This week’s Parshat Lech Lecha we are introduced to our patriarch Avraham. One of my favorite Midrashim as a child—and even as an adult—is the story of how Avraham tried to prove to his father the fallacy of believing in idols.
Avraham’s father Terach sold idols. One day Avraham was tending his father’s shop and a woman came in with an offering of grain and placed it in front of one of the idols. She left the store and Avraham smashed all the idols in the shop. When his father came in he was horrified and asked Avraham to explain what happened. He told him, “A women came in with a grain offering, when I put it in front of one of the idols. The other idols began to argue and fight with one another. The biggest one got up and broke up all the smaller ones!” Terach was furious, “You know that idols cannot do this!” Avraham responded: “You need to listen to yourself. You know they have no power! Why are you worshipping idols?”
As an adult this Midrash has taken on new meaning for me. It shows so much about Avraham’s character. It’s no wonder that Avraham was the father of the Jewish nation. The qualities of Avraham that the Midrash highlights are the same qualities that the Jewish nation is known for today. Avraham was not willing to accept the status quo. He was not afraid to be different and stand up for what he believed in. He was willing to risk his life for what was right. He showed a healthy questioning of authority.
We have seen this again and again throughout Jewish history and, of course, in the past month with the new wave of terror that is hitting Israel. As Jews we espouse these characteristics and they have helped us stay strong.
So what does this have to do with parenting? There are many children who show these traits. They don’t accept the status quo, they are constantly questioning in order to make sense of the world around them and they are not afraid to be different. We describe them as “stubborn,” “defiant,” “bossy” and “domineering.” However, we want to stop using negative labels to describe these children’s behavior. We need to appreciate these qualities in our children. If we only focus on the negative, (even in a joking way) we give children an unhealthy picture of themselves. We want to find the positive in their behavior, because in essence, stubbornness, defiance and bossiness, have kernels of good and can be used in positive ways as we have seen in our own history as Jews.
As parents we can reinforce positive behavior in a “stubborn” child or any child labeled negatively. We can find a positive label, even a euphemism, i.e., “determined” or “committed” or “focused” in place of “stubborn.” This can change how we view a child, can have a positive impact behaviorally, and helps us appreciate their inner essence.
Here are some ways we can describe our children in a more positive light.
Bossy—a Future Leader
It might sound silly, but it is actually a more accurate and truthful depiction of their behavior. As Jewish parents, we want our Jewish children to tap into their courage, their leadership skills, their persistence and their charisma because we need them to. We need them to use the skills bequeathed to them by their forefather Avraham.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.