Trust in Parenting

This morning I had an unexpected conversation with my youngest child’s physical therapist. The therapist told me that my son has had such disappointing progress during this school year, that he is recommending he be transferred from his inclusive program to an intensive therapeutic program for the coming year.

The program he recommended is one I had previously dismissed as unsuitable for my child for a number of reasons. Children who participate in this program have limitations that my son doesn’t have and this doesn’t seem appropriate for his needs. And yet, for now this seems to be the only option.

Right away frustration and worry started swirling around my mind: lots of paperwork will need to be filed, evaluations will have to be conducted, who do I need to speak to, when can I visit this recommended institution, and how is my son going to be successful in such a dramatically different framework?

I’m no stranger to emotionally gnashing my teeth over situations like these. Over my years as a parent, I’ve often had concerns arose over some issue or another involving one of my children. With time, I’ve recognized that I have two choices: to get caught up in anxiety and worry, or to press the mental ‘pause’ button, and replace the anxiety with a feeling of trust that everything is going to work out for the highest good for all involved.

Rather than mentally churn about the pressure, the time constraints, the paperwork and most of all, my deep disappointment at how poorly served my son has been in his current framework, I had to take a deep breath and take a long-term view of this issue. Is this going to limit my son’s future forever? No. Is this going to define him as a human being? No. Is this going to prevent him from getting the help he needs? No.

As the fears flowed out, they were replaced with a sense of confidence and trust in the long-term outcome. I started feeling optimistic that new opportunities and support would manifest from what had seemed depressing and constraining just a short time before. I don’t know how the specifics will play out, but I can now look at the decision in front of me with trust rather than anxiety.

The well-known adage “Seeing is believing” isn’t really true. If you can see something in front of you, you don’t need to exercise any belief.

Believing is what you do when you can’t see something in front of you, when something doesn’t yet exist, when the facts in front of you indicate one conclusion and you have to imagine a different outcome.

The Jewish perspective toward parenting is better expressed by “Believe it and then you’ll see it.”

How do you develop trust and what is it you’re meant to believe?

Trust can seem vague and murky, slippery and hard to hold onto. For me, trust rests on three basic core concepts: 1) everything that happens comes from God; 2) everything that happens is for my benefit; 3) God loves me more than I can imagine and wants me to experience good.

As parents, it’s so easy to get stuck in the day-to-day behaviors. My son is depressed, my daughter is disrespectful, he is hanging out with friends that I don’t like, she isn’t acting as she should. When you see the behaviors, it feels intense and you want to do whatever you can to change the situation fast.

But before you rush to do something, pause.

Don’t rush to act. Slow down and take a deep breath. Whatever the specifics of the parenting dilemma you’re facing right now, those problems and the actions you take to mediate the issue are just a small part of the solution.

The bigger part of the solution is how to respond to what you don’t see. This is where trust comes in, and this is the hardest part of parenting.

When you take action, you feel like you’re doing something. You’re making changes, you’re showing you care. And yet there’s an important, critical step that has to take place before all of that problem solving.

Trust.

When you can look beyond the current situation or difficulty with your children and know with absolute confidence that o-d is there to help you and your child is going to be fine, it changes the way you react in the moment.

It changes the attitude you have toward your child. It changes the actions you take, and the emotions you feel when you take those actions.

It shifts you from a place of fear to serenity and inner calm.

And perhaps most importantly, your belief in the positive resolution of your challenge actively and powerfully impacts the outcome. Your trust is not only a thought, but actively brings God into the picture and activates His assistance on your behalf. Trust is an action in its own right.

Years ago one of my children was struggling with an issue. A big one. There was plenty to be worried about and the long-term image that kept coming to mind was very disturbing. I just couldn’t picture her overcoming this challenge, and that concerned me more than anything. I knew that if I couldn’t visualize this situation being successfully surmounted, I was losing the most powerful tool in my arsenal, my unspoken belief.

During that time, I repeatedly filled my mind with positive feelings about my daughter’s future and every time the fear and negativity started to creep in, I would refocus on my those hopeful thoughts. The more I did this, the more I began to feel confident she could and would rise beyond this challenging period in her life.

Years later, I asked my daughter how did she not only get out of a place of darkness that many get stuck in, but came out growing and glowing?

Her answer brought me to tears: “It was because I always knew you and Daddy believed in me.”

That’s the power of belief. That’s the power of trusting in your child’s positive future possibilities, rather than getting stuck in the current temporary mess.

As a parenting consultant, parents often ask me what to do with a child who is struggling. My first message, prior to taking any specifics action steps, is to imagine him successfully on the other side of the current issue. The existing problem seems so big, and it’s so hard to imagine getting past it. That’s the challenge. But the potential reality lies in your imagination of what can be.

Know that for every single challenge you and your child are facing, there is a hopeful outcome waiting on the other side. Trust that this challenge has been custom designed for you by God, and that He wants you to experience joy and happiness as it is settled. You don’t have to see how the challenge is going to be work out, but you do have to believe that it can and will conclude positively.

Once you have the clarity and confidence that a desirable outcome is likely, then the actions you take to support your child will be productive and beneficial.

Top 10 Parenting Mistakes

 

Parenting is a doozy of an emotional workout, chock-full of highs and lows, joys and despairs. Children give you the chance to keep evolving and developing as an individual. Growing with your kids won’t just make you a better parent – it will make you a better human being.

