Parenting requires courage. Whether it’s stiffening our backbone to make an unpopular decision or fearlessly advocating on behalf of our children, we are often called upon to step out of our comfort zone and act with fortitude.
The truth is that while we may display a brave front as we refuse a request for more screen time or head into a parent-teacher meeting, deep inside our hearts are often quivering . We may be afraid of how a child will react to new limits or a well-deserved reprimand. We may be scared to share disappointments with our children in fear that they can’t handle further frustration. And we certainly feel apprehensive as we stand up to “professionals”, trusting our perspectives and instincts even when they conflict with established opinions.
In the Torah portion of Vayelech (Deuteronomy 31:1-30), Moshe (Moses) prepares to transfer leadership to Yehoshua (Joshua).
And Moshe called to Yehoshua, and said to him in the sight of all Israel: “Be strong and of good courage, for thou must go with this people to the land which the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them; and you shall cause them to inherit it.
Moshe stresses courage as the requisite ingredient for a leader, but much more lies beneath the surface. Jewish tradition teaches that the musical cantillation notes on this verse connect the phrase “in the sight of all Israel” with the following phrase, “Be strong and of good courage”. There is no pause as one would expect between the description of the setting and Moshe’s message.
Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk (1843-1926) teaches that Moshe was instructing Yehoshua in an essential quality of leadership . Whether or not Yehoshua felt courage on the inside as he led the people, he most certainly had to display it “in the sight of all Israel”. A leader must exhibit bravery before his followers, even when he may not feel the same level of courage privately.
“Be strong and of good courage” is a requirement for all parents, the leaders of families. Even when challenges arise that lead us to doubt ourselves privately, the Torah teaches us to exhibit courage before our children. It is true that parents can have many legitimate fears that keep us up at night and we shouldn’t ignore our trepidations. At the same time though, our children need to see us leading the family courageously.
A child’s sense of security comes from his or her parents. Children can be in frightening circumstances and yet feel secure when they’re with their parents. Our children need us to project confidence and courage. When we exude strength, our children feel strong. We don’t want our children to ever feel that they are too much for us to handle or we are floundering in fear about their future. Even when we feel that way we need to have the courage that Moshe told Yehoshua to acquire. We need to exude quiet confidence and project an aura of courage that gives our children the message, “All is okay. I’m taking care of you.” Whether or not we feel courage, we have to radiate faith and confidence before our children.
One of the challenges of the teenage years which I shared in the recent Thriving With Teenagers webinar, is the natural lessening of our self-confidence as our children hit adolescence. When a three year old acts immaturely, we're fairly confident they'll outgrow the challenge and therefore we don't panic. When a fifteen year old acts immaturely, it strikes fear in our hearts, "What if they never grow out of this?" Our teens need us to project calm confidence that they will grow and mature, that adolescent challenges aren’t harbingers of lifelong character failings. When they feel our courage, they are able to feel confident as well. This is the message Moshe Rabeinu gave to Yehoshua and it is one relevant to parents and leaders throughout time.
Be strong and of good courage!
Did you miss Thriving With Teenager's? You can watch the full video here.