On Sunday evening, December 26, Let’s Get Real With Coach Menachem featured Rabbi Yechiel Spero, educator and author of the Touched by a Story series and Dr. Eli Shapiro, licensed clinical social worker and Founder of the Digital Citizenship Project. The discussion focused on how to create a close relationship with our children.
Coach Menachem Bernfeld shared that you need to spend time with your child in a way that he knows it’s his time and you are doing what the child wants during that time.
Rabbi Spero noted that most children are very challenging. The number one ingredient in chinuch is siyata diShmaya. You need to daven for success. He shared how we have to believe completely that our child will come to his own, and even though he lingers, I wait for him just as I wait for Mashiach. “We believe in our children.”
Dr. Eli Shapiro said the driving issue today revolves around technology. There are so many challenges with two parents working. Finding opportunities to be an engaged parent becomes harder and harder. There are three major styles of parenting: authoritarian, laissez-faire, and the best style – authoritative – which blends a balance of firmness, love, and understanding. Children need and want that balance. They want limits and standards. They also need to feel loved and validated.
Dr. Shapiro responded that this is not a new challenge. There is always the issue of the haves and have-nots. The most important thing is to validate your child’s feelings when he asks for something. They often know the answer is no before they ask. It is important that they feel understood and that we validate their experience. For example, you could say, “It must be hard to feel that everyone else has that and you don’t.” Validation helps children feel that their feelings are important.
Another person asked how to maximize the small amount of time he has to spend with his children. Dr. Shapiro shared that when you spend time with them, ask yourself if you are completely absorbed in what they are doing.
Rabbi Spero said it’s important for children to know that you are always there for them. You should reassure your child constantly. “I’m always here for you if you want to talk.”
Technology and devices can interfere with our time with them. Dr. Shapiro has a “go dark at dinner” policy. No one has devices on at dinner time. He said that we have to set aside time for our children for positive interactive experiences.
Someone else asked how to be more empathetic to her children when it’s not her nature to be that way. Rabbi Spero shared a teaching of Rabbi Avigdor Miller. A man asked Rabbi Miller how to internalize that G-d is my father. He just wasn’t feeling it. Rabbi Miller told him to keep repeating Avinu until he internalized it.
Rabbi Spero noted that validation is a behavior that you can practice. You don’t have to feel it to do it, and the more you validate it will help you to develop empathy.
Hashem chose you to be your children’s parent. “Love them the way you can. Be you.” He added that it’s never too late. “You can always rebuild your relationship.” Showing your children that you care will build the foundation of a loving relationship.
Someone asked about what to do when they find themselves in shouting matches with their teenager. Rabbi Spero said it is incumbent upon the adult to regulate the conversation. When you feel you are getting angry, you need to step back and understand what the child is going through. Finding opportunities to show care and concern will help to repair the relationship. He shared the importance of having five positive interactions for every negative one.
A question was asked about what to do if you and your spouse disagree. Dr. Shapiro taught that you must always show a united front. You can disagree in private. There is an overarching importance in presenting a united front.
By Susie Garber