children shouldn't have to earn our approval. We ought to love them, as my friend Deborah says, "for no good reason." Furthermore, what counts is not just that we believe we love them unconditionally, but that they feel loved in that way.

The prediction, meanwhile, is that loving children unconditionally will have a positive effect. It's not only the right thing to do, morally speaking, but also a smart thing to do. Children need to be loved as they are, and for who they are. When that happens, they can accept themselves as fundamentally good people, even when they screw up or fall short. And with this basic need met, they're also freer to accept (and help) other people. Unconditional love, in short, is what children require in order to flourish.'


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