Pesach is right around the corner. This is the time that we became the Jewish nation. We left Egypt, and we merited seeing great miracles: the Splitting of the Sea, the Manna, and receiving the Torah.
But it didn’t seem to stick. The Jewish people, who clearly saw G-d’s hand, could not shed their slave mentality and they sinned over and over again. They needed to wander for 40 years in the desert and the next generation would conquer the Land of Israel. They needed to learn how to be free men and so that they would have the wherewithal, the confidence, and the ability to do what they needed to do.
Sometimes I think of children and how they also need the time to develop into free and independent people. It takes time to build a mentsch, a person of integrity. We can become so focused on getting our kids to stop their bad behavior, the tantrums, the shirking of chores, the fighting with friends or siblings.
Instead, we need to look at these times as opportunities to shape our kids behavior. It takes a lot of these learning opportunities to shape our kids into the kind of people we would like them to be. Hopefully, it will only take our kids 18 years instead of the 40.
This is a more long-term approach to parenting which will hopefully help us keep calm when our kids exhibit all types of negative behaviors. We can then give them time to learn how to manage the negative feelings that overwhelmed them (the tantrums), how to be responsible for their time and their jobs (shirking of chores) and how to navigate familial and social relationships (fighting with siblings and friends).
How can we apply this long-term approach to parenting practically?
Instead of saying: “Will you stop it already? Why do you always have to cry about everything?!”
we can take a deep breathe and help them think of ways to manage the feelings that overwhelm them: “You seem really upset–I know you wanted the lollipop (gameboy, new shoes, etc.) When you are calm we can talk about some better ways to deal with not getting the things that you want.”
Instead of saying: “You are so irresponsible. You will be punished the next time you don’t do your job!”
we want to help them think of ways that they can be responsible: “What would be the best way for you to remember to take out the garbage?” or “How can we set up your room so your dirty laundry goes in the hamper?”
Fighting With Siblings or Friends:
Instead of saying: “Will you stop this fighting already! You guys are impossible!”
We can help them navigate their relationships: “Getting along with others can be tricky. Is there anything we can do here so that you guys can figure out how to get along?”
Parenting our kids to be independent mentsches does not happen overnight. It took the Jewish people 40 years to become an independent, mentsch-like nation. Hopefully it wont take us that long. But let’s help our kids through their growing pains, thoughtfully and with a long-term approach.
Adina Soclof, MS. CCC-SLP, works as a Parent Educator for Bellefaire Jewish Children’s Bureau facilitating How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk workshops as well as workshops based on Siblings Without Rivalry. Adina also runs parentingsimply.com.