So let’s count down parenting mistakes that every parent is bound to make:

10. Micromanaging

Micromanagers are dedicated and hardworking people; they love their kids and want them to succeed. The problem is that they do too much for them. As a result, their kids remain dependent on their parents and have great difficulty standing on their own; they have trouble self-governing, they lack drive and motivation, and, despite their intelligence, they’re emotionally immature. Instead of micromanaging, give your kid the tools to be self-reliant and independent. The more your kids can succeed without you lording over them, the more drive they’ll have to succeed on their own.

9. Enabling

A parent’s actions are usually well-intended, but enabling is one of the most disastrous parenting tendencies. When parents pander to their kids’ every need, their kids fair poorly in relationships; they expect everyone else to cater to them. They shrink from challenges and avoid hard work, yet maintain a sense of entitlement. Emotionally, they suffer from a bizarre mix of low self-esteem and arrogance. To sidestep the trap of enabling, strive to engender personal responsibility in your kids; encourage them to achieve on their own. Stop enabling – and star empowering.

8. Bad Modeling

A parent’s first and foremost job is to be a good role model. Yet, there are many parents whose misbehaviors serve as poor examples for their children. Parents who erupt in rages, blame others, tell untruths, or play the victim are subconsciously training their kids to do the same. Blaming your kids for the behaviors and bad habits you taught them is like blaming the mirror for your reflection. Behave the way you want your kids to behave. Be the person you want your kid to be. Above all, before you fault your kids for their conduct, consider amending your own.

7. Bullying

Bullying parents tend to be control freaks. Rather than understand their kids, they overwhelm them with orders, directives, threats of violence, or actual violence. They aim to shape and define their kids by intimidating them, rather than letting their kids unearth their own individuality. Sadly, children of bullying parents suffer low self-esteem and anxiety problems; they have difficulty trusting others. Bullying parents may get their way, but their kids suffer mightily for it.

6. Inconsistency

Inconsistent parenting drives kids nuts. Parents who change their minds often, don’t take a stand, and have difficulty making decisions or providing strong leadership are very likely to produce emotionally volatile children. These children emerge with unstable cores and weak identities. They have trouble defining themselves, and often develop oppositional and defiant behaviors to camouflage their insecurities. Providing a stable and consistent home may not always be possible, but providing stable and consistent parenting is always within reach.

5. Criticism and Comparison

No one enjoys criticisms or comparisons. Yet many parents compulsively criticize and compare their children daily: “Why can’t you be more like _____?” or “Why are you so _____?” This is a surefire way to impair your kids’ esteem and damage their fragile egos. Children who are criticized grow up to think of themselves as outsiders and underachievers. They don’t celebrate their strengths, because they were never taught to do so, a direct result of having internalized their parents’ negative voices. It only takes a thoughtless moment to hurt your kids with criticism or comparisons – but it can take a lifetime for them to recover.

4. Poor Structure, Limits, and Boundaries

Providing balanced structure, limits and boundaries is essential to good parenting. What exactly are structure, limits and boundaries? Here’s the breakdown: Structure means consistent schedules and routines; limits means curbing destructive or risky behaviors by engendering good judgment; and boundaries mean honoring and respecting the physical and emotional space between people. Some parents are too strict with limits; some don’t provide enough structure or boundaries. Strive to find the right balance for your children, and they will be better prepared for relationships, jobs, and the world outside your door.

3. Neglect

Parents don’t set out to neglect their kids, but many do. Adults get absorbed in their work, delegate parenting responsibilities to eldest children or grandparents, miss important events in their kids’ lives, or worst of all, they become terrible listeners – all forms of emotional neglect that undermine a child’s healthy sense of self. Emotionally neglected kids always suffer mood and behavioral problems. The simple act of listening to your kid has a healing effect that remedies many parenting dilemmas. Children who feel understood by their parents don’t act out for attention and are less likely to engage in destructive behavior. Spend quality time listening, understanding and identifying with your kids. It doesn’t cost you anything, and it will save you a fortune in therapy bills in the future.

2. Disregarding Learning Problems

Many academic and behavioral problems are the direct result of undiagnosed learning difficulties. Impatient parents, who are too quick to label kids lazy, unmotivated and apathetic about school often fail to consider what might really be triggering their kids’ attitudes toward learning. Even exceptionally smart kids suffer from difficulties with processing speed, executive functioning, and sensory and memory deficiencies. These under-the-radar complications often don’t emerge until middle school or high school. Such difficulties make learning a painful and exhausting experience. So save your money; psychotherapy isn’t going to help solve these problems in the least. If your kid has even the slightest difficulty with learning, an educational evaluation is the first step to finding a solution.

1. Invalidating Feelings

When your children reveal their feelings and insecurities to you, don’t contradict them, correct them, offer unsolicited advice, or use it as an opportunity to lecture about your experiences. Remember, they are taking a risk in doing so; therefore; you sensitivity is imperative. Kids want to feel understood; they want to feel validated by their parents. Many symptoms of hyperactivity, defiance, and mood problems are generated in children of parents who invalidate their feelings.

Parenting is a full-time job without training or supervision. Everyone is certain to make mistakes, especially during those chaotic first years. But no need to fret; parenting is an evolutionary process. You grow into it day by day, year after year. Strive to learn from your mistakes and improve; your parental journey will be far less hindered by self-doubt and worries, and far more joyful for you and your kids.

by Sean Grover, LCSW

New children’s book launches with Israeli mission to moon

SpaceIL wants to inspire kids to dream big and learn about space exploration with this tale based on its upcoming lunar mission.

Israeli nonprofit organization SpaceIL is launching Israel’s first unmanned aircraft to the moon in early 2019, and is using the occasion to inspire children on Planet Earth.

