Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
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‘Parents must teach their children to respect them’

The art and wisdom are to know when you are equals and when not

Older, great Rabbis lately are saying: ‘Nowadays anything goes. The youth have no respect for anything anymore. Parents insist on being their kids’ friends, equals. This must stop. We must return to respect for parents. Society cannot operate without it. It’s in the Ten Commandments.’

My three kids are now in their twenties. I wasn’t a perfect parent and couldn’t give them an easy childhood. But their puberty was not wartime. And somehow, today, they clearly love and respect me. I have nothing to complain about. So, I think, I have the credentials to weigh in on this issue.

I admit I should have done better than most parents. I only got kids after I turned 40. I had 15 years of intensive therapy (the best no money can buy) behind me. Would I have been an average parent, I would’ve failed. I was too old to run with them like a 25-year-old, but I had other advantages.

I’m sharing what I did for inspiration, not imitation. Actually, my teacher sexuality in Medical school said once in his lectures: ‘If any of you have the perfect book on how to raise young people, I plead with you not to have children. If it can’t come from you, forget about it.’

Many times, I have told new parents: ‘And you thought that you knew what is being tired. You’ve seen nothing yet.’

1. Punishing

The first thing I did was not punish them, ever. I’m not perfect, and being with me is punishment enough! When his teacher told my oldest to stand in the corner for punishment, he spent his time thinking: ‘How is this helping?’ He didn’t find an answer.

Marshall Rosenberg taught me to ask them questions instead of judging my kids (or anyone). In fact, when they came home with artwork and asked me: ‘Daddy, is it good?’ I always said: ‘I have no idea, but I can tell you what I like about it.’ I also asked them what they thought of it. Thank you, Marshall!

2. Dutch Politeness

Though I raised my kids in Israel, I gave them some Dutch norms, but not Dutch toughness. Dutch kids are not allowed to speak to grownups in one word. Thank you, daddy. No daddy. Wait a moment. I pretended that I couldn’t hear one-word answers. I told them they won’t see this norm around them because it’s Dutch, but I find it a good thing to hold on to. Other parents will have other norms for respect.

I also told them that the respect is for their good, not mine. I don’t need it. They do. I made sure that I would not be ‘insulted’ when they ‘disrespected’ me. It was for them.

3. First-Name Basis

I also went with the old Jewish norm of not calling your parent by their first name. There is a difference.

But, I always said, also in their presence, to others who asked if they were my kids: ‘No, but I’m the father.’ Based on the Talmud explaining that we have ‘our’ kids just on loan.

4. Respecting

But, more importantly, I respected my kids. Their feelings, their ideas. I listened to them. Then, of course, they heard me too.

I recognized and acknowledged their individuality. No one needs to be like everyone else. The Torah has no commandment ‘Be normal.’

And a girl doesn’t need to do the dishes because there is already too much pressure on girls to serve.

‘My’ kids were not coaxed into doing what I never was able to accomplice, to fulfill my dreams in life. I was not vicariously living through them. They were supposed to do what they needed to accomplish with their lives. They’re not an extensions of me over the grave or stage props in the play of my life. They are people in their own right.

I set goals for myself instead of being too demanding of my kids. Parents who haven’t given up on themselves help kids to set goals and be ambitious for their future.

Once, for a week, a child at age 15 was very disrespectful to me. I took the case to therapy. Did I respect him enough? Well, apparently not. I increased my respect for him, and the problem was solved!

They could (and did) cry out their hearts with me, always, but I wouldn’t use my kids as therapists, ever. In my eyes, that’s abuse. (You can’t be a good parent on your own. Often, I asked for advice from others. Preferably from people who know you. Partner, rabbi, therapist, another parent, friend, even the kids.)

There are differences between parents and children.

5. Negotiating

I didn’t rule them with an iron first. I wanted things. They wanted things. When it wouldn’t go together, we negotiated. Compromises that we all would be happy with. Either party could initiate negotiations.

I taught them what is compromising. One son said: ‘What’s there to compromise? We both want the ball.’ I said: ‘Well, you could take turns.’ Bulging eyes. Never occurred to him. Don’t teach that at school.

I did create emergency enclaves of dictatorship. ‘We have now 3 minutes to get on the bus. No buts, do this, do that, we’ll talk later.’ On the bus, I would thank them for their trust; I would ask how unpleasant it was; I would explain why that had been important; I would ask them if they were OK with it in hindsight.

6. Obeying

In that sense, I was an equal, an older brother, a friend. I didn’t want obedience. There is too much slavish behavior in the world already. People obey the most repressive regimes as if they come from a law of nature. My goal was cooperation, not a slaveowner/slave relationship.

From their birth, I treated them like young people, not people-to-be.

Reb Shlomo said: ‘More important than the parents having nachat (pleasure) from their children is that children have nachat from their parents.’ Kids are vulnerable (naïve) and dependent. As a parent, I felt I needed to live up to standards more than kids. We chose to have them.

7. Saying No

But, make no mistake. That wasn’t all I was. I was here too to be blamed, be relied on, and to say: ‘We can negotiate, but don’t expect me to come to a much different opinion. You are allowed to hate me for that, to be angry, to disagree, and to say so. When you are older, you can tell me if I was wrong. If I agree, I will apologize. You can do differently with your kids. Sometimes, my job is to say no or set limits.’

‘No, you can’t be on the computer. Grab a ball and play outside.’ They hated it but now thank me for it. They each are great at friendships.

Spoiling kids does not happen from being generous. (BTW: Our giving is not for the children but for us to become more generous, G^d-like.) No, spoiling happens when you don’t say ‘no’ when you should.

