Sunday, August 28, 2005

20 Ways To Bring Out the Best in Your Children

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Rabbi Zelig Pliskin has these wise words to share. I read them, they make sense, and they are a wonderful road map to follow when parenting. I'm on that road, and am still trying to be the best navigator I can be.

Here is the road map to keep in your glove box:

1) Love your children unconditionally -- irrespective of whether they "behave nicely," clean up their room, and do their homework. Your love must go beyond this. Your children will feel it.

2) Each day tell your children that you love them. All you have to say is three words, "I love you." If this is difficult for you, that is a sign you really need to say it.

3) Speak and act in ways that gives your children a positive self-image. Believe in your child. Believe in his abilities and potential. Say explicitly, "I believe in you." How do you know when you are successful at this? When your child says, "I see that you believe in me."

4) Be a role model for the traits and qualities that you want your children to possess. Share your day with your kids so they know what you do and can learn from you and your experiences.

5) Clarify the main positive qualities you want your child to develop. Keep praising those qualities. Reinforce each quality when your child speaks or acts in ways consistent with that quality.

6) Each child is unique and different. Understand each child's uniqueness and take it into consideration when a challenge arises. Don't take the "cookie cutter" approach. A method of disciple that inspires one child may discourage another.

7) Word your comments positively. Focus on the outcome you want. Say: "By developing this quality (for example, taking action right away), you will be more successful in life." (Rather than saying the negative.)

8) Keep asking yourself, What is the wisest thing to say to my child right now? Especially say this when your child has messed up.

9) Read great books to your children.

10) When you come across a story that has an important positive lesson for your child, relate it. Look for stories that teach lessons. Ask people for stories that had a positive influence on their lives.

11) Create a calm, loving, anger-free atmosphere in your home. Consistently speak in a calm and loving tone of voice. See, hear, and feel yourself being a calm person who has mastered the ability to maintain an emotional and mental state that is centered, focused and flowing.

12) Master patience. Life is a seminar in character development. Your children are your partners in helping you become a more patient person. Even when challenges arise, speak in a tone of voice that is balanced.

13) If you make a mistake when interacting with your children, apologize. Ultimately they will respect you more than if you try to deny the mistake.

14) Watch other parents interact with their children. Notice what you like. Apply the positive patterns.

15) In watching other parents, also notice what you don't like. Think about ways that you might be doing the same. Resolve not to speak and act that way.

16) Keep asking people you know and meet, "What did you like about what your parents said and did?"

17) Every day, express gratitude in front of your children. Ask them regularly, "What are you grateful for?"

18) Become a master at evaluating events, situations and occurrences in a realistic positive way. Frequently ask your children, "What would be a positive way of looking at this?", or "How can we grow from this?"

19) When your children make mistakes, help them learn from those mistakes.

20) Each and every day, ask yourself, "What can I say and do to be an even better parent?"

You Don't Bring Me Flowers...Anymore

I'd sat and written a beautiful post with this header in the wee hours of the morning-- somehow the screen froze, the post was lost and unable to be recovered. I'm hoping with some time on my hands, I can recreate the post as best as I can. In the meantime I'll leave you with this photo.


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I like this name. Gerolsteiner. Gerol-steiner. Ger-ol-steiner.

It is the name of a mineral water from Germany. I'd never before heard of it, but made its acquaintance this past summer at a Shabbos table. The host kept saying, "Could you please pass the Gerolsteiner?"

I decided this mineral water deserved a taste test. I tasted it. It was not really different than any other designer water I've spite of its label. And that label kept reminding me of something, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Until... The host asked again, "Could you please pass the Gerolsteiner?"

Then one of his guests reached for the bottle and said, "Ohhhh, you mean the 'Nazi vasser.' "

Keeping Up with the Cohens*

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* For the sake of this post, it has been determined that my last name is COHEN.

I mentioned at some point, long ago in my blogging history, that I resisted moving to this area of the city we live in because I don't believe in "keeping up with the Cohens" (years ago, I came up with a list of imaginary Jewish TV shows; that was the name of a sit-com I'd conjured up). It is common knowledge in this community that money talks -- in a school setting, in a shul setting, in a social setting. Children are being raised with fewer values and more materialism on the brain, and frankly, it disgusts me. Our children understand the value of a dollar and understand that we might look to be like everyone else but we're not and prefer not to be.

We have some friends -- they used to be friends in our old neighborhood, preceeded us to the new neighborhood -- or rather, they're only acquaintances now, but used to be friends. In spite of our proximity to them geographically, and the fact that our sons are good friends, we're grown distant.

It appears to my husband and I that these people have issues of envy/jealousy. (perhaps not the wife, but certainly the husband) We bought a FoozeBall table, they soon had one. We bought a new van 'cause we needed one, they saw it, made a comment and had a new van shortly after. They found out that my son was taking an extra-curricular course; they had to sign their son up too. I mentioned that I had been in L.A. and we were then going at the end of that June week to Florida's Universal Studios, and immediately the husband said "Yeah, we're probably going away too." My husband, who has seen this "copycat" pattern, piped up, "Does your wife know?" Well, they just came back from a week in L.A. and Universal Studios there.

Their son is a spitting image of his father. When I drove him to school this past year for a few months, he'd get into the car, not say hello to my son or I, but immediately pipe up: "My dad is gonna get me..." or "My dad bought me..." I cannot stand braggarts, even if they're young kids. I was thankful that my son never reacted positively to his friend; he knows bragging is the wrong thing to do, and I'm thankful that my children don't do that. They also understand financial limitations are financial limitations, and they don't need to have all the same things that some of their friends have.

It is not just mere coincidence that these people ended up with things that we had or did. They saw these things; they wanted these things, too; they bought or did these things. Once upon a time, the husband asked my husband his salary: that spoke volumes...especially when my husband told him it's none of his business.

Not too long ago, my husband sarcastically told that guy, "We're gonna buy a boat...are you planning on buying one, too?" Of course we're not buying a boat, but I'm pretty sure that if they did see a boat trailing our van, that family would soon be setting sail, as well.

There is a wonderful children's book by Canadian children's author, Robert Munsch. It's called "Stephanie's Ponytail" and is about Stephanie who wears her ponytail differently each day. The kids at school call out "Ugly, ugly...very ugly." But of course, the next day, they're wearing their hair exactly as Stephanie wore it the day before. This pattern repeats and then one day Stephanie announces, "When I come to school tomorrow, I'll have shaved off my hair!" And the next day, she comes to school, ponytail intact, while everyone else has indeed shaved off their hair.

Keeping up with the Cohens... indeed a tough act to follow!