The Little Spacecraft tells the story of Berrie, a toy spacecraft based on SpaceIL’s real spacecraft, Beresheet (Genesis).

Berrie dreams of going to the moon, but the other toys believe she is too small for such a big dream. Berrie explains to her friends how each of her special tools is designed to help her accomplish her mission.

 

The story is of course analogous to SpaceIL’s mission of achieving an Israeli lunar landing, an endeavor historically carried out only by the world’s superpowers. Should SpaceIL’s mission prove successful, Israel will join the big league of space exploration.

Set to take off from Cape Canaveral in Florida in the first quarter of 2019, Beresheet should reach the moon at the end of a two-month journey.

SpaceIL was established in 2011 by three young engineers who decided to take part in the Google Lunar XPRIZE challenge to build, launch and land an unmanned spacecraft on the Moon. Although the competition was aborted in March 2018, SpaceIL decided to see through its mission anyway.

One of the organization’s goals is to inspire the next generation to become interested in aerospace engineering and space exploration.

To this end, SpaceIL teamed up with Israeli multimedia company StellarNova, which produces toys, books, videos and science experiments to encourage children to get involved in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

 

SpaceIL’s VP Education Sari Brosh Rechav said The Little Spacecraft aims to inspire children to think differently about the STEM subjects and to nurture their dreams.

Written by StellarNova cofounder “Dr. Mom,” The Little Spacecraft is available in all major online bookstores including Amazon. Other resources for children are available here.

About the Author:

Naama Barak is a writer at ISRAEL21c. A PhD student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, she loves all things history and politics. Food and fashion come a close second. Prior to joining ISRAEL21c, Naama worked for Israel’s leading English-language dailies and cutting-edge startups.

Israeli mom’s school program raises future entrepreneurs

Serial entrepreneur Galit Zamler’s K-12 curriculum instills business skills along with independent and positive thinking, perseverance and teamwork.

You don’t need straight-As to be successful in life – just ask high-school or college dropouts like Bill Gates (Microsoft) or Sir Richard Branson (Virgin Group). And you don’t need to come from a wealthy family – just ask Oprah Winfrey or Ralph Lauren.

But you do need to learn some business basics, and in Israel there’s an enrichment program called Entrepreneurship for Kids (EFK), approved by the Ministry of Education, for starting this process as early as kindergarten.

Developed by Israeli serial entrepreneur and mother of four Galit Zamler, EFK offers a curriculum introducing younger children to entrepreneurial skills in a fun fashion, while finding and fostering each child’s personal strengths.

For older grades, EFK offers ready-to-teach modules on different aspects of entrepreneurship leading to group projects conceived and developed by the kids for presentation at a year-end fair.

Under the guidance of teachers trained by Zamler, pupils in participating schools go through the same process that adults do in business accelerators: identifying needs and opportunities, defining a target audience, writing a business and marketing plan, and creating and pitching a proof of concept.

One third-grader named Yair had the idea of an adjustable t-shirt inspired by the sci-fi movie Back to the Future, where the hero pushed a button enabling him to enlarge or shrink his clothing.

Yair’s EFK group went to visit Israeli fashion designer Rotem Eyal – who had spoken to them during Global Entrepreneurship Week – to learn about the business side of fashion, and worked with a student’s mother, a bridal studio owner, to sew a prototype.

A fifth-grade EFK participant, Itai, learned to look at his classmates as potential customers to be dazzled, honing his public-speaking skills to the point where in ninth grade he launched a YouTube channel that now has over a million views.

Polished presentation doesn’t come easily to many children. Zamler recalls one seventh-grader too shy to talk about her startup idea to her peers. But later in the year, she was the one to volunteer to explain the class business project to a delegation of educators visiting from a developing country.

Sponsored by Israel’s MASHAV Agency for International Development Cooperation, such delegations come to see EFK in action twice a year. Two additional school systems from developing countries that found EFK online are trying to raise money to buy the program, says Zamler.

EFK also has been adopted by the Hebrew Academy in Miami Beach, and a company from Hong Kong franchised EFK from Zamler.

“They’re starting to teach the program this school year in Hong Kong and China,” she says. “They admire Israel as a startup nation and want to learn from us.”

From volunteer job to full-time career

This year during Global Entrepreneurship Week (November 12-18), about 14 schools in the EFK program will hear guest entrepreneurs talk about their challenges, difficulties and successes, “so the children will understand it doesn’t happen in a minute,” says Zamler.

Starting EFK didn’t happen in a minute either.

Its history dates back to 2009, when Zamler’s son’s grade-school principal in Ramat Gan wanted to launch an afterschool entrepreneurship club 10 years ago. But the educational service she consulted wanted to charge a steep price and accept only outstanding students.

“I wanted to reach many more kids, especially those whose parents are not aware of the benefits of this kind of activity and cannot afford high fees,” says Zamler, who has a master’s of business administration.However, the club didn’t survive the arrival of a new principal the following year. So Zamler tried running it at the local community center, only to find that those who signed up were exclusively boys from well-off families.“I went to the principal and explained that I was an entrepreneur and I was willing to run the course voluntarily,” says Zamler. And she did, to great acclaim by kids and parents.

She realized she needed to bring the program back to schools. “I did it for six years voluntarily because I really believe in this,” Zamler tells ISRAEL21c.

Until late 2014, she made time for EFK alongside her work with her husband in launching a series of startups – two of which (Ada2C++ and Live Dist) achieved success.

Just before the 2014 Global Entrepreneurship Week in November, a principal in Herzliya contacted Zamler about starting an EFK program.

