Children 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.