Yehoshua ben Perachia would say: Make for yourself a Rav (teacher), and acquire for yourself a colleague, and give all individuals the benefit of the doubt.
יהושע בן פרחיה אומר: עשה לך רב וקנה לך חבר והוי דן את כל האדם לכף זכות
It is not easy to stay calm in the face of our child’s misbehavior. We are often shocked at how angry our children can make us. To help us keep calm we can use the very Jewish principle of “Giving the benefit of the doubt.”
Giving the benefit of the doubt, helps us remember that children usually don’t misbehave on purpose, or just to bother you, or because they are truly bad. It’s often because they are not aware of the rules, (speaking loudly in shul) overwhelmed, tired, hungry or frustrated.
Giving your child the benefit of the doubt is important because if you assume that your child is basically good, you will find yourself less prone to getting angry and resorting to punishment as a disciplinary tool.
So now that we are calm and we are giving our kids the benefit of the doubt, what should we do when they still misbehave?
We can and should admonish our children. However, we want to do it in a way that lets them know that we have faith in their basic goodness.
We can start of our admonishment by saying, “I know you didn’t mean too…you got glitter all over the carpet.”
“You usually don’t behave in this way…your teacher called about your behavior at school.
“I know this was probably a one time thing…however the rules of curfew need to be kept.”
Then we need gently direct them to find ways to make amends. We can say:
“The vaccum cleaner should take care of that. While you’re doing that, try to think of a few ways to help you remember to do your arts and crafts in the kitchen.”
“Your teacher was pretty upset. Can you think of anything that would help you be more respectful in class?”
“I need to know that curfew will be adhered to. Any ideas on how you this can be avoided in the future?”
This gentle approach helps them think about what they have done wrong, does not push them to defend their actions while letting them know that we believe they are capable of setting things right.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.