By Faye Katz
Three months ago, my mother passed away after a brief illness. In her lifetime, she was extremely unassuming and undemanding, humble, reserved and quiet. It’s not that she shunned attention, it was more that she was always in the background, quietly doing the things she needed to do to care for her home, her children and my father without too much fanfare.
As a child, I struggled with the fact that she didn’t speak much nor give her opinion and guidance on day-to-day matters or major life decisions. Born in the Displaced Persons Camp in Bergen-Belsen to two Holocaust survivors, she had a European, dignified, refined way about her and she weighed her words carefully.
As an adult with children of my own, I can only now fully appreciate the strength it takes to remain silent while we watch our children make mistakes and act in ways in which we don’t approve. My mother wanted each of us to choose our own path and find our own way. In her quiet way, she demonstrated her trust in us and her dedication to giving us the space we needed to be independent.
My mother’s silence spoke volumes.
Without preaching to us, she had a strong impact on all of my 8 siblings and me through her soft spoken mannerisms, her desire to do the right thing, her fear of G-d and her strong dedication to the perpetuation of the Jewish faith, its guidelines and all of its traditions.
Here’s an example of how my mother successfully used silence as an effective long-term strategy. During high school, I befriended a girl who my parents did not approve of, although outwardly they displayed acceptance of my new friend. Fast forward 4 years, when I realized the negative impact this friend was having on me. At that point, I ended the relationship. When told of my decision, my parent’s response was awe-inspiring: “We never approved of the friendship, but we kept quiet, knowing that if we voiced our disapproval, you would have continued it indefinitely out of spite.”
In today’s generation, communication is key to positive child-parent relationships. Children do need tons of love, nurture, guidance and support. Yet sometimes the way we display our devotion to our children is through keeping quiet. Sometimes we have to let our children make their own mistakes and find their own way without our input and guidance. Sometimes the best way to impart our value system is by working on ourselves, strengthening our dedication to constant self-improvement, strong morals, values and traditions.
There is a legend told of a student who wanted to change the world and make it a better place. He asked his teacher how to do it and the teacher’s response was: “You can’t make people change; the only person you can control is yourself. But if you change yourself, you change the world.”
It’s a long-term parenting strategy. My mother knew exactly what she was doing.
By Faye Katz, Resume Specialist, JCS Career Center
Because parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual, JCS offers a variety of programs, services, education and support for parents and families with children of all ages. Click here or call 410-466-9200 to learn more.