My daughter’s name is Tova. She is named after my maternal Grandmother. She recently asked me, “If a person who doesn’t know Hebrew asks me my name, should I just say that my name is “Good?” I laughed at the time, but I also thought for a minute. It does sound a little strange that I named my child, literally, “Good.”
The more I thought about it, the more it made sense that Tova is a common Jewish name. (I also wasn’t going to change her name, so it sort of had to.) There are so many references in Judaism of the concept of goodness and recognizing good. At the beginning of time, G-d looks at His world each day and proclaims it good. Yocheved gives birth to Moses, and, “She saw that he was good” (Exodus 2:2). And in Grace After Meals, we use the word “good” many times.
Our Rabbis have always reinforced this concept that G-d is good, His ways are good, and His creations are good. It seems that we are supposed to constantly remind ourselves of this as a basic principle of Judaism.
So can we apply this concept of looking for the good when we parent? We often have a tendency to focus on our children’s negative behavior. We remember very clearly the times that they whine, leave their homework undone, and act poorly towards their siblings.
What if we could turn their behavior around by giving it a positive spin? What if we, in our kid’s worst moments, remind ourselves of our kids’ past “good” behavior and let them know that we believe in their intrinsic “goodness.”
So let’s say they are whining because they are tired–we want to remind them of the time that they were tired, but they were able to keep it together:
“I know you are tired and you are using your whiny voice. Remember the time that you were up late and you were still able to use your regular voice? Can you do that now? We just have a few more minutes before we get to the checkout counter and then we are going to go home.”
When they do not do their homework, we can remind them of the time that they did do their homework:
“Homework seems to be challenging for you right now. Remember when you were having a rough time with that math problem, but you persevered and figured it out? I have faith that you can do that again.”
When sibling rivalry rears its ugly head, you can show them that what they did in the end is what counts:
“I saw you raise your hand to smack him. I told you to stop and you did. You put your hand down. You remembered not to hit.”
Can this really work? I think so. The times that I have been able to do this, I have been very pleased with the results. I know that I have been able to turn potentially ugly and harmful interactions into some really positive relationship-building moments.
The Jewish way of “looking for the good” has the potential to be a life-changer when we parent. And I have a constant reminder of this Jewish concept: I just have to call my daughter, “Hey, Tova….”
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.