Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

8 Elul 5764 - August 25, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

by A. Ross

Esther panicked when her little son, accompanied by a group of friends, came in clutching his chin. His shirt was bloodstained and more blood was seeping through his fingers. Where could she get hold of her husband? Should she call her mother? Hardly; she lived too far away. In desperation, she took the child to her long-suffering neighbor, who was her lifeline in times of crisis. The neighbor calmly swabbed the child's chin, which didn't look nearly as alarming now that it had stopped bleeding, gave him an ice pop for being a brave boy, and made the mother who was now more at ease, a cup of tea.

As she left, Esther apologized profusely for bothering her again and silently wondered why she hadn't swabbed the chin herself. It was not difficult and the wound was not at all deep. Why did she go to pieces in every emergency and why was she so dependent on other people?

She had always been like that. Her mother had bought her clothes for her and she still did; she also told her, even now, what to wear for each occasion. She had always checked her homework for her and advised her about the friends she made, which ones were suitable and which were not good for her. In fact, she knew she had the best mother in the whole world, who even now that she had been married several years, still helped her in all her endeavors.

Was Esther's mother really the best mother in the world? We all want to help our children become independent, self- confident people. Where had this lady gone wrong?

In his first couple of months of his life, baby makes eye contact and looks at objects which interest him. Do not try to coax him when he loses interest and focuses on something else. Very soon, he begins to realize that he can control his own life and surroundings in various ways. Crying, smiling, dropping toys, all get different predictable responses. Each further advance in independence elicits approbation from the adults around him.

The first real demands made on the child are when Mommy goes out without him. Some mothers find it extremely difficult to leave their baby with a baby-sitter at all. The more difficult they find it, the harder it will be for Baby. These same mothers cry when they take their child to kindergarten or school for the first time.

By the time the child is two, he will be contrary. He wants to show that he is a person in his own right. Whatever his mother wants him to do, he will try to do the opposite, at least for a short while until he is distracted. Naturally, it is not always feasible to give way to the little tyrant, but if it is at all possible, let him do things his way. Let him dress himself till he comes for help. Let him feed himself in the way he chooses, whether it is with fingers, fork or spoon. Yes, it is a messy business, and much of the food lands everywhere except where it is meant to go, but it all helps towards gaining independence.

Letting a child solve his own problems is particularly difficult first thing in the morning when you know full well that he will miss his bus. One cannot lay down the law and say that if the child inists on fastening his own jacket you have to let him, if this means he will not be going to school that day. Just as a general guideline, let a child do what he feels he can do.

Some children seem to be born confident, others need encouragement. The confident ones will be the first to put up their hands in the classroom to answer teacher's question. The answer may be wrong, yet time and again, the child will volunteer, because he feels he knows it. He may not be academically bright, but with the right response, he will grow up with a good healthy self esteem.

On the other hand, those children born with less self assurance need far more careful handling. A teenager who peppers her failures with `typical me' or `just like me,' has a low self esteem which has been `taught.' The following few are examples, or `lessons,' which further a lack of confidence: 1) Frequent criticism, even if it is mild, can be one cause. 2) Lack of consistency on the part of parent confuses the child and undermines his confidence. 3) Lack of perimeters in rules of behavior. 4) An overprotective parent who tries to solve all his problems.

Children must learn to fight their own battles. There are no hard and fast rules about this last point. Parents also have to learn how much or how little to interfere. When to go to school to speak to the teacher; when not to go. Whether to phone a parent whose child seems to be bullying yours, or whether to wait a while for the child to sort things out by himself.

In the same way as there are elements which may cause a child to lack self-confidence, there are those which positively build his self image. All this is quite obvious, yet sometimes we are not aware of it without constant repetition. 1) Plenty of love, warmth and encouragement. 2) Verbal encouragement, expressed frequently. 3) Giving the child free rein to do things for himself, however, difficult it is, if he insists. 4) Showing sincere concern and interest in the child's daily life and happenings. Listening with sympathy to his troubles.

This last item is particularly difficult for a loving parent. We all want to fight their battles and smooth out the path of life for them, yet they have to learn to cope on their own and solve their own problems.

Once again, as always, we pray for help and guidance in bringing up our precious children.


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