Posts in Your Mother’s Guidance

A Child’s Coat; a Mother’s Love

February 21st, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance No Comment yet

A Your Mother’s Guidance post by Rebecca Masinter

Exodus 28 details the clothing that the Priests and High Priest wore while doing the service in the Tabernacle and Temple.  The Torah describes them as “Bigdei Kodesh” “holy clothing”  because of their function of being worn in holy service. I’d like to share with you another instance in Scripture of holy clothing and this one came about through a mother’s love!

I learned this many years ago from Rabbi Meir Prengler, currently of Los Angeles, and it was so powerful and beautiful that it stuck with me. 

When Hannah brought Samuel to serve in the Tabernacle under the priest, Eli, she was giving up her beloved son obtained miraculously after years of childlessness.  Out of her great love for her son, Samuel,  she made him a special coat – a meil, so he would have something of hers with him even when they were apart (I Samuel 2:19). 

With each stitch she sewed, she imbued the coat with her love, and a mother’s love is eternal.  This explains why the coat grew with Samuel as he grew, and even remained his after his death.  Later,  after Samuel died, King Saul needed to talk to him from beyond the grave and how did Saul identify Samuel?  The man with the coat (I Samuel 28:14).

Rabbi Prengler told us that the great love that Chana instilled in this coat made it an item of holiness, so spiritual that it even surpassed death.  We can’t begin to comprehend the power of our actions or the effect that our love has and will continue to have on our children. The truth is that a mother’s love is powerful beyond belief.

Everyone Needs to Give

February 12th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance No Comment yet

A “Your Mother’s Guidance” post by Rebecca Masinter

In the Sinai desert, the Tabernacle was the place where human beings could get closest to God.  Building it was a project for everyone—no exceptions.  Everyone in the nation contributed to it.

In our homes, we often have different people with different strengths, weaknesses, and contributions to make.  Just as the Tabernacle needed to come from men and women, leaders and laymen, our homes are also built when everyone has a role and can contribute and be a giver in his or her own way. 

Here’s the kicker: it’s not that the Tabernacle needed to come from everyone as much as that everyone needed to build the Tabernacle.  The Israelites were fresh from generations of slavery and poverty and needed to see themselves as people with great resources and skills.  By having all the Jews contribute to the Tabernacle, God was showing them their abilities, wealth, and talents.  Through being givers of such magnitude, they could recognize their worthiness and value.

There are two ways we can ask for help in our homes.  One is focused on our need,

“I need help.  I’m overwhelmed.  Can you do x, y, or z?” 

That is not bad or wrong and is certainly sometimes the reality.  But think for a moment of the same help being contributed but with a whole different attitude.  What if it’s not about me, it’s about my kids? It’s important for our children to know they have worth, resources, skills, and talents that contribute to our families.  What if I ask my child for help not because I desperately need it, but because my child needs to give? 

When we need help in the moment we tend to ask the one who is most capable or easily available, but in truth, it’s a good idea for us to think proactively about what each child can contribute and how we can make that happen in the best times in the best way.  Here’s a simple example: for many years I have kept a lightweight battery operated vacuum cleaner in the kitchen.  This vacuum can easily be operated by a 3 year old and it is a real help to have my kitchen floor cleaned!  I also store dishes in bottom cupboards to allow younger children to unload dishwashers and set the table. 

My older kids also need me to think through how I can facilitate their contributing.  The older they get the less frequently they’re home!  But even my high school son who’s rarely home knows that he is a huge contributor to our family; we need him and count on him.

Finally, it may not be easy or obvious to figure out how a particularly challenging kid can be a meaningful contributor to the family.  This child needs it even more than the others!  We have to see and believe in his strengths and give him the responsibility to contribute positively to our family, so that he can begin to believe in himself and his abilities too.  The lessons from the Tabernacle are so profound! No one is exempt.  Everyone needs to be a giver, and everyone has what to contribute. By giving, we all, in actuality, receive far, far more.

Oops! I Didn’t Mean To

February 4th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 2 comments

A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter

Hello!  Exodus 21: 12-13 introduces to us the concept of the cities of refuge.  If a person kills another accidentally, God provides for him a place of refuge where he can run and be sheltered.  God takes into account the motivation of a person, even when he has participated in a most terrible action, that of ending someone’s life!

