Shalvi Waldman's articles on a wide variety of subjects have appeared in various Jewish publications. A sample of her writing appears here.
The Daycare Dilemma
printed in Binah Magazine Nov. 2012
A number of months ago, a letter appeared in Binah that caught my attention. A mother wrote about the dangerous effects of childcare on babies and toddlers based on studies that measured cortisol, a stress hormone, and showed that children in day care seem to have higher levels of stress than children cared for by their mothers. As a working mother of five, all of whom experienced some form of childcare in their early years, and as a therapist dealing with an array of family issues, I wanted to find out more.
Clearly, the topic of childcare is a very charged issue for many mothers. We love our children, and want the very best for them. In today’s economy many mothers do not have the option of staying home full-time. For other families, non-economic factors may affect their daycare/homecare decision. When a mother is struggling with illness or a difficult pregnancy, or caring for an elderly parent, quiet morning hours can make the difference between managing and not managing. Some women need child-free hours just to keep up with the needs of a large household, or to use the time for creative expression.
Is it fair to weigh parents down with guilt if they do choose daycare? Is all the research on the topic of childcare clearly against it? Do the studies apply to all childcare settings, or just large daycare centers? Do researchers know what causes the cortisol increase in the studies where it was observed? Are there are any significant long-term effects? Were the results in large daycare centers the same as those in family settings?
Before going into details about the cortisol research, it is important to take a look at the theoretical orientation that motivated it. Various studies over the last century have shown that children need to build an attachment with one or more primary caregivers in order to feel safe and confident and to build an internal sense of what a healthy relationship feels like. There is a wealth of research on the subject that is beyond the scope of this article, but I will bring one powerful example.
In the 1990s, the world was shocked when Romanian orphanages opened their doors and 40,000 children were found to be seriously neglected. While some of the babies had received adequate nutrition, none of them had received love and normal bonding with their caregivers. Even the older children had no language skills, and did not seem interested in connecting with people. Follow-up studies indicated that the lack of early attachment had left permanent damage. The children did not develop physically or emotionally, even those who were subsequently adopted and received love and personal attention. MRI brain scans showed serious deficiencies in brain growth , IQ scores were lower, and relationship skills suffered. This study joined the many others that show the importance of meaningful attachment in the first two years of life.
The opposite is also true. Children who form healthy attachments and whose caregivers are attentive to them in their early years develop better both physically and emotionally. They form an internal imprint of what a healthy relationship is supposed to feel like, and will seek out and form meaningful bonds throughout their lives. The mutual enjoyment that exists between a well-attached baby and his mother creates a foundation for a lifetime of success physically,6 emotionally, and academically[E1]
If it is so essential for a child to connect to a primary caregiver, what happens when he or she is sent to childcare in the formative years? This is where the cortisol studies come in. Numerous studies have shown that cortisol levels rise throughout the day when children are in daycare − more than they do at home. However, there is no conclusive evidence that any damage is done by this increase in the hormone. In fact, cortisol elevations in many circumstances are adaptive, and a marker of social competence, particularly in new situations.
Other studies show that children who experienced high quality daycare were more successful in third grade in the areas of math, memory, and vocabulary. One study by the National Institute of Children’s Health and Development revealed some behavioral problems in children who had been in daycare, but also indicated the academic benefits mentioned above. As the children aged, the behavioral problems faded, but the academic successes did not. Children six months of age and older who had more experience in childcare centers showed somewhat better cognitive and language development through age three, and somewhat better pre-academic skills involving letters and numbers at age four-and-a-half than children who were at home with their mothers. Apparently, there is a benefit to daycare that outlasts any problems that it may have caused. In fact, long term studies of children who were in daycare in their early years show some advancement in academic success later on in school, particularly among children from difficult family situations. 
As frum mothers, these studies do not necessarily tell us much about our available childcare options. For the most part, the children studied were from low-income, minority populations in high-crime areas, and in family settings in which both parents were working, or only one parent was present. The studies were done in large centers where each caregiver was responsible for many children, and the staff was underpaid and unmotivated. Unfortunately, for some of these children, even this less-than-ideal daycare facility still may be better than what they experience at home. This, baruch Hashem, is far from the reality in our communities.
Dr. Josh Rocker, a pediatric emergency doctor at the Cohen Children’s Medical Center at LIJ hospital does not give much credence to the cortisol studies. “In order to draw conclusions about the effects of stress hormones in children you would need a very large-scale study in which many children from various backgrounds and family situations were included. Then you would have to take into account all the other things that may be causing stress for the child. Perhaps in daycare they are receiving foods that they are not used to; maybe the smells of the cleaning fluids used in daycare, or even the different type of lighting is bothering them. Who knows? There are so many factors to be considered that it is hard to say that daycare causes stress. Even if children in daycare situations do have higher cortisol levels, there is no proof that that will have any detrimental long-term effects. Saying that daycare is bad and mothering is good is over-simplistic and even silly. What kind of daycare? What kind of mothering? What is the child’s personality type? Some children thrive in stimulating social situations, while others are happiest near their mothers. Sometimes the home situation is not ideal and daycare is a safe haven. There are many facets to the childcare question that parents must take into account in order to make the best decision for their family.”
The most recent and comprehensive study of the long-term effects of daycare on children was done at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. They found that the factor that most significantly affects children’s long-term success is the type of parenting they receive at home, no matter how many hours they spend in daycare. Children whose parents are responsive, sensitive, and supportive are more successful in school, score higher in reading, math, and vocabulary, have better work habits and social skills, and have fewer behavioral problems in the classroom. While in general, kids who were in childcare have slightly more behavioral problems than children who were mothered full-time, they are still in the normal range. 
