16 Parenting Secrets from a Mother of 13 by Rebbetzin Mina Gordon

16 Parenting Secrets from a Mother of 13 by Rebbetzin Mina Gordon

After Rebbetzin Mina Gordon was featured as a Chanukah Contest Semifinalist, her daughter-in-law left a comment saying how surprised she had been when she first married her husband that: “…the Gordon kids sit together and praise their parents and the way they were raised. I have heard from my husband and the other Gordon children “my mother never screamed/yelled at us.”

To which Rebbetzin Mina responded:
“Nah! Their Mom screamed plenty, cried from frustration, couldn’t get kids to stay in bed, never got them to school in time, and (now this is really awful) came late for their kindergarten graduation.
“I took years of Mommying in turbulent waters until I reached the calm, with the help of Hashem Yisborach and His Torah.
“Looking back, I can see how it made me work hard to become a better person, and what great nachas I have when I see my children face their own particular challenges with strength and optimism.”

After reading that comment I was extremely curious to find out what had enabled Rebbetzin Mina to change…

Rebbetzin Mina generously agreed to satisfy my curiosity with her 16 parenting secrets:


It intrigues me that my grown children don’t seem to remember the times that I ‘lost it’ when they were growing up.

But I DO remember. There were many times when I felt like a TERRIBLE mother, times when I cried in frustration, times when I felt like I must be doing something wrong.

What motivated me to work on improvement, and what helped me change?

Here’s a few thoughts that have inspired me over the last 4 decades of motherhood…

1. A child’s self-image is dependent on how her parents view her. And the atmosphere of the home is dependent on the mother.

A person’s childhood gives him his foundation for life, so every positive effort on the parents’ part is an investment that will yield tremendous profits in the future.

2. I don’t have to be perfect; I’m not competing with anyone else.

3. I do not have to do everything myself. It is okay to hire help, ask for assistance, get ideas from others, and find a listening ear to talk to.

4. When dealing with my kids, I learned to separate their message from their method of delivery. I tried to show them that I had faith in their innate goodness and that I trusted them to make good choices.

5. I realized that I could not control what will happen in the future, but I could try to give my children the tools to deal with whatever happens with strength, faith, and optimism.

No one knows what challenges they will come across in life. When Joseph was still at home, the favourite son in a respected family, he would never have imagined the challenges he would be going through in the near future.

Yet through all of Yosef’s ups and downs in Egypt, the Torah says that even the Egyptians remarked that “Hashem was with him.”

Yes, Hashem was with Yosef, because Yosef was with Hashem.

And that is the secret of resilience for us to cultivate, in ourselves and in our children.

Here are some more of my parenting “secrets,” verses and sayings of Our Rabbis that I found helped shape the way I brought up my children.

6. עבדו את ה’ בשמחה (Serve Hashem with joy-Psalms) and שמחה פורץ גדר (Joy breaks through boundaries-The Rebbe Rashab).

I tried to keep in mind to: “Serve Hashem with joy.“ Serve implies that it is hard work to change one’s attitude, but it is worth it because: “ Joy breaks through boundaries.”

7 חסד ומשפט אשירה (“I sing to you for the kindness and for the judgment”-Psalms)

Whether he was experiencing kindness or judgment King David (who wrote this verse) sang to Hashem. Music is a great mood enhancer!

For example, since I am a last-minute person, Friday would always be a mad rush. When I would start getting tense, I would start singing a stanza of the humorous song “Ain’t Gonna Work on Saturday!” and that always lightened my mood.

8. איזהו החכם? הלומד מכל אדם (“Who is wise? One who learns from every person.”-Pirkei Avot)

You can never stop learning to be a better person. Everything you see and hear can be a lesson.

Don’t be too proud to seek advice or help. But also don’t be so accepting that you think everyone else has it right except for you.

9. מענה רך ישיב חמה (“A soft answer turns away wrath.”–Proverbs)

When you scream, people register the emotion but miss the message. Speaking quietly but firmly is much more powerful. (Remember the U.S. President, Teddy Roosevelt, whose foreign policy was “Speak softly but carry a big stick”?)

Which leads us to:

10. חושך שבטו שונא בנו (“One who holds back his stick hates his son.”-Proverbs) I don’t believe that the Torah is advocating corporal punishment, but rather advising parents that it is important to provide reasonable rules and structure for their children. A parent needs to find a balance between being firm yet flexible, formal yet friendly, forthright yet fair.

11. הוי מתונים בדין (“Be deliberating in judgement.”–Pirkei Avot)

Most of the times that you decide to “teach him a lesson” the lesson that your child learns is not necessarily the lesson that you meant him to get.

12. הוי דן את כל האדם לכף זכות (“Judge everyone to the side of righteousness.”–Pirkei Avot)

The worse the person’s character the greater his potential.

13. קשוט עצמך ואחר כך קשוט אחרים (“Measure yourself first, only then can you measure others.”-Talmud: Baba Batra)

What bothers you about someone else, is usually a reflection of a fault in you. It seems especially true of parents; we tend to see our own negative traits magnified in our children

14. כשם שאין פרצופיהם שוים כן אין דעותיהם שוים (Just as no two people look alike, so too, no two people think alike.-Talmud: Brachot)

There is more than one right way to do things. It doesn’t always have to be “my way or the highway.” At least acknowledge other people’s opinions, including (and especially) your teenagers’!

15. לפום צערא אגרא (“According to the effort is the reward.”-Pirkei Avot)

The world measures success by accomplishment, but Hashem measures by the effort you have expended.

You may have advanced only a step or two, but that step or two may be considered greater than the many miles covered by someone else.

16. לא עליך המלאכה לגמור ואין אתה בן חורין להבטל ממנו (“It is not necessarily in your hands to finish the work, nor are you free to desist from it!”–Pirkei Avot)

(I sing this one all the time!!)

I just have to keep plugging at what I can do, and not worry about what I can’t.

We are all in this together, and each of us, including our children, are works in progress, essential bits of a greater work in progress, and today is the first day of the rest of our lives!

Much nachas!


  1. this needs to be read slowly and thoughtfully. so. much. wisdom. here. It looks like a good outline for a book I would want to read!

  2. Is it o.k. If I print this out and hang it up somewhere I’ll ll see it everyday?

  3. Wow. This gets to the root of it all.

  4. I totally love this and I can totally relate 🙂

  5. Rochel Gordon

    Just want to say that you taught me #11 a few months ago and how much it resonated in many different areas that we were challenged with. Both in parenting and in our shlichus.

    You also made a very wise observation when I kvetched to you about something that my kids had done which I thought was horrific and your response was “the fact that he knows that his parents are annoyed/upset at him is already a punishment!” It was such a “aha!” Moment.
    Thank you

  6. Thank you Chanah for posting. This list is so deeply profound….Each line is a lesson for a lifetime…May we all merit to have beautiful homes that radiate these lessons

  7. Totally love it all and am waiting in line for that book!!!

  8. I just wanted to add that among Mina’s wonderful qualities as a woman, wife, mother, shlucha, community member etc etc par excellence
    she’s also a very gifted writer
    so let’s hope she gets started on that book soon!

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