At the beginning of Sefirah (the counting between Pesach and Shavuot) last year, Cleveland’s LocalJewishNews.com posted an article reminding the community about the grave sin committed by great Torah scholars of this time. Rabbi Akiva’s students did not respect one another and, because of this, the Sefirah period became one of mourning.
LocalJewishNews.com asked that people refrain from ona’at devarim, causing pain with words. They went on to list some statements that would fit into this category from Rabbi Zelig Pliskin’s book, The Power of Words.
Some of the examples were:
“How many times have I told you?!”
“What do you think you are doing…?!”
It reminded me of how we can use this type of accusing language with children. We might say to our kids:
“How many times have I told you to put your laundry away?!”
“You never do your homework when I tell you!”
“You always leave your legos all over the floor!”
“What do you think you are doing?! You better get out of the street with your bicycle!”
In the book How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, the authors, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, suggest that we stop blaming and accusing our children. Kids find this type of language hurtful. It is also counterproductive. Children can’t improve their behavior because they are so focused on defending themselves. But is there a better way?
Yes. Instead of accusing, we can just give our kids information:
“The laundry goes in your drawer.”
“Your homework needs to be done by 7pm.”
“Legos belong in the toy chest.”
“5-year-old children ride their bikes on the sidewalk!”
These phrases can be repeated as needed.
But what if you slip up and find yourself accusing and blaming all over again? You can use this phrase, openly: “In this house we don’t accuse….” So even if you start off accusing you can turn yourself around.
It sounds something like this:
“How many times have I told you to put your laundry away!
Oh right, I forgot! In this house we don’t accuse, as it is a form of ona’at devarim…. The laundry goes in your drawer, Rachel.”
When you do this, you teach your kids so many great lessons. To name just a few:
- It’s okay to make mistakes; even parents do
- How to do teshuvah, repentance, instantly
- How to communicate effectively with others by not accusing
So what happens if you do all this…and then you hear your kids accusing you or others?
“Why didn’t you buy me the snack that I like?”
“She is so annoying, she always takes my toys and I don’t know where they are!”
You can say:
“You sound upset. Let’s not accuse though. You need to say, ‘Mommy can you write down on your list, Eli needs pretzel sticks!’”
“You sound angry at your sister. Let’s not accuse though. Can we think of a place to put your toys where she can’t reach?”
Let’s use this Sefirah period to speak respectfully to our kids. Talking respectfully to our kids is the first step in helping them learn how to speak respectfully to us and the other adults in their lives. It is a great way to bring peace into our homes and into our world.
Adina Soclof, MS. CCC-SLP, is a Parent Educator with Bellefaire Jewish Children’s Bureau in Cleveland, OH. View her online classes at www.parentingsimply.com.