WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — The Ten Commandments provide a pathway to ethical behavior that can also serve as a model for parents.
So says Mitchell Danitz, a child and family therapist in West Hartford. In a talk here, he provided insight on how the Ten Commandments may be applied in raising children.
"I am the Lord Your God, who brought you from the land of Egypt, from a house of slaves" is the First Commandment. This is a message about how we can grow and develop as adults, and also guide our children toward independence, he said.
In the Second Commandment, "You shall not have another god before my Presence," God seems strong but not argumentative, said Danitz.
"He doesn't bother saying that all other gods are phony, just that they cannot be placed before Him. There seems to be a level of respect for other beliefs." That is particularly important in dealing with adolescents, who may at some point, embrace alternative ideas.
The Third Commandment: "Do not take upon yourself the name of God in vain, for God will not hold guiltless one who takes His name upon himself in vain."
From these words, Danitz said, we learn that when we "evoke our parental authority, in the process of doing so, we better mean it." This commandment teaches that we must not tarnish the name of God. By extension, those who "wrap themselves in the cloak of parenthood must make sure that their behavior does not tarnish the name of parenthood."
The Fourth Commandment, "Remember the Sabbath day," reminds parents to give children the opportunity to learn that "there is a wonder and a majesty beyond Nintendo," said Danitz.
"Honor your father and your mother," the Fifth Commandment, emphasizes that parents, as the potential carriers of God's word, are to be respected, as God is to be respected.
When we honor our parents, said Danitz, we honor all the parents who came before them and we honor ourselves as parents. And, he added, children are watching and listening for clues about how to relate to parents based on how Mom and Dad treat their own parents.
Regarding the Sixth Commandment, "You shall not murder," Danitz said that while it is not sinful to think about murdering, we are not allowed to commit the act.
"You shall not commit adultery," the Seventh Commandment, is a reminder that adultery "rends the fabric of the family. In a sense, the adulterer is cheating on, and certainly cheating, all the members of his or her family."
From the Eighth Commandment, "You shall not steal," parents learn that it is important not to rob children of their relationship with God. In addition, parents must not steal a child's identity. Parents may guide children, but they cannot control who they become, he said.
"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor, the Ninth Commandment, can be difficult for children, who may lie to avoid a punishment, said Danitz. While children may be able to trick parents, they should also know there is a higher power who cannot be fooled.
Finally, the Tenth Commandment, "You shall not covet," teaches parents to avoid envy and to appreciate the beauty of all of our children, Danitz said.