Kids and Parents: Lost in Translation

hero image
21 Oct 2014

parentingfiIn Parshat Noach, the Torah relates the story of Migdal Bavel. The sons of Noach decide to build a tower that will reach the heavens so they can defy G-d. As a punishment, G- d confuses their languages so that they cannot understand one another and they cannot work together. They need to go their separate ways.

This reminds me of all the times we as parents get confused by the language of our children. We often don’t understand what they are telling us. This causes a wedge between adults and children, it can separate us in untold ways. It would be better if we learned to translate what they say and understand that we often cannot take what children say at face value.

Haim Ginott in his book “Between Parent and Child” tells the following story that illustrates this point:


As we can see from this story, children really do speak another language. They use phrases that can frustrate us or even make us angry. But really they don’t have the verbal acuity to express their fears or their feelings.

When children say: “I hate you!”

They really mean: “I am so angry!”

When children say: “Why do I have to do everything around here?”

They might really mean: “I am too tired to clean up right now.”

When children say: “You love Sara more than me!”

They really mean: “I need some attention and reassurance that you love me too.”

Understanding the underlying messages behind a child’s words can go a long way in helping us defuse potential conflict, and connect with our children by understanding their true emotions. Hopefully, we can take lesson from Parshat Noach and do just that this Shabbos.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.