Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics about Teaching Moments – Page 2

PARENTS ARE POWERFUL TEACHERS…

TORAH PORTION: EKEV

ekev1When we teach our children, we don’t only teach them with our words. We teach them with every act we do; in fact, we teach them with who we are at heart. If we go through life angry or resentful, our children will learn anger and resentment. If we go through life critical and judgmental, our children will learn criticism and judgment. Or, if we go through life with love and joy, our children will learn love and joy.

In our Biblical portion it says that we should teach the words of the Torah “when you stay at home and when you are on your way, when you lie down and when you get up”. In other words, wherever we are, each and every one of our actions is a teaching moment, an educational opportunity. In fact, these words comprise a part of the all-important words of the Shema, the Jewish prayer said twice daily as well as before bedtime and before death.

There are so many teaching moments we probably don’t think about as teaching moments. If we pack to go on a trip at the last minute and we are full of anxiety and pressure, that communicates one lesson. If we, however, pack in advance, and feel relaxed and confident about the journey we are to take, that communicates another. When we are outside our home, if we greet people with joy and an open heart, we are teaching our children to do the same. However, if we pass people by on the street never stopping because we are in a rush, that imparts yet another kind of lesson. If we stop on the street because someone needs help, that imparts a lesson concerning what kind of neighbors we can be in this world. Of course we can’t be perfect, and parents can be stressed for a multitude of reasons. Yet it’s important to keep in mind that every moment is a potential teaching moment and to do our utmost to be the best models we can be.

TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN about what others learn from their actions. They are models for their friends and siblings.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What are some of the things you learn from your parents? How do you learn these lessons?
  • What do you think are some of the most important things you learn from your parents?
  • What do you teach others? What do you teach your friends and your brothers or sisters?
  • What do you learn from your friends and from your brothers or sisters?

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.

TEACHING ETHICS TO LAST A LIFETIME…

TORAH PORTION: VA-ETCHANAN

vaechinan1Raising children is not only about teaching our children how to be successful in the future, going to the right schools and finding the right job. It’s also about teaching them ethics that will carry them through their lives. The ethics we teach to our children are meant to last a lifetime and, in fact, to outlive us.

Moses is told in this Torah portion that he will not be able to enter the Promised Land. But he is to teach the people of Israel a body of ethics to serve them in their building of a new society in the Promised Land. This body of ethics is meant to guide the people of Israel in their new lives and into the future, with each new generation.

We too, as parents, may not survive to witness our children or our grandchildren reach their “Promised Lands”. However, the ethics we teach them now will last them through their lives. Whether it’s honesty, or commitment, or kindness to one’s neighbor, or giving to the poor, or gratitude, these ethics will travel the distance through our children’s lives and hopefully even through our grandchildren’s lives. While we our pressured now to raise children who are civilized and obedient, it’s important to take the long view. We teach now, but we also teach ethics for the generations that will follow us.

TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN about how Moses instructed his people on ethics to guide their lives into the future.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What does it mean to be good?
  • How should one treat others?
  • Which lessons are hardest to remember in your day-to-day life at school or at home? Which are the easiest to remember?

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.

CRITICISM: IT’S HARD TO HEAR AND HARD TO GIVE…

TORAH PORTION: DEVARIM

DevarimCriticism is hard to give and hard to hear. As parents it is a challenge to criticize our children in a way that isn’t too hurtful and doesn’t engender defensive feelings. Yet, it’s important to give constructive feedback to our children, as well as to hear feedback from those we love, if we are going to be effective parents.

This week we begin the book of Devarim, the book of Deuteronomy. It is a long speech by Moses before the children of Israel enter the Promised Land, including a review of their history and of criticism for past misdeeds, as well as laws meant to organize their society in the new land. This reflection on their past, their successes and failures, prepares the Children of Israel to enter into the Promised Land and create their own society. In essence this is the book of their growing up, the book of instructions on how to govern their own land.

Before you give criticism to your child, think first about how difficult it is to hear criticism yourself. A gentle tone and a kind word amidst constructive criticism can make it possible for your children to hear what you have to say without shutting down. Whether regarding how they do homework, or table manners, or about how they play with friends, parental feedback is necessary. However, the kindness with which we dispense feedback will make all the difference in the world to how and if it is received. Furthermore, the way parents criticize one another, with rancor or with respect, provides a good model for children to learn how to criticize their peers.

TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN about the importance and difficulty of giving and accepting criticism.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • How do you feel when you receive criticism from your parents? From your friends?
  • Do you ever give others feedback or criticism? What has been the reaction from others?
  • Why do you think giving or receiving criticism is important?
  • In what situations might criticism be destructive rather than constructive?

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.

STUDY FOR ITS OWN SAKE…

HOLIDAY: SHAVUOT

ShavuotParents naturally want their children to do well in school.  We are concerned when they, for one reason or another, are not flourishing in school, and this gives us anxiety regarding their futures.  We do all we can to address whatever problems or obstacles seem to be in their way.  There are times when children feel a great deal of pressure from parents and teachers to do well in school and often this pressure can be counterproductive.

The Jewish holiday of Shavuot sheds a different light on the meaning of study.  This holiday, marking the receiving of the Torah by Moses on Mount Sinai, is commemorated by all-night study.  While children don’t often stay up all night, they can also participate by staying up past their usual bedtimes to study Jewish topics or Torah.  This holiday highlights the Jewish value of learning for its own sake– not for grades, not for some future career, not to make one’s parents happy, but for the simple pleasure of learning.

Introducing children to reading, studying, thinking and debating for its own sake can lead to a lifelong habit of learning simply for the joy of it.  This would mean truly giving your child the gift of learning.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the value of learning for its own sake, without reward or grades.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What do you like to learn in school?  What about it interests you?
  • What do you like to learn out of school?  What about it interests you?

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.

IGNITING CURIOSITY’S FLAME…

TORAH PORTION: BEHA’ALOTECHA

beha3A child’s face lighting up can light up the world. It most certainly will light up his or her parents’ hearts. Children are naturally curious, and their faces light up with understanding and delight. It’s up to us as parents and teachers to keep encouraging and nurturing that curiosity. When children ask a question and you don’t know the answer, look it up with them, or encourage them to look for the answer themselves. That is the beginning of education and using resources to follow one’s own curiosity into deeper understanding.

This week’s Torah portion describes the seven lamps that light up the sanctuary. The lamps can be seen as education, the way we light up the minds and hearts of our children. Education is not only a matter of school and academic learning. Children explore the world in all kinds of ways, with their bodies, their souls, their minds. It’s important to encourage a child’s natural ability and his or her own way of discovering the world.

We need to support the kind of education that nurtures a child’s curiosity. Education is not only a matter of mastering bodies of information. It’s about questioning and exploring, lifelong habits that will serve your child well. Our own Jewish sources illustrate traditions of questioning and responding to those questions over generations. Invite your children to join the Jewish conversation with their own questions and thoughts about things like God, the Jewish people, and what we practice ritually.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about what questions they wish they could answer.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What are you most curious about?
  • How do you go about finding out things?
  • What other ways might you find the answers you are looking for?
  • How does it feel to learn new interesting information?

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.