While the verse about accidental murderer may not seem to directly parallel parenting, it did make me think of how we as mothers can best react when a child does something wrong and immediately claims, “I didn’t mean to!  It was an accident!”  Whether or not we believe ourselves that our child’s intentions were pure, there are compelling reasons for us to give him the benefit of the doubt and acknowledge that his intentions were positive.  What are those reasons?

According to developmental psychologist, Gordon Neufeld, our aim as mothers should be to change our children’s minds, not their behavior.  Instead of obsessing over bad behavior, we can solicit our children’s good intentions and their desire to do the right thing even while acknowledging that they can’t always follow through. It seems so much simpler for parents to be behavior focused – use star charts, prizes, or consequences, but those tools aren’t really helping our children develop the values we want them to have in life.  On the other hand, if we help them reach a place of good intentions, our children are aiming in the right direction and that starts the process of them developing their internal sense of right and wrong and strengthens their desire to do right.

You and I know that despite many of our good intentions, we, ourselves, often fall short, but it is the very fact that we are aiming for something meaningful and positive that inspires us to get up and try again and again and again.  By showing our child that we believe in their innate goodness and their desire to do the right thing, even when sometimes they mess up or give in to an urge to do wrong, we are demonstrating our belief in their greatness. 

Accepting their claims of positive intentions or accidental errors, even as they mess up, lets us validate them and help them think through future situations without feeling defensive or shamed.  For example, “I like that you were trying!  This situation didn’t work out the way you were hoping it would, let’s see what we can do to help you do better next time?”

Rabbi Meyer Schwab of Denver explains that although the rest of the tribes of Israel are counted in the desert from the age of 20, the tribe of  Levi is counted from one month old. Why?  Levi served in the Tabernacle directly before God.  They had extremely lofty goals and standards of behavior. When someone knows they are aiming for greatness, you can count on the fact that their education will be successful even while they are still babies. 

If we can come alongside our children’s positive intentions, even while they make mistakes, they will know we believe in their goodness and their intentions to always keep aiming for greatness.

I wish you a day filled with great intentions!

How can I stop my kids fighting?

January 23rd, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance No Comment yet

A “Your Mother’s Guidance” post by Rebecca Masinter

I would like to share some thoughts in response to a question a mother on this group emailed me.

Here is the question:

I, thank God, have 4 children,  a six-year-old girl, almost five-year-old boy, almost three-year-old girl and an eight-month-old baby. I wanted to know if you can give some pointers on how to handle when children are fighting and when we, as parents should intervene or let the children work out the argument themselves.

There are two parts to my answer.  The first will be a few ideas on how to intervene in the moment, and the second is what can I do when my children are not fighting to decrease the amount of future conflict in my family.

(One caveat is that what I will share now is intended in families where the children are pretty typical and evenly matched. Some of us have been blessed with children who have more complicated emotions and/or more of a tolerance for conflict and aggression and you have constant fights between that child and everyone else. In that case, there are different principles to consider.)

Firstly, let’s remember that children feed off of our emotions and stress so I think step number one is to not let ourselves get emotionally riled by our kids fighting.  We need to respond and not react.  We are humans and sometimes some arguments can push buttons of our own, but our kids need us to respond consistently and calmly, not emotionally.  This means for example that if your family rule is, “No physical contact when arguing,” you want to enforce it consistently, not just when you’re feeling impatient, tired, or stressed, or just when it’s an older kid hitting a younger or not just when it leads to hysterical tears.  You get the idea.

Another thought.  Kids can’t think and express themselves well when they’re emotionally upset. They need us to help give them the words initially and model to them how to express themselves.  You can do this by getting down at their eye level and asking each one, one at a time what they’re upset about.  Then, with a loving arm around them, you can role play dialogue for them to repeat as they take turns calmly expressing what they want.  You feed them the lines and let them copy them. What’s happening is that they feel understood by you and they’re learning to express their feelings and needs. As a bonus, they’re doing it in a way that solves problems!  If a child needs to apologize to the other, you can also feed them the words for that apology.  This isn’t a cop out for them — it is modeling how to disagree and how to apologize. Initially, they need us for that.

