Reaping What You Sow

“When a child is two or three years old, we must know and take into account that when he turns fourteen or fifteen he will be in a difficult stage. In order to pass through the fourteen-year-old stage peacefully, the child needs to have a warm bond with his parents. If parents are rough with their two-, three- or four-year-old — if they discipline him harshly, hit him, and make demands beyond his ability — they destroy the warm relationship. Indeed, at such an early stage the problem in the relationship won’t be obvious. The child still needs his parents; he loves his parents. But later, when the child is fourteen, the surprised parents come to me crying and exclaim, ‘I don’t understand what’s happened to my child. He doesn’t speak with me at all. He tells me nothing. I have no idea what’s going on with him.’ When the parents come and ask me what to do, I ask them: ‘Tell me, did you strike the child when he was three?’ The father answers, ‘Of course, I had to educate him.’ Then I respond: ‘Now you are paying for the blows you gave him back then.’ The spankings and rough treatment ferment in the child’s subconscience [sic] without even the child’s awareness. The memories are hidden within his soul. But in adolescence the effects surface, and the parents see that they have destroyed their relationship with their child. For the parents this is terribly painful, and for the child it is terribly damaging.”

-Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe, PLANTING AND BUILDING, p. 24


2 thoughts on “Reaping What You Sow

  1. I heartily disagree with the Rabbi, based on empirical evidence. A case familiar to me is a child who was never subjected to corporal discipline, yet became a monster as a teen. Another case with which I am thoroughly acquainted is a boy who was often subjected to physical discipline and grew up cleaving to Torah and pursuing righteousness. I must admit that the same kind of physical discipline more often leads to a hatred of rules and authority in adulthood. It seems to me that there is much more involved here than merely the use of, or absence of, corporal punishment.


    1. Granted. This is a single paragraph excerpted from an entire book on child-rearing. The point of the book is that it is no simple matter. Many factors will determine each individual outcome. This is one guiding principal examined in a vacuum.


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