Overprotective Parents: The Damage They Can Cause
"I know my son", said a defensive father, trying to explain
to the principal his son’s version of a rumble between him and an older boy. "If
there’s one thing he doesn’t do, it’s lie!" After thoroughly checking out the
incident, the principal saw that the younger child’s version was not fully true.
There were two possibilities: either the boy was lying, or he was imagining or
exaggerating what had happened, and this, in turn, either from innocence or as a
result of pre-planning.
For the father to conclusively determine that his son was the
victim, and in addition, that he never lied, can be compared to one who puts on
dark sunglasses, walks out in the sun and says its dark outside. In short, it
did not really matter to the father what had happened. He had already decided
what had happened from his son’s version of the story.
What effect did this father’s reaction have on his child? On
a grand scale, he, in effect, denied his son’s natural growth process. As Rav
Dessler writes (Michtav M’Eliyahu Vol. 1 p. 99): while mature adults are
aware of the purpose of their existence, children live in a world of
imagination. A child lives in a world of imagination, until slowly but surely,
as he matures and accepts upon himself more and more responsibility, he enters a
world of reality and purpose.
When a parent considers his child more mature that he truly
is, he signals to his child that he no longer needs to develop and become more
mature. This causes the child to accept upon himself an identity which is not
his, thereby stunting his growth.
When a child’s growth is stunted, he feels prematurely
complete, and his approach to himself and to others is severely affected in the
The child systematically ignores any lacking he may have
and becomes pompous.
He does not accept criticism.
He belittles and refutes his Rebbe’s admonishment.
He shows a general lack of respect for others.
He comments on others’ behavior. He becomes very critical
Instead of dealing with problems which arise, he runs to
his parents for protection and support.
He exaggerates and creates false rumors about those that
contest his opinion.
"ויצא הראשון אדמוני כולו כאדרת שער ויקראו שמו עשו." – "The
first one (of the twins) came out looking completely red, with a royal coat of
hair, and they called him Esav" (Bereishis 25:25).
Esav was born with two striking features: (1) red skin and
(2) a full head of hair. Rashi explains that the red color is a sign that he
will become a murderer, and that he was called Esav (completed) for already at
birth he had a full head of hair.
Question: What is the connection between these two
Answer: The Torah is teaching us that one who feels he is
complete, considers himself unapproachable, becomes haughty, begins to look down
on others, loses respect for them and eventually loses respect for their very
existence until he is able to commit murder.
A parent who allows his child to feel as though he is without
flaw, and is deserved of royal treatment, weakens his child’s sense of honest
self-evaluation, enshrines him negative traits, and causes him to become
pompous, condescending and self-protective.
Sources for the seven points of misdirected attitude
mentioned above, can be traced back to the birth, development and attitudes of
Esav. (Each number here relates to its equivalent number above.)
Esav made his own exclusive decisions and never felt his
view was lacking (Bereishis Rabbah 63:8).
Esav separated himself from others, as he was מפוזר ומפורד
(scattered and separated) according to the Midrash’s explanation of כאדרת
(ibid) and ignored others’ criticism.
He ignored Yitzchak’s pleading to live a Torah life and
belittled the mitzvos by tithing salt and by despising the service of the
Esav lacked respect for others to the point where even
their lives had no value in his eyes, and he did not hesitate to commit murder
He uses his energies to criticize others, instead of doing
self-examination and correcting his own misdeeds, as the Midrash calls him
מפוזר ומפורד, meaning he was involved in everyone else’s problems, and ignored
Esav was spiritually too weak to stand up to his own
problems (ibid, according to commentaries) and he hid behind his service of
his father and his backing.
Esav was an expert at devising false stories and
exaggerating his level of tzidkus. He could even deceive his father,
Yitzchok, as it says, "…כי ציד בפיו…" – "…his trappings were in (Yitzchok’s)
mouth…" (Bereishis 25:28).
Esav felt that he had reached total perfection and had no
need to work on himself.
"אדמוני כולו" – "completely red" refers to Esav’s own
being and "כאדרת שער" – "coat of hair" refers to all that external to
him, represented by hair which protrudes from the body and grows at its own
Esav felt that his body and his inner being, as well as his
actions, his relationship and his property and possessions were all fully
refined. His feeling of inner perfection without need to work on his middos
and chochmoh, led him to criticize others and ignore their wise counsel.
His external completion caused him to separate himself from others and feel that
any action to benefit others lacked value.
Yaakov took the opposite approach. His name, based on his
actions at the moment of birth, reflects his approach to life.
עקב – "The heel" is the lowest limb of the body,
representing Yakov’s view that he was faced with a life-long challenge to
climb upwards and improve himself.
The עקב offers the body support, allowing it to stand, walk
and function, just as self-inspection and correction is what builds a person’s
standing and strength.
The עקב, being the lowest point on the body, symbolizes the
characteristic of humility, which leads to self-inspection and improvement and
avoids unnecessary critical observation and evaluation of others.
The עקב is constantly in touch with the ground, symbolizing
a strong sense of reality.
The עקב is in the least conspicuous place in the body,
symbolizing Yaakov’s preoccupation with his own avodas Hashem and his
lack of criticism of others.
The עקב, say Chazal, reminds us of easy mitzvos. Yaakov
began with easy mitzvos and worked his way upward, at each stage, increasing
his own demands on himself, while Esav began at the highest stage (in his
eyes) and belittled anything or anyone he considered below him.
The letters of עקב spell קבע (Ba’al Haturim) –
consistent, which teaches that Yaakov Avinu was consistent in improving
his own spiritual lot.
The letters of עקב spell בקע – "split/halved", as
Yaakov always felt that he had not reached a state of completion.
The Midrash brings two explanations of the word "אדרת", which
Royalty, kingship and grandeur and
wheat stalks/straw after the kernels of wheat have been
The first definition is in direct contradiction with the
second, as the first represents the highest strata and the second definition
represents the lowest, least significant level.
Esav could have reached kingship, as Yaakov did. However,
because he considered himself a king from the start, he fell to the lowest
The Midrash (ibid) explains his name ע שו
to represent עולם שוא – a wasted world.
Both Yaakov and Esav sought kingship; Yaakov worked on
himself throughout his life and was eventually elevated to Yisroel,
retroactively being anointed the king of Israel, and called the first born, as
it is written, "בני בכור ישראל". On the other hand, Esav began on top, as we
mentioned above, and he fell to the lowest level of murder, adultery and
A parent would be wise to be humble, giving, consistent,
realistic and positive toward himself and others, walking in the path of Yaakov.
This will enable his child to develop naturally and positively. Otherwise, he
may inadvertently close his child’s mind to the concept of introspection and
need for self-development, which would no less than seriously jeopardize his