Now for part two. As in so many areas of our life, being proactive goes a lot farther than trying to just cope once we’re in tough situations.

Take some time to think through your children’s fighting patterns.

Are they often at the same time of day?  Over the same issues?  Between the same kids?  Following the same activity or routine?  When are your children most harmonious?

Sometimes we can change routines or dynamics in our home that lead to stress and create new ones that contribute to harmony. For example, if they fight while you prepare supper each day, think about what you can do differently so they are each happily occupied in soothing activities before you start cooking.  What patterns do you see that you can tweak to get a different outcome?

Here’s another way we can be proactive:

If your children are old enough, you can talk to them one-on-one about the recurring patterns you see in their arguments.  Maybe you and your child together can brainstorm alternatives and role play the way they can handle irritating siblings next time.

The flip side of that, is that when kids (and adults) are emotionally upset and aggravated, it is not the time to try to calmly analyze what went wrong and what they can do next time.  As ancient Jewish wisdom says…don’t try to calm someone when they’re angry.  Often, you will have to wait a while, until they have really calmed down, to lovingly discuss the fighting that went on before.  You can validate their experiences and their emotions and then discuss what they may want to try differently next time, both action wise and response wise.  I think it’s important to end by getting an agreement from your child that he’s willing to try something different next time.  (This doesn’t mean he will succeed at that, it means he’s willing to make an effort. That is something you can praise no matter whether or not he manages to follow through each time.)

For example, you may say something like this while snuggling with your son at the end of the day…

“I can see you were very angry and sad when the baby knocked down your tower.  I would be sad too if she knocked down something I built.  Do you want to build a tower next time when she’s napping so she can’t break it?” 

Or, Would you like to build a tower on the table instead of on the floor?

Even though it’s ok to feel sad and angry, it’s important to speak nicely to your sister instead of yelling.  She’s little and your yelling probably made her feel scared.  Do you think that the next time she starts to break your toys, you can come calmly and ask me to move her?”

Aside from trying to figure out patterns and what you can do to eliminate the stressors that often lead to fighting, being proactive before arguments and working through them with your children after they’re calm, there is one more secret weapon we have that I want to share with you.

That is yourself.  You are the magnet at the center of the family.  You are the one that each child wants to be with, to be like, to be loved by, and to be approved by.  Don’t ever underestimate your power as a mother.  Often, I find I can diffuse tension before a fight breaks out by “happening” to come into the room then and inviting one of the kids to hang out with me, do laundry, help with dinner, run an errand, whatever.  Or I “happen” to come  in to do something with all of them – distracting them with a story or a game.  Don’t let them sense you’re doing it to get them away from each other — of course you’re doing it because you love being with them! 

Neither I, nor anyone else, can ever tell another parent what to do as the nature of parenting is one of relationships and those are unique and distinct between each child and his or her parents.  This is at the foundation of any thoughts I ever share.  I can share my experience, I can share some of the principles that may be important here, but ultimately all I hope to do is start the discussion so that each one of us individually can have a springboard from which to start thinking through this question.  Pay attention to your reactions as you read my words. They are the keys to figuring out your answer for your family.  You are the expert on your children—that is why God gave them you as a mother.

Do I Know You?

January 18th, 2019 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 2 comments

A Your Mother’s Guidance teaching by Rebecca Masinter:

In Exodus 6:2, God appears to Moses to send him on a mission to speak to the children of Israel. Moses should introduce God to the Jews as the One who will redeem them from the slavery of Egypt and ultimately lead them to the land of Israel.  However, before Moses can get to that part, God gives His introduction: “I appeared to the Patriarchs, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and I made promises to them and I made a covenant with them to give them the land they dwelled in…”  Why does the Jewish nation need a history lesson now?  Why can’t Moses just say, “God appeared to me and He will redeem you!” 

