I complimented a group of parents on their willingness to expand their parenting skills. We were spending an hour a week learning and sharing methods in raising a healthy and strong family. I said to them that knowledge is the mother of action. We need to know what to do, so we can do what we know.

One parent stood up and said: "I'm not sure that I'm so proud of this. As a matter of fact, I didn't tell my sister that I'm attending a parenting workshop. She would just make fun of me, and would say things like, 'You're always going to those personal development seminars. The ideas they introduce sound good at the seminar, but aren't practical in daily life. You will quickly revert to your old habits and then feel guilty that you're not doing it "right"...' Isn't it better to do the best we know and be satisfied with it?" she concluded.

I asked this woman, if she wanted to play tennis, would she play with a person who plays worse than her, or with a person who plays better than her? "I would play with a person better than me," was her answer, "because it would be more challenging and I would learn new skills."

I explained that this principle also applies to the game of life and especially to parenting and relationships. Each one of us plays the game of life with our own talents at our own levels. But human nature is such that — in the words of the Talmud — "One who has a hundred, desires two hundred; and one who has 200, desires 400." We are not satisfied with what we have and always want more. This trait, if used properly, can be implemented to improve the quality of our life. This could be done by looking for people who have better parenting or relationship skills than we have, and adopting them as our peers.

You can love your cynical sister and skeptical relatives, but your peers should be chosen very carefully. The people we spend time with on a regular basis influence our lives, whether we like it or not. By interacting with quality people who are eager to learn and grow, we, too, will enter into that mode and obtain new skills and ideas that had not been part of our natural repertoire in the past.

There is no such thing as a perfect parent or a perfect spouse, but neither is there a parent or a spouse who doesn't do some things right. As a parent of 14 children, I still search for new ways to be a better parent, and learn something new each day. I see what works for others and see if these methods will also work for me.

Parenting is an individual thing, which depends on the characters of the parents and children, as well as the circumstances in which the family finds itself. The most important rule in parenting is that there are no rules. Not everything that works for someone else will necessarily work for me, but many things will. It is only by trying and finding out what works that we are able to improve. If we see that something isn't working, we should stop it and move onto something else. There are only general guidelines. The basic principle of striving for a balance between discipline and love is universal, and is applicable in all situations with minor adaptions to each one.

We will earn respect from our children when they see that we are eager to learn how to be better at what we are doing. They will get the impression and understand clearly that we are not perfect and that we are still growing. When we make a mistake, which is inevitable, they will not judge us, as they will know we are on a journey and have not yet reached our destination.

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance. A person who does not read good books has no advantage over the person who cannot read them. Reading good parenting books for 10 or 15 minutes a day will definitely improve our skills in the most important job of our lives.

Try it — it works!