Parenting is no easy task. From a very early age, children demand and seek gifts and concessions from their parents. And, particularly in our overly-materialistic society, children want a lot of things. Far too often, a parent finds him/herself placating a crying or misbehaving child by promising them a special treat or a toy, or some other reward, if they’ll just behave. Whether or not this is the appropriate way to handle the rearing of one’s child is not Jewish Treats‘ place to judge. However, it is interesting to note the importance of what one does with those promises made in the middle of the grocery store.
The Talmud states (Sukkah 46b): “Rabbi Zeira said: One should not say to a child, ‘I will give you something,’ and then not give it to him/her, because that teaches the child to lie, as it is stated: ‘They train their tongue to speak falsehood’ (Jeremiah 9:4).”
This is not only a problem because one is teaching a child that it is okay to tell a falsehood, but because it could actually involve several other prohibitions as well.
For instance, just as one must pay a worker on time, so must a parent pay their child on time for mowing the lawn, or reward their child with the promised treat that same day–unless otherwise specified. And, if one fails to fulfill the promise…alas, it could be considered a form of stealing!
So, remember parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and all other adults who spend time with kids…watch what you say and be careful of making promises. (“Maybe,” “I’ll think about…,” “later,” etc. are ambiguous enough to avoid such problems!)
This Treat was originally posted on October 29, 2009.
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