To what extent are we to be blamed for how our children have turned out?

Friday, 13 January, 2023 - 7:26 am

To what extent are we to be blamed for how our children have turned out?

To what extent are we solely responsible for their being happy or unhappy with their lives?

And when it comes out alright, and they have grown up to be what we would have wanted them to be, to what extent is it really because of us?

I am speaking even about their feelings of confidence, warmth and love, or pain and anxiety – how much are these results of the parents’ influence?

I ask this because I meet quite a few parents on Zoom who are walking around with terrible guilt feelings about “what has become of my son/daughter,” as if they are really omnipotent; as if we as limited human beings are able to address any emotional and mental need of every child that Hashem has entrusted us with.

As a father who traveled quite a bit when the children were young, I have become an expert in buying gifts for children. Don’t laugh – it’s not an easy task. There is yet to be born a father whose presents have all brought joy, with none causing sadness. That’s the way it is. But when the children were small, I learned from experience not only what to bring to whom, but also to understand that there are children who come into this world with greater needs, with deeper feelings of deprivation. You find yourself making greater efforts for these specific children, because you really want them to be pleased and happy when you return.

When they grow up, you notice that it is much more than a gift following a trip abroad. You learn that what works beautifully with one, doesn’t work at all with another. That a conversation that flows well with one, doesn’t flow at all with his brother or sister. 

So if they were born so different, to what extent are we really responsible for them as parents for what they grow up to be?

You shouldn’t think that I am belittling the value of parental influence – our behavior towards the children definitely influences their lives. The question is just, how much?

Bnei Yisrael went down to Egypt and suffered through a difficult exile, a life of daily suffering for many long years. To what extent are Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, Sara, Rivka, Rachel and Leah to blame? 

How much are our forefathers to blame, or how much are they responsible for all this? 

In my humble opinion, the third partner has a much more significant part in this story. 

To emphasize once more – I would be the first person to send every parent to learn how to be a better parent. I myself am continually learning, and it is precisely because of that that I know that there is a limit. There is a limit to how much I as a father and my wife as a mother are able to influence and change. We can give the maximum – and make mistakes, because we don’t have enough of an understanding of neshama’s world – how sensitive it is, how powerful, with what deprivations it is coping, on the one hand – and on the other hand. with what tools it has come into the world.


I am writing all this for some dear and beloved friends who have shared their pain with me over the fact that their dear son/daughter is not behaving the way they would want him/her to. Dear and sweet children who find themselves coping with the less pleasant aspects of what Hashem’s world has to offer. The parents are walking around drowning in guilt, and I simply think that that is not fair. They don’t deserve it. 

They gave their all; they are still giving their all. Apparently, they have made mistakes on the way like everyone does, but even if they have some part or other in “what has become of the child”, they are not the sole guilty ones, just like someone who is very pleased with “what has become of the child” is not necessarily the sole cause of the success. 

What do you think?

And may we be successful!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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