On Sunday evening, March 6, Let’s Get Real With Coach Menachem featured Rabbi Shlomo Usher Tauber speaking on setting boundaries for younger children.
Coach Menachem Bernfeld introduced the program. He shared that children need to know that adults understand them whether the child does the right thing or the wrong thing.
Next, Rabbi Tauber, world-wide speaker and also founder of Kesher Coaching, an institution that helps spouses and parents, shared that Hashem gave you your children, so you are a licensed educator. Hashem trusts you. He taught that “whenever you hear something about self-improvement that involves your relationship with others, it’s important to hear it and to desire to implement it. If you focus on someone else needing to hear it, then it will never penetrate your brain and understandings.”
Rabbi Tauber shared that chinuch is teamwork with two spouses. If the spouses pull in different directions, this will not be healthy for the child. When differences arise, it is important for spouses to discuss these matters privately but then to present a united front. It is vital for your child to see you as a united team. A mixed message is no message at all.
Parents need to give a consistent, clear message. This creates healthy children. Chinuch begins before a child is born. Healthy children will try to break rules and will talk back occasionally. “Every child wants to listen to his parents. They want to be told what to do. A child needs boundaries and guidance. Hashem created us with basic needs, such as oxygen, food, sleep, etc. We all also have a basic need for power. Everyone wants to be listened to. It’s a healthy need. If a healthy child has a hard time accepting rules, it is because his need for power is on a high level. You may have one child who needs to be dealt with differently because he has difficulty accepting boundaries. There is usually one in every family like this.
Our job as parents is to know each of our children and to focus on each child separately. “The role of an educator is one word. We are salespeople.” We are selling humanity, character traits, and Yiddishkeit. Our children are the buyers. A good salesperson has to really believe in the product he is selling. A good salesperson has to use what he is selling. We need to live the boundaries we set. Rabbi Tauber shared that a human being has three components. The brain stores knowledge. We are in full control of this, and Hashem gives us free choice of what we allow into our brain. Our actions are also under our full control. Hashem gives us full choice in what we do. Our heart and feelings are the third component. We don’t have full control here. Yes, we can do things to awaken certain feelings, but one day I may have a desire to daven and another day I may not have such a strong desire to do it. Feelings are not in our hands. If a person tries to force his feelings, he will fall apart. We can know something and feel something different. A child until the age of six or seven or eight operates completely on feelings. Children can laugh one minute and cry the next. When children reach nine, or ten, or bas or bar mitzvah age, they start having questions. They don’t have clarity. If we aren’t clear with them, that is the beginning of the child not accepting boundaries. The bottom line is that we have to focus on the child’s feelings. “It’s not true that if you have good feelings you are good, and if you have bad feelings you are not good.”
If a child is struggling with doing something like getting up in the morning, then it is poison to say to him, “You just don’t want to get up.” This is not true. The child does want to get up; he is having the same problems we are having getting up. “We can’t expect a child to be on the same level as we are, in terms of getting up to go to a job.” When a child struggles to get up in the morning and one day he gets up easily, then the parent should say, “I noticed how you did it, even though it was hard for you.” This is giving the child the right message in a healthy way. “Focus on their actions, not their feelings.” We have to have clarity for ourselves. We struggle with feelings. “We need to be aware of what we can control and what we can’t.” He emphasized, “Don’t blame yourself for feelings you have and don’t blame your child for his feelings.”
He advised that we need to give our children information. Load them with information. Use every opportunity to teach them why you are doing something. If they have no idea of the why we do something, then feelings for it will be hard for them to develop. Give them information of what it means and what it does. “Our duty is to give information to our child. Tell them what to do and what not to do. Don’t demand that they have feelings.”
When asking a child to do something, you need to be clear about what you want him to do. Don’t involve feelings. Do it consistently. Give him information. Tell him what to do and what not to do. Your children will trust you. They need you to watch over them. Children need strong parents. “Yes is yes, and no is no. Things should be stated in a clear and calm way.” Don’t ask your child to do something he can’t do. Focus on what he can do. Always ask in a calm way. Scream only when there is danger. Otherwise, there is never a reason to scream. Screaming is a sign of weakness. If a parent keeps saying no and then finally says yes, this is very unhealthy for the child. He added that you shouldn’t be afraid to be strict.
By Susie Garber