When Zamler said she was too overwhelmed with existing sites, the principal persuaded Zamler to stop volunteering and make a new career out of inspiring the next generation of Israeli entrepreneurs.

Zamler no longer leads EFK clubs personally. She develops lesson plans containing activities, questions and videos, and trains teachers chosen by each participating school to run the sessions.

“When teachers are being trained in entrepreneurship, they also acquire skills that are important to everyone today in a rapidly changing world,” Zamler points out.

“It’s not just about business and money. Education for entrepreneurship fosters independent and positive thinking, identifying opportunities, having faith in yourself and your abilities, defining goals and objectives and persevering until they’re achieved, taking responsibility, and developing creativity, teamwork and interpersonal skills.

“In addition, the process of entrepreneurship studies helps teachers identify the potential of each student, even in those who are not outstanding at school.”

About the Author:

Abigail Klein Leichman is a writer and associate editor at ISRAEL21c. Prior to moving to Israel in 2007, she was a specialty writer and copy editor at a major daily newspaper in New Jersey and has freelanced for a variety of newspapers and periodicals since 1984.

Cooking with Kids

Fun and easy, for the entire family.


Marshmallow Pops

This is a fun snack for kids and a cute party activity. It’s also messy and allows kids to be creative. It requires adult assistance.

24 large marshmallows
24 wooden skewers
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted
½ cup multicolored sprinkles
½ cup chocolate sprinkles
½ cup chopped peanuts
½ cup coconut
½ cup mini white chocolate chips
wherever your imagination takes you…

Thread one marshmallow onto each skewer. Place on baking sheet and freeze until firm – 10 to 15 minutes. (For marshmallow “kebabs”, place up to 4 marshmallows on the skewer). Coat each marshmallow with the melted chocolate, spreading evenly. Sprinkle desire coating over one side of each marshmallow (I advise keeping wax paper underneath as you do this unless you are a glutton for punishment!) and refreeze, plain chocolate side down. Marshmallows are ready to eat after 30 minutes

Yogurt Parfaits

These don’t actually require any cooking but they do get the kids involved. Yogurt parfaits are all the rage – they can be a dessert treat using frozen yogurt or a healthy breakfast using the regular kind. The amounts are up to you (or your kids!)

yogurt, plain or vanilla
granola or other crunchy cereal (we like Honey Bunch O’ Oats)
fresh fruit – cut up peaches, strawberries, blueberries, bananas, depending on your preference
indulgent options – chocolate chips, coconut, peanuts, m&m’s, oreo cookie crumbs

In tall glasses (or parfait cups), layer yogurt then a topping, yogurt then a topping, yogurt then a topping. It looks too good to eat. This can also be fun at a party.

Pizza

And for the more industrious and slightly older children, what is better than pizza? Everyone loves pizza, kids especially. I think my son would eat it every night if I would allow it. Here is a basic recipe that older kids can make themselves. All ages can participate in spreading the sauce and sprinkling on the toppings.

For 2 large pizzas:

2 cups warm water
2 rounded teaspoons dry yeast
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
6 cups flour
corn meal

In a large bowl, proof yeast in water. You will see it bubble up – this is fun for everyone to watch. Whisk in olive oil and salt. Stir in flour, 2 cups at a time until dough is no longer sticky. Knead until smooth – 5 minutes at the most. Drizzle olive oil around bowl. Roll dough in oil until coated. Cover bowl with a towel and let rise until doubled – about 1 hour. Divide dough in half and roll into balls. Cover and let rise for another 15 minutes. Sprinkle cornmeal over bottom of pizza pans. Shape dough to fit pans – stretch and flip and pretend you’re an Italian chef. (Or just put it on a lightly flour surface and keep pushing it out) Now you are ready to put on the toppings. We like a sauce-less pizza with feta cheese and mozzarella. Or cover with pizza sauce, then mozzarella cheese (or pizza cheese) and the toppings of your choice. We have a lot of fans of plain here. I like it with olives, black and green. I also like the vegetarian pepperoni. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes until cheese is browned and bubbly.

About the Author :Emuna Braverman

Please check out Emuna’s new book A Diamond for Your Daughter – A Parent’s Guide to Navigating Shidduchim Effectively, available through Judaica Press

Emuna Braverman has a law degree from the University of Toronto and a Masters in in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis on Marriage and Family Therapy from Pepperdine University. She lives with her husband and nine children in Los Angeles where they both work for Aish HaTorah. When she isn”t writing for the Internet or taking care of her family, Emuna teaches classes on Judaism, organizes gourmet kosher cooking groups and hosts many Shabbos guests.

The Israeli high-school kids earning high-tech salaries

Cyber-ed program gives youth from peripheral areas training for well-paying positions at major companies even before they enter the army.

Binyamin Houri, 17, from the southern working-class city of Netivot, skipped a grade and now works at Dynamic Yield as a programmer while his peers finish high school. Yotam Salomon, 17, from Kiryat Ata in the Haifa district, has been working during school holidays and in his spare time for the past three years developing software for 3D printers at a local startup.

“I never felt like a child who is being told what to do – what I think and say always matters. I am treated just like any other worker,” says Yotam, who completed his matriculation exams in math, English and computer science ahead of schedule.

Binyamin and Yotam are graduates of a national cyber-education program, Magshimim, operated by the Cyber Education Center of the Rashi Foundation to train youth from Israeli periphery regions as cyber-tech professionals.

The program helps them train for fruitful careers and also addresses Israel’s growing dearth of qualified high-tech workers.

Among Magshimim’s 234 graduates last year, 61 worked in high-tech companies even before starting their military service after high school.

