Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

13 Elul 5763 - September 10, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

When Children Fight

by Miriam Levi, Artscroll PocketScroll Series
reviewed by Elisheva Leah Nadler

Miriam Levi's When Children Fight is an excellent handbook for parents and teachers in dealing with parent- child relationships and how to build and improve them. Specifically, it focuses on how parents can foster peaceful relations between siblings and other children.

Mrs. Levi makes unique and vital points in her book. For instance, she debunks the position of "Anger is acceptable so long as you express it civilly," taken by so many contemporary secular psychologists and authors. Instead, she reminds us of what we've all read in our mussar works that short-temper is a destructive character trait. According to her, anger should not be controlled but prevented from happening altogether. And she shows us how to do this by teaching us to identify and change the thought patterns that lead us to anger.

This, in turn, helps us to deal calmly and constructively with the fights and squabbles that inevitably arise between siblings. Naturally, if we remain calm, the children are much more likely to, as well.

A look at the Table of Contents guides us in "When and (When Not) to Intervene", what to do about "Insults and Teasing" and "Teaching Middos that Contribute to Peace," just to name a few aspects of non- anger.

Many adults will benefit from the extremely level-headed and mature attitudes expressed in this book, whether or not children are involved. Thus, in Chapter Six on "Facilitating," we learn not even to vilify the perpetrator of a fight.

"Your nine-year-old daughter is crying because her older sister hit her. In a very compassionate tone of voice, say, `Oh! Look how she's crying! I know you didn't mean to hurt her like that.' This gives the sister who did the hitting the message that we see her basically as a good girl -- who made a mistake." What a healthy and Torah-true approach that can just as easily be applied to interactions between adults!

Another pearl of advice is, "Hypersensitive children generally suffer from negative judgment of others. Help your child get over such hypersensitivity by pointing out that if others insult him, they are doing something wrong. He does not have to feel bad because of their mistake." Again, this beautiful thought can benefit children and adults alike.

One reservation -- in Chapter Five, the author suggests taping a child's mouth shut with adhesive tape if he has bitten another child -- after having been calmly warned not to. This seems a bit too medieval for me, and I prefer Mrs. Levi's other suggestion: For biters -- to hold the child's mouth closed briefly. Alternately, there's always time-out, removal of privileges etc.

In summary, if you have time for only one book this year, make it When Children Fight. Even if you are not the parent/teacher of squabbling young ones, you will benefit in your own relations with people through a serious reading and application of this book.


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