Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics about Anger – Page 2

SPEAKING SOFTLY…

TORAH PORTION: VA-YIGASH

SpeakingSoftlyYoung children are impulsive. They can’t really help it. They feel so intensely they blurt out whatever is on their minds, sometimes with love and sometimes in rage. It’s our job as parents to help them translate the intensity of their feelings into appropriate behavior. They might be angry, but they can’t mistreat their brother or sister, friend or parent. They need to find the right words to express what they are going through. They might want something belonging to a friend or sibling, but they can’t just grab it; they must ask for it respectfully.

In this week’s Torah Portion, Vayigash, Joseph, unrecognizable to his brothers dressed as Egyptian royalty, tests his brothers for having thrown him into a pit and selling him into slavery. He plants his silver goblet in his beloved younger brother Benjamin’s sack, and once it’s discovered declares that Benjamin will be his slave. Judah, an older brother, approaches Joseph with gentleness and softly speaks: “Please, my lord, let your servant speak a word to my lord. Do not be angry with your servant, though you are equal to Pharaoh himself”. Doing so, Judah diffuses the tension in the situation. In response, Joseph breaks down and reveals his real identity to his brothers.

By speaking softly at home we can teach children that shouting is not the most effective way. Gentleness can often be more productive than harsh yelling. The more we curb our own compulsions, the more we can show our children that kindness can be more effective in the world.

TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN about what it means to treat someone with loving kindness.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • How do you like to be treated?
  • How do you feel when you are treated with less than kindness?
  • How do you feel inside when you are mean to others?
  • What are the results of raising your voice and increasing tensions?

By Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses

Values & Ethics: Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.

GROWTH THROUGH DISCOMFORT…

TORAH PORTION: VAYELECH

vayelechYou probably don’t enjoy pain. Most people don’t. You probably don’t enjoy uncomfortable confrontations or difficult tasks either. It’s easy enough to take a pill to alleviate pain, but we shouldn’t be running from every tough spot. Instead, challenging situations should be seen for what they are: valuable growth opportunities.

Moses nears the end of his life. He is old and frail, but this does not stop him from making the most of his days. He uses his time to speak to his people and impart final words of guidance and wisdom. It isn’t easy for him, but it is his last chance at fulfillment.

Society has conditioned us to identify happiness in extreme comfort and the satisfaction of our material desires. Nobody likes pain, and we should certainly enjoy the world in which we live. But there’s much more to life than comfort. To accomplish our goals takes effort. We must be willing to put ourselves out there when others shy away, when someone needs help, and when confronting those who we upset or who upset us. Challenges give us the opportunity to flex our “muscles” and take another step towards becoming the person we want to be.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about applying themselves to reach their goals.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What makes you happy?
  • What are some of your goals in life?
  • Do you have role models who you know have pushed themselves through difficult situations?
  • How does accomplishing your goal feel after working hard?

By Rabbi Moshe Becker

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.

WHEN WE LOSE CONTROL…

TORAH PORTION: CHUKAT

chukat1People lose control.  We may get excessively angry or behave impulsively or destructively. We may scream at a child, eat too much, or drink.  The reasons for such behavior are many. Sometimes there is a sense that something is missing in our lives, a hole we don’t know how to fill, or a difficult issue we don’t know how to address.  That darkness lurks behind some of our behavior, and then suddenly, when we least expect it, erupts into unwanted behavior.

In this week’s Torah portion, Moses loses control.  Moses’ people are complaining yet again, this time for lack of water in the desert.  God tells Moses specifically to speak to a rock in order to draw water from it. Instead Moses hits the rock in anger.  He loses patience with his people who are constantly complaining. But there is also a backdrop of loss to Moses’ behavior.  His beloved sister Miriam has just died. Moses’ grief causes him to be short on the patience he normally exhibits with the people he is leading through the desert to the Promised Land.

It is important not to lose control especially with our children.  We don’t want to explode at them for minor infractions.  We also don’t want to set up models of destructive behavior for our children, whether it concerns behavior such as overeating, smoking, or drinking excessively.  Therefore, parents must address the origins of such behavior.  We might be dealing with ongoing frustrations at work, a loss of someone close to us, financial worries, or sources of tension in our marriage.  Whatever the issue is, better to address the deeper issue than for us to lose control, especially when children are concerned.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about how Moses lost his temper in the desert and hit the rock with his stick out of frustration.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What kind of situations might lead you to lose your temper?
  • What happens when you lose your temper?  Do people around you get hurt?
  • How else do you handle difficult problems in school or at home?
  • Did losing your temper ever accomplish anything worthwhile?

By Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.

WHEN YOUR CHILD REBELS…

TORAH PORTION: KORACH

korach1Children inevitably rebel. This can cause parents to react immediately and angrily to their recalcitrant children.  Parents and children might be involved in a reflexive pattern of action and reaction, without any reflection on the part of the parents as to the deeper reasons for their child’s behavior. Perhaps a child is testing limits or feels that the limits placed on him are no longer appropriate for his age.

The Book of Numbers, the fourth book of the Bible, can be thought of as the book of rebellion. First, the Israelites repeatedly complain about being in the desert and not having enough to eat. Here in our Torah portion, a group of men is rebelling against the leadership of Moses and Aaron:  Why are they in charge?  Isn’t everyone sufficiently holy to lead this congregation through the desert?  Moses’ first reaction is an interesting one. He does not immediately defend himself and Aaron. Rather he takes a few minutes to reflect before responding.  How many of us can stop and take a moment to figure out how to respond before just reacting?

Next time your children act out, try to stop for just a moment. This could productively interrupt what might be a habitual chain reaction: a child disobeys, a parent gets angry. Rather, think about what is really going on here and what specific response might be called for.  Might it be a discussion regarding appropriate limits and what they are for?  Is it time for compromise or for exploring what’s going on with your child?  Like Moses, stop to consider your best response, and perhaps your children will model this positive action as well in the future.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about rules and what they are for.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Which rules are hardest for you? Why?
  • Which rules don’t make sense to you?
  • What do you think is the purpose of rules?
  • When you are feeling very angry about something, how can counting to 10 before talking be helpful?

By Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.

WORDS CAN HURT…

TORAH PORITION: BEHAR

Behar1“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me.”  This ditty, often recited by kids when they are called names, is designed to protect a child from the meanness of other children.  But, words, truth be told, are powerful weapons.  Indeed, it would be more honest to chant: “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can hurt me!”  Children are especially vulnerable to the words of another.

In our Torah portion this week we are enjoined “not to wrong one another”, meaning not hurt one another with words.  Instead we are to consider the effect of our words on others carefully, reflecting on the word choices we make and their impact on others.  The Jewish tradition places great emphasis on not hurting another’s feelings.

It’s important to model for our children the appropriate use of language by being considerate of our children’s feelings. Harsh words and tone can hurt more often than we realize. Even when discipline is called for, it is important not to speak too harshly to our children.  Our words can backfire, causing damage and retreat.  Firm but kinds words can be a much more effective teaching tool than yelling, even when a child has done something wrong.  In this way a child can learn kindness toward his or her friends and family.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about how words can hurt feelings and remind them to stop and think before reacting or talking.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Has anyone ever called you a name or hurt you with the words the person used?
  • How did you respond?
  • Have you ever hurt someone else with the words you’ve used?
  • What other words do you think you could have chosen?
  • What other ways do you think we can learn to communicate other than by using  hurtful language?

By Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.