Fifteen Magshimim grads work part time at Rafael Advanced Defense Systems in information security, cybersecurity operations centers, programming and QA testing.

Other teens are employed at Aqua Security, CyActive, Check Point Software Technologies, Deutsche Telekom, VIA, Hysolate and additional high-tech firms.

Their average hourly salary is ₪50 (about $14), nearly twice the Israeli minimum hourly wage of ₪28.50 and 2.5 times what their peers make in various odd jobs. When they work full time – for example, during the summer or before drafting into the military – they earn an average ₪10,000 per month, about the same as the average Israeli adult.

According to Magshimim data, 92 percent of the placements last year were at the companies’ initiative, based mostly on recommendations and “bring a friend.” Since the beginning of this year, there has been at least one inquiry per week about recruiting youth from the program.

“The collaboration with the companies represents a win-win situation – the students get a chance to gain valuable experience in high-tech and cyber-tech fields, while the companies benefit from the addition of excellent and energetic young people to their workforce,” said Sagi Bar, director of the Cyber Education Center. “This connection also creates social value, through the increased representation of the periphery in the high-tech industry.”

On February 22, Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon, National Cyber Bureau Chief Yigal Unna, and former Chief of Staff and Rashi Foundation Chairman Gabi Ashkenazi came to the Magshimim Ultimate Challenge event in Ra’anana celebrating 1,000 graduates since the program was founded in 2010.

Magshimim was established in partnership with the Ministry of Defense in an effort to increase the representation of young people from the periphery in the cyber and Intelligence units of the IDF and in the high-tech industry. The program also has the support of the Prime Minister’s Office, the National Lottery Fund, and the Adelis, Daniel and Davidson Foundations.

About the Author:

Abigail Klein Leichman is a writer and associate editor at ISRAEL21c. Prior to moving to Israel in 2007, she was a specialty writer and copy editor at a major daily newspaper in New Jersey and has freelanced for a variety of newspapers and periodicals since 1984.

More Kids, Less Stress?

On being a “good enough” mother.

A recent article on Today.com suggests that raising three children is the most stressful, but after that, with any additional children it actually gets easier. I don’t know who they interviewed but it certainly wasn’t me! How could it possibly be less stressful? Instead of three people that you wish to shape and nudge and help grow and control your anxiety about, there are now more! More people whose lives seem dependent on you and whose present and future happiness is to important to you that it keeps you awake at night.

Less stress? I don’t think so.

What is possible, though, is that there are certain neuroses that we let go. It is impossible (certainly without paid help) to have the house be perfectly neat when you have a large family, although why the parent quoted in the column offers “with her fourth child she didn’t bother with things like obsessively covering all the outlets with safety plugs” as an example of an area to be more relaxed about is beyond me. Perhaps obsessive sterilizing and organizing and a full schedule of Mommy and Me classes could, however, go by the wayside.

Perhaps, with more children, parents set more realistic limits – for themselves and for their offspring. One mother cited in the piece allowed her children to sign up for one sport only, a sport that did not have an intense travel schedule. Now that’s a mother with some sense of self-preservation!

The psychologist, Donald Winnicott, is famous for having coined the term, “good enough” mother. Parents of larger families perhaps set that more achievable goal for themselves.

But it’s still not easier (how can 4 or 7 or 9 possibly be easier than 2?) or less stressful. Those of us blessed with larger families, I think, have instead made a decision, actually two decisions. The first is that the stress is worth it. Jobs are stressful, relationships are stressful, anything worth doing involves stress. Accepting stress and coping with stress are facts of life. And, like many other challenges, I believe, they are affected by our expectations.

One thing that all parents have in common is exhaustion, a constant state of fatigue. We are just always tired. I have found that if I count the number of hours of sleep I got, if I feel I “need” more of “should have” more, I will always be frustrated (and sometimes resentful). But, if I accept that this is the price of living a full life, if I don’t expect to always be fresh and sharp (to ever be fresh and sharp!), then I’m okay.

I’m always quoting my favorite old kick boxing ad, “You’ll rest when you’re dead.”

I think the same attitude applies to stress. If we imagine that our lives should be stress-free, that our children should pose no challenges to us, that in other homes they are perfectly behaved and everything is working out magically for them, we will be very stressed – and frustrated as well. But if we just accept some level of stress as a reality in our lives – and the lives of everyone we know – then perhaps we can make peace with it.

We need to let go of any expectation that “it’s not supposed to be like this.” Yes, it is.

The second decision is one that should have been made at the beginning of the parenting journey but hits home more with the third child. With two children, we fool ourselves that we are in charge. With three we realize that we are outnumbered.

This is the moment, if you haven’t already, to turn to the Almighty and say “I can’t do this alone; I need your help.” Of course, we always needed His help, it’s just brought home to us much more clearly now. And, of course, this is also the only strategy that can possibly ease our stress. It’s not in our hands. He’s running the show. Big exhale.

Constantly recognizing this is also a challenge but we can try. This is the best coping tool of all. And it’s got the added benefit of being true.

It’s a lifetime’s work. Sometimes I’m calm; sometimes I’m over the edge. Sometimes I’m frustrated; sometimes I’ve made peace with the situation. Sometimes I give it over to the Almighty; sometimes I rail against my inability to effect change. We just have to stay in the game.

And when times get really tough, and it all seems too overwhelming, and my favorite kick boxing slogan just doesn’t do it, I turn to my favorite prayer:

“I am ready to fulfill the mitzvah of trusting in God, and of casting my load on Him. Master of the Universe, I am casting upon You my burden which is that I need….Help me to acquire/achieve it/bring it about, and as of now I remove this burden from myself. I no longer have any worry over it since I trust in You.”