Feeling bad for them (or guilty about not spending enough time with them) is not a reason to skip ‘no’s.

‘No’ may show you care.

I said mostly ‘no’ to protect them from getting hurt or hurting others or stuff, not for the fun of bossing them around. That’s what my PC is for.

When, for my sake, I liked them to stop with something, I requested that. I did not say: ‘This is forbidden.’

Harvey Jackins taught me: ‘Learn to say no as if you hand someone the moon.’

I have no business making them unhappy by telling them whom to marry.

8. Permitting

More importantly, I tried to permit as much as I could. To be mild, flexible, and nice. I tried to say at least 10 times more yes than no, well done than please don’t. I also tried to catch my kids doing something good, as I learned from Miriam Adahan. The ‘normal’ atmosphere of criticism is not helpful at all. High expectations should also be relaxed.

In a pleasant atmosphere, you don’t need to give much direction as most children will like to imitate their parents until they find their own way.

I must have said a million times: ‘No one is perfect; only Hashem is perfect.’

I would also apologize if I did something less than ideal.

I taught them Jewish ideals I didn’t always keep. It was wrong to get angry.

A few times, I ‘caught’ them doing something substandard. ‘Your Hebrew is much better than mine but saying the Minchah Prayers in 90 seconds flat cannot be praying. Please figure out how to change that.’ They did. They’re still slow, careful prayers and I’m so grateful I ‘caught’ them.

9. Lecturing

Our Shabbat table was not only about great food. We’d spend hours discussing issues. Mostly, I lectured. They loved it. I told them wisdom and morality they couldn’t get anywhere else. And it came from someone who cared about them and listened to them a lot. Then, that’s easy to absorb. Though, I find that they learned most from my deeds, not my words.

One of my tasks was to give them a good example. And, to understand that their inability to improve much was hampered if I was not improving all the time too.

I took it as part of the job, in their honor, to improve on how my parents raised me, to not perpetuate the things I disagree with still today.

10. Protecting

I protected them from much hurt.

I taught them suicide prevention for themselves and their friend—you never know when all hope is suddenly gone and what to do then?

When we had no money, I told them: There is no money for a couple of months for anything extra, but when it comes in, we go to the toy store and buy a lot. And we did. And I coached them not to buy stuff just because it had lights or sparkles or was expensive or big. Will you play with it? Can you play with others with it? They never felt poor, although they had friends whose parents were obviously very rich. But they were no snobs so my kids liked them.


Disrespecting kids are only a reflection of grownups who show no respect.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, an almost daily blog contributor to the Times of Israel, and previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. He often makes his readers laugh, mad, or assume he's nuts—close to perfect blogging. He's proud that his analytical short comments are removed both from left-wing and right-wing news sites. * As a frontier thinker, he sees things many don't yet. He's half a prophet. Half. Let's not exaggerate. He doesn't believe that people observe and think in a vacuum. He, therefore, wanted a broad bio that readers interested can track a bit about what (lack of) backgrounds, experiences, and education contribute to his visions. * If you don't know the Dutch, get an American peek behind the scenes here: * To find less-recent posts on subject XXX among his over 1600 archived ones, go to the right-top corner of a Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". One can find a second, wilder blog, to which one may subscribe, here: * Like most of his readers, he believes in being friendly, respectful, and loyal. Yet, if you think those are his absolute top priorities, you might end up disappointed. His first loyalty is to the truth. He will try to stay within the limits of democratic and Jewish law, but he won't lie to support opinions or people who don't deserve that. He admits that he sometimes exaggerates to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * Sometimes he's misunderstood because his wide and diverse field of vision seldomly fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what some love about him. He has written a lot about Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (including basic statistics), Politics (Israel, the US, and the Netherlands, Activism), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA+, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust, and Jewish Liberation), the Climate Crisis, Ecology and Veganism, Affairs from the news, or the Torah Portion of the Week, or new insights that suddenly befell him. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim, Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. * One of his rabbis calls him Mr. Innovation [Ish haChidushim]. Yet, his originalities seem to root deeply in traditional Judaism, though they may grow in unexpected directions. In fact, he claims he's modernizing nothing. Rather, mainly basing himself on the basic Hebrew Torah text, he tries to rediscover classical Jewish thought almost lost in thousands of years of stifling Gentile domination and Jewish assimilation. (He pleads for a close reading of the Torah instead of going by rough assumptions of what it would probably mean and before fleeing to Commentaries.) This, in all aspects of life, but prominently in the areas of Free Will, Activism, Homosexuality for men, and Redemption. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, and disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. He aims to bring a fresh perspective rather than harp on the obvious and familiar. He loves to write encyclopedic overviews. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds should be disputed. In short, his main political positions are among others: anti-Trumpism, anti-elitism, anti-bigotry and supremacy, for Zionism, Intersectionality, and non-violence, anti those who abuse democratic liberties, anti the fake ME peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, pro-Science, pro-Free Will, anti-blaming-the-victim, and for down-to-earth, classical optimism, and happiness. * He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to parents who were Dutch-Jewish Holocaust survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork. He grew up a humble listener. It took him decades to become a speaker too. Bullies and con artists almost instantaneously envy and hate him. * He holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam) – is half a doctor. He practices Re-evaluation Co-counseling since 1977, is not an official teacher anymore, and became a friendly, empowering therapist. He became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids non-violently. For a couple of years, he was active in hasbara to the Dutch-speaking public. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's being a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. He lives with his library in Jerusalem. Feel free to contact him. * His writing has been made possible by a (second-generation) Holocaust survivors' allowance from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having an original peek outside of your cultural bubble. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me. * His newest books you may find here:
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