"Why don't you come to Rabbi Goldstein's parenting class on Sunday?" a friend asked me.
It was at the exact same time as our girls are in gymnastics so it would be convenient. I suppose I should have gone, but I just couldn't do it.
The last thing I want to do with my "free" time is attend yet another parenting class!
I think I've read every Torah book on parenting that's out in English as well as the majority of the more popular secular ones. Not to mention psychology textbooks. I've gone to classes. I've listened to tapes. I'm on call as a parent 24-hours-a-day to nine children. And the last thing I want to do with my "free" time is attend yet another parenting class!
It's not because I don't care. And for sure I don't think that I'm a perfect parent. I just don't want to hear any more "new" ideas. In the final analysis, good parenting is being able to put the few fundamentals into practice, consistently. The basics aren't complicated; it's the implementation that's the challenge.
I think that as a society we're overeducated in the parenting department. We're so busy mirroring back our children's emotions and plotting creative reinforcement charts that we've totally lost touch with our most basic parenting tool –- our intuition.
Since we don't trust our instincts we find ourselves speaking to young children in the most artificial manner: "When you talk like that it makes mommy feel angry and then she wants to hit something." Is that really what our children want to hear? Do they understand it even?
For toddlers, most "boo-boos" are resolved with a hug and a kiss and perhaps a Band-Aid. For older children, the hug still works and some empathy helps. But most children, and especially adolescents, do not want to endure a whole in-depth exploration of their emotional lives.
Children want to know three simple things:
- that you love them,
- that you understand them, and
- that you're on their side.
Don't think I don't go through my share of agonizing as a parent. But I do believe that less reading and more focusing on the children is probably best.
THE HOVERING PARENT
"Focusing" doesn't mean "hovering."
I have a personal pet peeve against what I call the "hovering parent."
This is the parent who, no matter how many times I assure them that my house is childproof (c'mon there are nine children here!) and that it's not really because I love my children less that I'm not worried, insists on repeatedly jumping up and down from the Shabbos table to go check on his/her offspring.
Not only is it frustrating to me as the hostess, but I think how suffocating it must be for the child. Children want their independence and we want them to have it.
Within a safe environment, children thrive on freedom.
Within a safe environment, children thrive on freedom. They are less inhibited, more creative and have fewer fights with their friends or siblings.
Children want to know you are there if they need you, but they don't want you monitoring their every move. It hurts you as an adult, it hurts them, and it hurts your relationship with them.
There is a catalog for toys from the 1950s called "Back to Basics" and that's where we need to go in our parenting. Many of us recognize the need to be more conscious parents than those of previous generations. But being conscious and being well-read are not synonymous.
Read a few books, attend a few classes, but most of all, practice your patience, trust your instincts, and pray.