About the Author: Emuna Braverman

Please check out Emuna’s new book A Diamond for Your Daughter – A Parent’s Guide to Navigating Shidduchim Effectively, available through Judaica Press

Emuna Braverman has a law degree from the University of Toronto and a Masters in in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis on Marriage and Family Therapy from Pepperdine University. She lives with her husband and nine children in Los Angeles where they both work for Aish HaTorah. When she isn”t writing for the Internet or taking care of her family, Emuna teaches classes on Judaism, organizes gourmet kosher cooking groups and hosts many Shabbos guests.

Telling Kids What to Do

Are parents afraid to teach their young kids values and proper behavior in a clear, unambiguous manner?

In “The Wrong Way to Speak to Children” (WSJ), Jennifer Lehr suggests that the way most of us address our young children is, for lack of a better word, wrong. Her theory is that most of our conversation is about control – “We use it to tell our kids what we want them say (“Say sorry!”); how we want them to feel (“You’re okay!”); what we want them to do (Behave yourself!”); and what will happen if they don’t (“Do you want a timeout?”) – and compliance.

Just as an aside, she seems to allege that most of speak with a lot of vehemence and emotion; hence her constant use of exclamation marks!!

She then cites what was in her mind a painful story that led to her epiphany in parenting theory – and, of course, a new book.

It was at the end of a play date and she asked her for-year-old daughter, Jules, to thank the other mom for having her over. After a little prodding and encouragement Jules mumbled a thank you. I’m sure we are all familiar with such a situation and response. What is new is Ms Lehr’s reaction: “My heart sank. My sparkling daughter seemed so kowtowed. It was like I was a ventriloquist and Jules, my dummy.” (I don’t mean to seem judgmental but the author seems prone to extreme emotional reactions to fairly mild situations!)

If Jennifer Lehr was dealing with teenagers then I would probably agree with her that control and compliance are not the best strategies or goals.

But she’s talking about four year olds. Four year olds are not just short adults. They’re children! (My turn to use exclamation marks!) They aren’t mature enough to deduce solely from our behavior how to act. And they aren’t disciplined enough or motivated enough to act on this information even if they have superior powers of deduction. Four year olds need their parents to tell them what to do and when to do it. And to ensure that they follow through.

This is the job of parents of four year olds, a job we can’t abdicate despite Ms. Lehr’s innovative theory and writings. I confess that I don’t really understand why Ms. Lehr’s “sparkling daughter seemed so kowtowed” by the simple request to say thank you. It doesn’t seem that onerous or demanding. Is Ms. Lehr just seeing what she wants to see? Is she projecting? Is she making a mountain out of a molehill?

Hard to say but even if the author is correct and her daughter was subdued by the admonition to express gratitude, so what? Maybe she didn’t like being told what to do. Maybe she was resentful. Maybe she didn’t want to do it. But expressing gratitude and appreciation is a basic positive character trait that parents need to instill in their children, whether they resist it or not, whether they sparkle with excitement at the discovery or not.

It is our responsibility to teach the lesson of gratitude in a clear and unambiguous way. A four year old may not be thrilled in the moment but she’s being shaped into a polite, appreciative adult. Parents need to look to the future and not get too caught up in a child’s fleeting reaction.

Ms. Lehr rails against the idea of this “parentspeak” but none of us would probably be who we are today without it. And I venture to say that the world would be full of a lot more spoiled brats.

I think the world needs a lot more expressions of gratitude, not less, from people of all ages – even if it’s not always expressed with superlatives and enthusiasm.

About the Author: Emuna Braverman

Please check out Emuna’s new book A Diamond for Your Daughter – A Parent’s Guide to Navigating Shidduchim Effectively, available through Judaica Press

Emuna Braverman has a law degree from the University of Toronto and a Masters in in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis on Marriage and Family Therapy from Pepperdine University. She lives with her husband and nine children in Los Angeles where they both work for Aish HaTorah. When she isn”t writing for the Internet or taking care of her family, Emuna teaches classes on Judaism, organizes gourmet kosher cooking groups and hosts many Shabbos guests.

The Four Temperaments of Children

And how to motivate your child based on their personality

“Too often parents interpret a child’s behavior as rebelliousness, when in fact she is just being true to her nature…One of the most generous gifts you can give your child is to study her temperament and once you’ve learned it, work to accept it.” Wendy Mogel, Blessing of a Skinned Knee

There are so many ways we can describe our children’s personality and temperament: fun loving, a people person, intense, shy, a book worm. A person’s personality is defined as the totality of somebody’s, attitudes, behavioral patterns, emotional responses, social roles and other individual traits that are innate, predisposed and endure over a long period of time.

Temperament is a preferred, most natural style of how we respond to the world.

I am always hesitant to label children, however understanding a child’s personality and temperament can only be a plus. Differences in personality and temperament impact a child’s behavior in myriads of ways. Take the ‘slow to warm up’ child. That child is not being rude when he refuses to kiss the out of town relatives; he just needs a bit of time to get used to them.

When we understand our child’s personality and temperament, we can better communicate with them and understand them in deeper ways. We can then try to accommodate their unique and individual needs. It will make both our lives easier.

So when we are dealing with a ‘slow to warm up’ child, instead of getting frustrated and annoyed with them, we will understand that they need time to get used to new situations. Then we will more likely to prepare them beforehand, stay close by until they feel comfortable and reassure them, “Right now you don’t feel comfortable, but in a few minutes you will.”

