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7 Jun 2016

3 Tools for Fostering Peace and an Emotionally Healthy Family

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How to Raise Caring and Compassionate Children

peaceOf all the hats I wear, I think I do mothering best. Here are some deep and challenging plus some simple and practical to-do’s from a lecture I presented this past winter.

On a Facebook video post some years ago, a friend commented on seeing two of my children dance together, “I love the fact that ur kids LIKE each other. I know my kids LOVE each – if one of them needed a kidney gd forbid, i’m sure they wouldn’t hesitate. But as they grow up will they actually LIKE each other – will they want to just chill and hang out together – like with their friends. To me that’s the secret of a close family. What’s the recipe?”

I was touched by her words. She is such a deep, engaging, funny, honest, clever person. My response at the time was, “Not sure. I know I enjoy my kids as people. They’re interesting and open and inquiring. It always feels like a treat to be with them. So maybe they got that same feeling, that it’s wonderful to spend time together. I think our children benefit from the polarity of strong, safe boundaries on one hand and being given permission to emerge as who they are on the other. Though I’m not saying I’ve got it down. Life is a work in progress. Here’s to joy from our children for all of us.”

I hold by every word I said. Children excel at between-the-lines communication and can tell at a sniff or glance whether you’re “tolerating” them or delighting in them (or somewhere in between – which truth be told is a lot of the time.)

  • The greatest gift you can give your children is to have a happy home. To make it happy bring G-d into your heart and into every room. (Kashrut, Shabbat, Mikva, charity, holy books and the like.)
  • Walk your talk. Your children are your teachers as there is no way to educate them without modeling what you want from them.
  • Teach them that they have a dual identity.
  • Make it clear to your children that life is challenging. Teach them to expect a battle. We are warriors of light. Model “spiritual game theory” for them in your own life. Teach them to deflect challenges and that whatever happens to them is a) from G-d and b) for their greatest good.
  • Tell them that they are in the presence of G-d every moment of their lives. Tell them that G-d not only created but directs the universe. And that G-d is aware of and cares very deeply about every aspect of their inner world.
  • Giving access to the Identity (Unwoundable Self) and Purpose:
    • At night, ask 3 questions of your children before the bedtime Shema:
      • What are you proud of that you did today?
      • What could you have done better?
      • What are you grateful for?
    • Use the four Jewels of Education:
      • Give clear direction (To do this you need to be clear on where you yourself are going, what you want from life and what life wants from you.)
      • Establish safe boundaries and discipline (To do this you have to love your kid more than you love your comfort zone or being liked or a whole host of other ego comforts.)
      • Listen (To do this you have to put down your cell phone. I also suggest you establish screen free times for the entire family. Remember to “Listen for the feelings” and that “The conversation begins in silence”)
      • Pay attention to your intuition (To do this you’ll need to spend quiet time in contemplation and also to learn to trust that “little voice” when it speaks out.)
    • Gradually clear your home of toxic foods and chemicals.

May your homes be filled with the light of Torah and much nachas from your children.

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