Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics about Patience – Page 2

WAITING FOR THE COOKIE TO COOL…

TORAH PORTION: TOLDOT

toldot2The sweet scent of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies wafts through the kitchen. Your mouth waters and your tummy rumbles as you pull the hot tray out of the oven. The cookies look moist and delicious as the chocolate bubbles and melts. The recipe tells you to let the cookies cool for thirty minutes before eating them. But how can you wait thirty whole minutes when the cookies are calling your name right now?! You try to pick up just one cookie, but it crumbles and you burn your finger. You put the crumbs in your mouth and burn your tongue as well. So much for the perfect chocolate chip cookie… The chocolate chip cookie incident, with which many of us are all too familiar, teaches us that we can’t always get what we want right when we want it. Often, we will appreciate the cookie even more if we wait until it cools. So too there are many things and experiences in life that are well worth waiting for.

In this week’s Torah reading, Toldot, Esau came in from the field starving and begged Jacob for some lentil stew. Jacob agreed to give Esau the stew, but only after Esau promised to sell his younger twin brother Jacob his birthright. Esau traded the significant material benefits of his inheritance for one meager meal of stew because he thought with his stomach and acted on his animal instincts. If Esau had been more thoughtful and patient, he most likely would have made a different decision despite his growling belly.

The story of Esau and the lentil stew teaches us the importance of delayed gratification. While it may not feel good to put a few dollars of your allowance in your piggy bank each week, it feels great when you have finally saved enough money to buy a new bike. It might be painful to run sprints each morning or do endless sets of soccer drills, but it feels glorious when you cross the finish line or score the winning goal.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about appreciating the benefits of delayed gratification.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Have you ever let your stomach make a decision for you, which you later regretted?
  • Have you ever acted on an impulse, instead of thinking through a decision more carefully?
  • Can you think of a time when you didn’t get what you wanted right when you wanted it?
  • Have you ever worked really hard to achieve a goal? How did it feel when you  accomplished the goal?
  • What are the benefits of delayed gratification?

By Yael Hammerman

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.

BOOOORING…

TORAH PORTION: BAMIDBAR

Bambidar1Kids hate whatever they think is boring.  However, as it turns out, much of what’s important in life is not fun-filled and exciting.  While much of a child’s school day can be interesting (one hopes!), memorizing facts is simply rote.  While family life can be fun, chores around the home are not.  There are plenty of highs and lows in life, but most of life falls right in between.

The Torah parsha this week, Bamidbar, begins the tale of the Israelites wandering through the wilderness.  They have already been through the excitement of escaping from Egypt and receiving the Torah at Sinai.  Now, they are simply traipsing through the desert, as they will be for the next forty years.  But the Israelite journey through the desert is more than just wandering.  It is a time for testing limits, for growth and renewal.  It is a time for consolidating their identity as a nation and their relationship with God.

It’s important to teach kids to appreciate the “boring” moments of life.  In working through the boredom there is much to learn: patience and fortitude, to name two important character traits.  When they complain of being bored, we, as parents, should be wary of solving their “boredom” for them.  Instead, let them work out for themselves the “problem” of boredom.  In this way they can learn to tolerate boredom, or at least work through it by themselves and see their way to what’s valuable in the less exciting moments of life.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the wandering of the Israelites through the wilderness on their way to the promised land, and what this journey might signify for their lives today.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What do you find boring?
  • What do you do when you are bored?  Does whining or complaining help?
  • Why might it be important to be bored sometimes?

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.

WAITING…PATIENCE IS A COMPANION OF WISDOM

TORAH PORTION: KI TISSA

KiTisa2Waiting is difficult.  When a child waits, for instance, for a parent to come home, the time can feel excruciatingly long.  Patience comes, hopefully with age, and even then it’s a hard-earned attribute.

In our Torah portion the children of Israel wait forty days and forty nights for Moses to come down the mountain with the Torah.  They are anxious that Moses will never return to them, frightened that they will have no leader to lead them to the promised land.  They are so scared that they build themselves an idol, a golden calf to accompany them through the desert.  Descending from Mount Sinai, Moses witnesses his people worshipping the Golden Calf.  He becomes so angry that he hurls the  Ten Commandments he just received from God, to the ground and the stone tablets shatter into fragments.

For adults, being able to wait requires developing self-control.  Patience is an acquired skill.  How can we teach children to have patience?  It can be done little by little.  For example, a parent can leave a child with a new babysitter for a short amount of time and then lengthen the period over time.  A parent can work with a child to have patience in play as well, building more elaborate structures with blocks, for instance, as time goes on.  When a child becomes too frustrated, parents can scale back their expectations, making adjustments for the capacity of the child at that moment.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about how the children of Israel were unable to wait for Moses and built a golden calf in his absence.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • When is it hardest to wait?
  • When do you become frustrated?
  • What helps you when you are waiting?
  • Why is patience important?

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.