Neil Kurshan

Neil
Kurshan
1948

American Rabbi of the Huntington Jewish Center and Author of Raising Your Child to be a Mensch

Author Quotes

Allowing children to spew forth whatever is on their minds in the name of openness only creates an illusion of family closeness.

Can we love our children when they are homely, awkward, unkempt, flaunting the styles and friendships we don't approve of, when they fail to be the best, the brightest, the most accomplished at school or even at home? Can we be there when their world has fallen apart and only we can restore their faith and confidence in life?

In spite of our worries to the contrary, children are still being born with the innate ability to learn spontaneously, and neither they nor their parents need the sixteen-page instructional manual that came with a rattle ordered for our baby boy!

Too often I hear people say, "Well, at least so-and-so is a good person." When did being a good person become the least thing we can say about another? And are we raising children who will someday find that this is the least thing they can say about themselves?

Walk a mile in my shoes is good advice. Our children will learn to respect others if they are used to imagining themselves in another's place.

We are better advised and more educated than any other generation of parents. Yet this deluge of literature and advice can also leave us feeling overwhelmed and inadequate. Where is the joy of bringing a child into the world if we are always afraid of making a mistake?

The term "mensch" literally means a "person" or "man," but it represents a moral ideal for all people, men and women alike. . . . It means being sensitive to other people's needs and seeking out ways to help them. It is acquired by living close to family and extending one's sense of obligation beyond the family to the broader community. In the Jewish culture of Eastern Europe where the term arose, to call someone a mensch was the highest compliment that could be given.

Raising human beings is a process of teaching children right from wrong and turning them into responsible individuals.

It is at once the most overwhelmingly frustrating and exasperating task and the most joyous and rewarding experience to make human beings out of children.

The power we exert over the future behavior of our children is enormous. Even after they have left home, even after we have left the world, there will always be part of us that will remain with them forever.

It will help us and our children if we can laugh at our faults. It will help us tolerate our shortcomings, and it will help our children see that the goal is to be a human, not perfect.

The long discussions and painful arguments of adolescence and the fierce loyalties to teachers, heroes, and gurus during the teenage years are simply our children's struggles to ensure that the lifestyles and values they adopt are worthy of their allegiance.

Today so much rebellion is aimless and demoralizing precisely because children have no values to challenge. Teenage rebellion is a testing process in which young people try out various values in order to make them their own. But during those years of trial, error, embarrassment, a child needs family standards to fall back on, reliable habits of thought and feeling that provide security and protection.

We cannot set aside an hour for discussion with our children and hope that it will be a time of deep encounter. The special moments of intimacy are more likely to happen while baking a cake together, or playing hide and seek, or just sitting in the waiting room of the orthodontist.

It is easy to lose confidence in our natural ability to raise children. The true techniques for raising children are simple: Be with them, play with them, talk to them. You are not squandering their time no matter what the latest child development books say about "purposeful play" and "cognitive learning skills."

We all know children who grew up in authoritarian families and have never stopped rebelling against restrictiveness wherever they find it. And they seem to be more prone than others to find it!

Our children do not want models of perfection, neither do they want us to be buddies, friends, or confidants who never rise above their own levels of maturity and experience. We need to walk that middle ground between perfection and peerage, between intense meddling and apathy—the middle ground where our values, standards, and expectations can be shared with our children.

If we focus exclusively on teaching our children to read, write, spell, and count in their first years of life, we turn our homes into extensions of school and turn bringing up a child into an exercise in curriculum development. We should be parents first and teachers of academic skills second.

The beginnings of altruism can be seen in children as early as the age of two. How then can we be so concerned that they count by the age of three, read by four, and walk with their hands across the overhead parallel bars by five, and not be concerned that they act with kindness to others?

Our most important task as parents is raising children who will be decent, responsible, and caring people devoted to making this world a more compassionate place.

With the breakdown of the traditional institutions which convey values, more of the burdens and responsibility for transmitting values fall upon parental shoulders, and it is getting harder all the time both to embody the virtues we hope to teach our children and to find for ourselves the ideals and values that will give our own lives purpose and direction.

A young child is no longer simply a child; he or she is a preschooler, poised at the starting gate in the race of life.

We want our children to become warm, decent human beings who reach out generously to those in need. We hope they find values and ideals to give their lives purpose so they contribute to the world and make it a better place because they have lived in it. Intelligence, success, and high achievement are worthy goals, but they mean nothing if our children are not basically kind and loving people.

Morality is not only taught; it is caught.

Family life is not a computer program that runs on its own; it needs continual input from everyone.

Author Picture
First Name
Neil
Last Name
Kurshan
Birth Date
1948
Bio

American Rabbi of the Huntington Jewish Center and Author of Raising Your Child to be a Mensch