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Not Another Parenting Class!

Not Another Parenting Class!

Do we really need another parenting class? Isn't it enough to just follow our instincts?


"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.


"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.

November 11, 2000

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Visitor Comments: 10

(10) Anonymous, October 28, 2012 4:13 PM

We need to examine this issue on a case by case basis. As a previous poster mentioned, some parents really NEED to be retrained. Re: Special needs children. We need to love and accept them for who they are, not who we want them to be. Re: Parenting classes from decades past. There are those "authorities" who would haveus believe that there is nothing wrong with corporal punishment. I DO NOT want to go back to those days!!

(9) Shai, December 15, 2005 12:00 AM

I agree that we also need to learn to look inwards

and work with our gut, parental instincts. Sometimes too much instruction can be distracting. BUT - there are many people out there today who, being brought up in dysfunctional/abusive or just neglectful homes, do not have a clear understanding of their role as parents. I think, that being a parent is the most important job in the world & it is crucial to learn skills if your instinct & gut has been dulled by years of "bad example." Like everything in life, proper balance is the way to go. But please, don't neglect learning skills or how to get in touch with yourself if you feel you need to know better!

(8) Lesley Hubbard, November 17, 2005 12:00 AM

I don't understand why parenting classes are needed!

As the author of this article says, parenting is mostly common sense and instinct. The parents who raised me and others of my generation didn't have nor need them - and most of us turned out one heck of a lot better than those kids today whose parents attend every class as if it were more important then life itself. Kids need love, discipline and guidelines. They don't need moms who think more of their careers than their children's needs. They need moms who are going to be there when they're needed - which is every day. They need dads to whom they can look up. They need to know from the minute they're brought home from the hospital as infants that there are 2 people who care about them and will bring them up as children should be brought up This you can't learn in those mishuggana classes. All you can learn there is a bunch of psychobabble that will assuredly make both you and your kids totally wacko.

(7) Anonymous, April 1, 2002 12:00 AM

yes, a parenting class!

Obviously there are many parents who don't need yet another parenting class. I am grateful, however, that these classes are offered for those who, for various reasons, such as not having had good role models, either don't have good instincts, or don't trust the instincts they have.

(6) Stacey Gonzales, January 21, 2002 12:00 AM

What a Relief!

Being a single mother of a five-year old, working full time and attending school at nights it is hard to get to parenting classes. It is nice to know that there are people like you out there willing to help!

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