In Chinuch With Confidence, master mechanech Rabbi Shneur Aisenstark shares his compelling and insightful answers to 220 questions sent by parents, mechanchim, and students. Here, ArtScroll asks a few more questions — about chinuch, children, and his new book.
AS: So many questions! Why does chinuch seem to be such a difficult and complex matter today?
RSA: I think it is because students are more sophisticated, worldly, and more needy — all of which produce chutzpah. Not simple.
AS: In the book you answer specific questions, but also include principles of chinuch that can apply in many situations. What are some of the most important principles that a parent or teacher should know to effectively teach — and reach — today’s youth?
RSA: Parents and teachers all must be constantly aware that their charges learn mostly by example. Children must see honest behavior on the part of teachers and parents. When a child is given a directive, it must be explained and the reasons should be given. You cannot simply say, “Because I said so.” Parents and school must be on the same page. Each child has different needs and capabilities and each has an individual personality — all of which must be recognized. Our expectations of the students should be governed accordingly.
AS: What are the biggest challenges that parents and teachers face today? And what are the young people’s greatest strengths?
RSA: There is no doubt in my mind that the biggest challenge is technology and the yetzer hora it awakens in our children. The strength of young people today lies in the fact that there are so many frum young people who are in similar situations and that they are among many coping with the same issues. In other words, they have a great support system available to them.
AS: The questions in the book are interesting and so very real. What are the topics that tended to come up most frequently?
RSA: The underlying topic apparent in most questions is the lack of communication and transparency among parents, teachers, and students. None of them seem to be talking to each other.
AS: When you come down to it, what are we trying to accomplish with our chinuch?
RSA: Our goals should be to make Torah life sweet and to show our children how to live a life of simchas hachaim.