Give Your Kids the Key to Stability in a World of Change
Principle 9 for Being an Inspiring Parent
The ninth video talks about the importance of community and relationships in providing your children with keys to stability in a world of change.
How to be an inspiring parent, Rule Nine. Okay, read the literature on happiness, meaningful life, good old age, all the rest of it. The Harvard study, the Grant study, you name it. The biggest factors leading to happiness and a meaningful life is the quality and strength of your relationships. The strength of a marriage, the strength of the parent-child bond, the strength of community, and knowing that there are people there to support you. All of the good things come from that, as the sociologists like Robert Putnam of Harvard have pointed out. Social capital, everything that makes life trustful and gracious come from these networks of relationships.
They are the ones that really have been fractured and fragmented by modernity. I needn’t tell you, fewer people are getting married. They’re getting married later. More marriages are ending in divorce. In Britain and America, believe it or not, almost 50% of children today are born outside of marriage. And all of these things are devastating, and the end result is, when we are teaching our children the Jewish practices that actually lead to us having some of the strongest marriages and strongest communities the world has ever known, we are giving them the recipe for future happiness.
I remember once a very leading British politician, who had read some of my stuff and was very interested in social capital, said, “Rabbi Sacks, can you define community for me?” I said, “Yes, it’s very easy. I go around the world giving lectures on all sorts of different subjects to all sorts of different audiences in all sorts of different countries. And after the talk is over, people come up to me and ask me questions. And whoever they are and wherever I am, if it’s a Jewish audience, they always ask the same question. Do you know who I am? I know who you are. Do you know who I am? You remember my mother used to play Bridge with your sister-in-law’s au pair. Or my third cousin was once engaged to your… et cetera, et cetera. Forget six degrees of separation. All Jews meet as strangers and part as mishpachah [family].”
So I said to him, “What is a community? A community is the place where they know your name and where they miss you when you are not there.” And do you know what? This ultra-intelligent and very leading British politician was just awestruck. He’d never heard of a concept like this. Now, do you know what we are giving our children when we’re teaching them to be part of a Jewish community where there’ll be people around to support them, to celebrate in their moments of celebration, and comfort them in the moments of grief, and help them out of crises? You are giving them more than any money could ever possibly buy.
I have to say that all these Jewish laws have suddenly become incredibly relevant because the society out there is losing them. There have been fascinating studies of the impact on health of young kids using smartphones, tablets, and screen time. It’s ruining their ability to sleep because their screens emit a blue light that keeps them awake for much longer. It’s ruining their social skills. It’s ruining their ability to concentrate over a prolonged period. And I was talking to a lady from the Bay area in San Francisco, where a lot of this came from, and she said, “Rabbi Sacks, you might be interested to know that our family, because we saw our kids, we couldn’t even have a meal together without them texting their friends on their smartphones. We decide: Enough. We are going to have, every single day, we’re going to have a screen-free day. No smartphone, no tablet, no social media, no television.”
And she said, “You might be interested in what we’re going to call this day. We call it the Sabbath.” So there you are, Moshe Rabbeinu 3,000 years ago gave us Shabbat to give us freedom from Pharaoh and Egypt. And they’ve just rediscovered it in San Francisco as freedom from the tyranny of the smartphone. So friends, never doubt that when you’re teaching your children to live and love Judaism, you are giving them the keys to stability in a world of change, and happiness for which they will always thank you.
This video series, Inspired Parenting, consists of thirteen short videos of Rabbi Sacks discussing some of the ways we can be inspiring parents and really kindle the flame of Torah in our children.
We hope you will learn, as Rabbi Sacks did, from exploring these ideas.