Gretchen Rubin, in her book, “The Four Tendencies” takes this idea even further. She created a framework that describes how people respond to inner and outer expectations.

There are: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers and Rebels. She contends that your tendency shapes every aspect of your behavior. If you understand your tendency then you will be able to make better decisions, work more effectively reduce your stress and most important create good habits and follow through on your goals. Knowing your tendency helps you understand why you act on your goals and why you may not on your goals.

  1. Upholders meet inner and outer expectations. They love rules, having a clear plan and are self-motivated and disciplined. Clearly tell them what needs to be done and they’ll lead the way.
  2. Questioners meet their own expectations but resist outer ones. They need to see purpose and reason in anything they do. Make it clear why what you want from them is important.
  3. Obligers meet other people’s expectations easily but struggle with their own. They must be held accountable by a friend, coach or boss to get things done. They thrive when they have a sense of duty and can work in a team.
  4. Rebels defy both outer and inner expectations. Above all, they want to be free to choose and express their own individuality. Give them the facts, present the task as a challenge and let them decide without pressure.

This information is important for parents to know. So much of what we do as parents involves how to motivate children, (i.e. get them out of bed in the morning, get them to do their chores) discipline them (deliver consequences when they don’t follow through) and help them develop and follow through on their goals (pick a topic for their history project, choose a summer camp or college). Understanding how children respond to expectations, whether they are an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger or Rebel, can be invaluable. Rubin suggests that parenting strategies should take into consideration a child’s tendency or it should, “talk to” the tendency’s values.

Here is how this can work:

Upholders

If your child is an upholder, he/she will be pretty easy to raise. Teachers love upholders too. They are self-motivated and want to meet expectations. They are generally responsible about their homework and chores around the house and have all their school supplies on hand and are on time.  However, they would not be called laid back or spontaneous and can be inflexible. They cannot handle changes in plans, transitions, and dealing with situations when the rules are unclear.

Rubin encourages parents of Upholders, when up against their child’s iron clad following of rules, to explain, “Your teacher expects you to read for 30 minutes a night, but because we went to visit Grandma, it will be bedtime by the time we get home. A good night’s sleep will make you alert for school tomorrow and that’s more important than reading tonight.”

With Upholders “Those arguments will work better than…’You deserve it’, ‘The teacher won’t know you skipped one day.’”

Questioners:

Questioners are the children who are constantly asking for explanations of why they have to do what they are doing. They are often rebuked for being disrespectful. They are often accused of challenging authority, when really they are intensely curious. They will only do things if it makes sense to them. They need logical reasons to comply to any demands made of them. “Setting the table now helps dinner run smoothly. Everyone will have the utensils they need and we can sit comfortably and enjoy dinner.”

Most kids do not respond well to the typical parenting answers of “Because I say so,” “We’ve always done it this way,” “This what you have to do” or “These are the rules.” However, Questioners (and rebels) have a particularly difficult time with these types of phrases.

Many teachers appreciate Questioners because they keep class discussions going, but they also feel that they slow down the class with their constant queries and may also feel that they are being disrespectful.

Rubin points out that “Questioners can have a hard time in school because they resist doing mundane academic tasks that don’t make sense to them. It is helpful if … parents can give thoughtful justifications for why they have to complete assignments. If a questioner student asks, ‘Why do I need to know about ancient Mesopaotamia? This will never be of any use to me!’ a teacher might respond unhelpfully, ‘This is what we’re studying now, so get with the program,” or helpfully, ‘You’re learning about Mesopotamia true, but this assignment is teaching you much more. You’re learning how to analyze complex material quickly, how to pull essential ideas out of a text, how to take notes efficiently, and how to explain ideas in your own words. There are important skills that will serve you well.’”

Obligers:

Obliger children are generally easy because they like to please the adults in their lives. However, they do need external measures of accountability. Parents need to help them find systems outside of themselves that will help them enforce expectations. They have a hard time doing homework, practicing the piano or getting their chores done if someone is not holding them accountable.

Although it can be frustrating for parents, these children need gentle reminders. Incentive charts work well for these children. Positive reinforcement is a must: “That was a big help to me when you cleaned up all the toys in the family room.”

Obliger children will do well with sports metaphors: “Team Cohen is getting ready for our road trip. Let’s get the bags in the car!” “Our family works together. We are a great team!”

It is important to make sure that Obliger children don’t work too hard to please others. They are easily overwhelmed and they may lose sight of what makes them feel happy or fulfilled. They are often doing favors for their friends and are taken advantage of.

Rebels:

Rebel children are often challenging because they refuse to do what they are told to do. They like to make their own choices and they resist any expectations. They need to feel as is they are doing what they want, not what others want them to do.

Rebel children need our love and understanding, probably more so then our other children. They are often knocking up against people and limits. It can be exhausting to have an internal dialogue that does not allow you to follow the rules of society, to always feel the need to push back.

To maintain a loving relationship with these children it is important to avoid direct commands. When parents say to a rebel child, “Say thank you to Mrs. Cohen,” the child will most likely dig in their heels and refuse to comply. This may be the case even if he had planned on saying thank you on his own.

Rubin suggests the following procedure when speaking to all children, but with Rebels it is essential:

  1. Provide information: “I think Mrs. Cohen is going to give us some tomatoes from her garden today. Gardeners usually love to share their produce. They work really hard, so let’s remember to say thank you.”
  2. Tell them the positive consequences of their behavior: “If we thank Mrs. Cohen, she will be more likely to give us more tomatoes in the future. She might even let us help out in the garden!”
  3. Give them choices: “You can say or whisper thank you. You could also make her a card.”
  4. Let them decide: “The way you say ‘thank you’ is all up to you.”