I think that perhaps God is giving the Israelites an important message:  He’s saying, “I know you don’t really know me yet very well, and we don’t have much of a relationship as of now, and a lot is about to start happening very dramatically.  You may feel unsure about all of this and about Me, but here’s the thing: I had a close relationship, a relationship and a binding covenant, with your grandparents.  We have a strong history together and whether or not you realize it on your own yet, we have an intact and foundational relationship that goes back generations.  Everything that will come, the Plagues, leaving Egypt, the splitting of the Reed Sea, and settling the land of Israel is building on the relationship I forged with your fathers and will forge directly with you, “I will take you as mine for a nation and I will be your God” (Exodus 6:7). 

When parenting our children, they need to know that we have a deep relationship with them before we do things together, before we ask things of them, and before we try to teach them.  Before any parenting can happen, our children need to feel that they are in an intimate, eternal relationship with us, their parents.

How can we do this today?  For today, let’s follow God’s example and share with our children the history of our love for them from the beginning.  Show them baby pictures of you holding them tight, tell them how happy you were at their birth, and share with them, (even your teenagers!) the adorable things they used to say and the activities you used to share together when they were little.  We need our kids to know that our commitment to our relationship with them began way back at the beginning and will continue forever just as God introduced Himself to us with the same information.

Free Will and my Children

January 11th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 2 comments

A Your Mother’s Guidance post by Rebecca Masinter.

An age-old question asks how God can punish Pharaoh with further plagues when God is the one hardening his heart so as not to let the Jewish people go? How can he be punished when he had no choice?  This is a classic question and we’ve all heard various answers.  I’d like to consider one basic answer Maimonides teaches us and its ramifications for mothers.

Maimonides says that in the beginning, of course Pharaoh had free will. In fact, during the first five plagues the Torah doesn’t say Hashem hardened Pharaoh’s heart.  Pharaoh hardened his own heart.  It’s only after multiple hardening of his own heart that he moved far enough into evil that God took over the job and began hardening his heart for him.  Pharaoh began with free will, but through his actions evolved into someone who lost his power of choice.

How is this relevant to us? 

Well, on a much smaller scale than Pharaoh, I know that there are actions I  take, sometimes willingly, sometimes not, that can lead me into situations where I have less control over the way I act.  For example, after a sleepless night, after skipping a healthy meal, I sometimes don’t have the wherewithal to respond to tough situations the way I would ideally choose to do so.

If that is how I feel sometimes, how much closer are my children to that state of no free will.  Sometimes when I go to the store late at night and see mothers dragging a screaming toddler around at 10:30 PM, I feel pity for the child who truly has no control over her behavior at that time.  It’s just too late and she’s too tired. She’s lost her free will. 

With some thought we can identify for each of our children what are the factors that lead up to them losing their free will.  I don’t think it’s the same for each person, and certainly some children get to that point of loss of control much more easily than others.  Once we’ve identified what stressors contribute to our children reaching the point of no self-control, we can try to limit those and when they’re unavoidable, build in ways for our child to rest or recoup as early as possible.

One last point that I have found helpful to remember: when a child has lost control, you cannot reason with them, consequences or punishments will often have no effect, and no parenting can effectively take place at that time.  What we can do is provide stability, unwavering love, support, and calmness, while we try to give them time and space to get back in control of themselves.

Introducing: Your Mother’s Guidance (Proverbs 1:8) by Rebecca Masinter

January 9th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance No Comment yet

I have exciting news to share. My husband and I have been blessed with seven wonderful children. They have further enriched our lives through their marriages and families. Our eldest, Rebecca, started her teaching career at about two years of age when she lined up her dolls and stuffed animals and instructed them. Over the next few years,  her younger siblings joined the class.

Eventually, Rebecca became a beloved middle-school teacher while studying for her BA in biology. After marriage, as her family grew, she focused inward running a science ACT prep business from her house while homeschooling her own children, the youngest of whom just turned four.

Rebecca invests a great deal of energy, commitment, time and study into being a mother and a teacher.  She is constantly looking to improve. Over the years, she has become a resource for many parents in her city and fields calls from around the country as well. I am delighted that she recently began to podcast very short messages, where she shares mothering lessons from the Bible. Because this podcast assumes Hebrew proficiency as well as an advanced Jewish studies’ background, it isn’t accessible to all.  However, Rebecca is allowing me to tweak these teachings so that I can share the transcripts with you.  I look forward to start  doing so under the heading Your Mother’s Guidance (Proverbs 1:8)

 

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