Dear Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin,
I have listened to your podcast “The one big thing you can do now to improve your finances & family and your social life” several times now, but I still have questions. I am a mom of 4, and as such I do a lot of teaching, guidance, correction and discipline with our children, throughout the day.
How does one teach, guide, correct, and discipline with honey always on the lips instead of stings?
I know that G-d has given us as parents the responsibility to train up a child in the way he or she should go, so when they are old they will not depart from it as Proverbs 22:6 says. So how can you keep your mouth always honey with your kids? Maybe it is harder for me than some because we homeschool, instead of using a G.I.C*., but I don’t think so. I think probably most parents have this problem.
Thanks for the suggestions.
The C. Family
Dear C. family,
You are absolutely correct that most parents have this problem. It is also true is that many spouses have this problem as well, not to mention friends and employers.
But for now, let’s stick with parents. Let’s look at the four verbs you used when you said that you, “teach, guide, correct and discipline.” Those all are jobs for parents, and the real question to ask is how effective we are at that job. In other words, the job isn’t, for example, to say to our children every morning, “Did you make your bed?” If that behavior is one that we value, then our goal is to have our children eventually value that behavior as well.
When it comes to instilling more important values like telling the truth, being kind to others, expressing gratitude and others (because let’s face it, if our children grow up and don’t make their beds every day it won’t define who they are) our focus, once again, isn’t on how much we lecture but on how our words are received. It is much easier to receive guidance that is given softly and with love.
Children are by definition immature and they are also human beings so that we can assume that they, like us, don’t like following orders and they have better and worse days. As a parent, that means that you will sometimes need to provide consequences and even punishments. Here is one tip: In general, the fewer words you use, the better they will be received. Saying, “If the toys are cleaned up in ten minutes, we’ll have time for a story,” and then not reading the story if clean up hasn’t happened is enough in itself. It does not demand a lecture to go with it.
However, the biggest change parents can make is to be aware of the good. It is so easy to notice the messy room, the missing shoes, the scowl on a face. And it is so easy to take for granted the puzzle cleaned up, the tied shoelaces and the pleasant agreement. Orally acknowledging the positive means needing to verbalize the negative much less frequently. When chastisement is needed, it still can be delivered without anger.
Easy? No. Start by paying attention. In the quiet of the night, replay the events of the day in your mind and ask yourself how else you might have phrased something better or reacted more calmly. Challenge yourself only to give positive feedback during a specific time of day and expand that time as this becomes more natural. If you do have to give a reprimand, pay close attention to your tone of voice and choice of words. You will be shocked to hear how the way your children talk to you and to each other changes as you change.
Don’t aim for perfection overnight. Actually, don’t aim for perfection. Aim for improvement.
Wishing you success,
*Government indoctrination centers formerly known as public schools