Whatever tendency your child exhibits, they need our love, care and understanding.

About the Author:

Adina Soclof is a Parent Educator, Professional Development Instructor and Speech Pathologist working with children in a school setting. She received her BA. in History from Queens College and her MS. in Communication Sciences from Hunter College. Adina is the founder of ParentingSimply.com. She delivers parenting classes as well as professional development workshops for Speech Pathologists, Teachers and other health professionals. You can find her text based CEU courses at PDResources.com and video courses at Homeceuconnection.com and SpeechPathologypd.com

5 Tips for Disciplining Your Toddler

When those terrible twos hit, many parents are unprepared for the challenge. It seems as if children are a whirlwind of activity interspersed with meltdowns and even defiance.

As always, parents can better manage their toddlers if they understand that there are very valid reasons for their (bad) behavior. Toddlers act in this way because they have become more mobile. They have moved passed the crawling, cruising stage to the running, climbing stage. Parents now need to set even more limits: “No, get down from the counter!” “Move away from the oven!”

This angers children; they can’t take all the “Nos”. Developmentally they haven’t learned how to handle frustration in productive ways, so they cry and whine and eventually meltdown.

At the same time, children are learning that they are separate from their parents. They are now starting to understand that they have their own body, thoughts and feelings. They start to assert their independence. Now they need to feel in charge of themselves. This is when they start to say “Me do it!” They get really angry when they are unable to buckle themselves into their car seats, or they are not allowed to walk by themselves in the parking lot.

 So now that their behavior makes a little bit more sense, here are five simple ways that parents can handle these toddler years.

  1. Prevention is worth an ounce of cure:

The most relaxed parents are the ones who set themselves us for success. They know that they shouldn’t take their children on an errand at the end of the day or will skip the visit to the highly stimulating amusement park. Most children (and adults) do not work well when they are hungry, tired and overwhelmed with sights and sensations,(loud noises and bright lights).

The simplest way to ensure good behavior (or at least some sort of reasonableness) from your toddler is to make sure that they are getting a good night sleep, appropriate naps and are well fed. Although it is not always possible, it’s best if you take them to a venue that is age appropriate for them, like parks, mini-amusement parks, and the baby pool.

Another trigger for bad behavior is rushing. Most toddlers cannot transition from activity to activity easily. They need a lot of wiggle room. It is helpful to give children a lot of advance warnings before you need to leave home, get them into their pajamas or before putting them to sleep.

Similarly, if you know your child spends a lot of time in the bath and hates getting out, make that a part of your schedule. Parents often know when a temper tantrum is coming. Don’t act surprised. Try to schedule in that inevitable meltdown. So if Eli usually cries when he has to put on his pajamas and it takes him about 15 minutes, until he calms down, schedule in that extra time during your bedtime routine.

2- Choices:

Since toddlers are experimenting with independence, they like to feel like they’re in control. Giving them choices allows them to assert their autonomy, but safely, because you, the parent, are still in charge. Choices foster a sense of self as children come to learn that their preferences can be communicated and respected.

Some simple choices are:

“Do you want to take your book or a snack to the doctor?”
“Do you want me to buckle you or do you want to buckle yourself?
“Do you want the blue or green cup?”
“Do you want to put your pants on first or your shirt on first?”

These questions seem as if they can take a lot of time, but can save you hours in avoiding those toddler power struggles.

3- Humor

A sense of humor is a must when dealing with toddlers; they respond so well to playfulness. When moving children from activity to activity, parents can make it fun, “Let’s pretend that the bath is the ocean and we are dolphins! We need water to live! Let’s get to the bath fast!” “Let’s pretend we are vacuum cleaners and pick up all the puzzle pieces!”

Singing is also a great way to help get kids transition, “We are going to eat dinner, to eat dinner, to eat dinner….”, “It is time to leave the park, the park, the park…” Most parents, when it is time to clean up, have definitely used the clean-up song to get everyone going.

4. Kids are never too young for empathy:

Enforcing limits time and again can be frustrating for both parties. However, limits given along with empathy can soften the blow. It sounds like this:

“You are so sad because your video is over. You want to watch another video so badly. The rule is one video.”
“It is so frustrating, you wanted to stay longer at the park. It is time for us to leave.”
“You sound so mad! You wanted another candy. The rule is one candy.”

This doesn’t mean that your child will stop resisting. You might have to use these phrases over and over again. However, it gives parents something to say that is kind and helpful while enforcing the rules. It often keeps parents calm and can be soothing for children.

5. Patience is physical.

I was complaining to one of my very smart and kind friends about how tired I was and how I seem to be losing it with more and more with my toddler. “I feel like my patience is shot!”

She said, “You need a break, you can’t raise a family if you are not filling up your on gas tank. Patience is physical, my dear!”

She is right. Patience is physical. I have a lot more patience with my kids if I have eaten a healthy dinner, had my multivitamin and gotten a good night sleep. As parents we can’t always do that, but we should strive for it. It should be our number one priority.

About the Author:

Adina Soclof is a Parent Educator, Professional Development Instructor and Speech Pathologist working with children in a school setting. She received her BA. in History from Queens College and her MS. in Communication Sciences from Hunter College. Adina is the founder of ParentingSimply.com. She delivers parenting classes as well as professional development workshops for Speech Pathologists, Teachers and other health professionals. You can find her text based CEU courses at PDResources.com and video courses at Homeceuconnection.com and SpeechPathologypd.com.