Disobedience is an inevitable and often unpleasant issue every parent has to confront. What’s a parent to do? It helps to remember that children need to test limits at times in order to feel safe. What they are usually looking for is consistency in setting limits. When firm, appropriate boundaries are set, it’s as if a safe container has been created that holds the child secure in the knowledge that his or her parents care.

In our parsha this week, Vayelech, God tells Moses that God’s people will be disobedient and violate the covenant. Nevertheless, God keeps faith with the Children of Israel, and despite their misbehavior, brings them into the Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey. God does not abandon God’s people. Perhaps this is the oldest example of unconditional love.

Even though our children test us and test us again, we remain faithful to the relationship. It is important, as parents, to hold fast to the belief that our children will ultimately grow through testing us and our setting limits. It is, both fortunately and unfortunately, a process that doesn’t end, that is, until they reach adulthood!

Talk to your kids about why parents need to establish limits and consequences.

Connect to their lives:

  • Do you remember when and why you have broken rules?
  • Is it hard for you to live with rules?
  • Which rules do you think are fair, and which are unfair?
  • How do you react when rules are applied unevenly or inconsistently?

By Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.