While moms who need or choose to work are not necessarily compromising their babies’ development by placing them in childcare, they do have to be careful when selecting a childcare provider. Some mothers choose to hire a private caregiver, a neighbor, or a grandmother, but for many, a group setting is the best option. Deciding whether or not to put a child in daycare is a very personal decision that each couple must make for each child. However, it is clearly possible for children to have very positive, nurturing experiences in childcare What can parents do to ensure that their child will have the best experience possible?
The first step is picking the right childcare provider. While there are practical factors to consider such as price and location, it is essential to get information about a babysitter and her background, and to speak to parents who have sent their babies to her. A babysitter who is well-trained and confident in her skills will not have any problem giving references and inviting parents to visit.
Nechama Adler, who runs the K’tantan playgoup in Monsey and holds a degree in early childhood special education, recommends that parents consider the following questions when checking out a childcare provider:
The Physical Space:
· What are the facilities like?
· Is there enough room?
· Does it look and smell clean?
· Is it warm and inviting?
· Are there plenty of colorful and stimulating toys in good condition?
· Are there both indoor and outdoor spaces for the kids to play?
· Does it look safe? (Are there proper fences, guardrails, etc…?)
· Does the teacher have training in infant and toddler development so that she understands the developmental and emotional needs of the age group that she is working with?
· Does she have certification in First Aid and CPR?
· Does the teacher seem attuned to the children’s needs?
· What is the staff to child ratio?
· Is there a high turnover rate? Is it safe to assume the child will have the same caregivers for the duration of the year?
· What is the policy about phone calls and visits during the day? You don’t want a babysitter to be on her phone all day long, ignoring the children, but if you do need to reach her for some reason, how can that be arranged? Knowing that parents can visit during the day gives confidence that the caregiver has nothing to hide.
· Do caregivers speak to the children, even babies? Do they sing and read to the children? Do they hug, rock, cuddle, seek eye contact, and enjoy the children? Do they respond to the babies’ smiles and emerging skills and interests?
· Do they answer children’s questions patiently? Do they ask the children questions? Do the teachers seem to understand what the children are trying to communicate, even when they don’t have full verbal skills?
· Is there a lot of crying? How does the caregiver react when a child cries?
· While you are visiting the facility and the teacher is speaking to you, what are the children doing? Does the teacher seem to be paying attention to them?
· If there is an assistant, how is she treated? Does she seem warm and enthusiastic, or is she just a worker?
· Is each baby allowed to eat and sleep according to his/her own rhythms, not according to a schedule imposed by the caregiver?
· Does the caregiver handle conflicts without losing patience, shaming a child, or displaying anger?
The bottom line is: Is it an environment where your child will feel secure and happy? Will you feel confident about leaving your child there?
Once you have chosen a childcare provider, you can ease your child’s transition by sending some familiar objects, a blanket or toy, or even a small picture album with family pictures. It is helpful to communicate with the staff so that they continue your baby’s routines around naptimes and feedings. Exchanging a few sentences with the babysitter at pick-up and drop-off can make a world of difference. In a childcare center that I sent my child to, they kept a log for each child and recorded the times and types of feedings and diaper changes. If a child’s elimination cycle is somehow disturbed, this information can be essential in understanding and resolving the problem.
Sometimes even with parents’ best efforts in finding proper childcare, problems do arise. The following are some red flags that signal that the parents need to investigate further.
Does your child suddenly not want to go to playgroup?
Does your baby come home irritated and upset?
Have there been significant changes in your baby’s eating or sleeping patterns?
Has recurrent diaper rash or diarrhea become an issue for your child since starting daycare?
When something seems to be “off,” the first step is to speak to the babysitter. In my experience as a mother and teacher, most teachers really care about the children that they work with, and are willing to discuss what needs to be done for the child’s benefit. A competent professional will be curious and responsive and not defensive if issues come up.
If after a few conversations things do not seem to be improving, or if the sitter seems to get defensive and is unwilling to deal with the child’s distress, it might be time to consider looking for a different childcare situation. There are various ethical and halachic issues involved in absolving a childcare arrangement in the middle of the year, and a Rav should be consulted. If there is reason to suspect abuse or maltreatment, it is important to have some proof. Again, a rabbi or social worker should be consulted, and parents must proceed carefully. It is not possible to give general guidelines in such situations, and each one must be examined individually to see how it should be dealt with.
Childcare is just one aspect of the complex world of parenting. As parents, we strive to do all that we can to educate our children and nourish their souls. When we have done our due diligence to ensure that our children are in a nurturing environment, there is no reason to feel guilty for placing them in childcare. Whether or not we will be able to let go of the traditional Jewish maternal guilt is a different question!
 Ainsworth, 1973; Bowlby, 1969
 A wonderful resource for parents and child care providers is www.zerotothree.org. They provide a wealth of research-based information in language that parents and others concerned for children can understand and implement.
 Ross Thomson “Development in the First Years of Life” from
 Child Abuse and Neglect and the Brain—A Review, Danya Glaser 2003 Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
 Rutter et al, 1998
 Attachment Theory, Saul McLeod 2009
 Effects of a secure attachment relationship on right brain development, affect regulation, and infant mental health, Allen Schore - Infant Mental Health Journal, 2001
 Watamura, Sarah E., Erin M. Kryzer, and Steven S. Robertson, “Cortisol patterns at home and child care: Afternoon differences and evening recovery in children attending very high quality full-day center-based child care.” Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 30.4 (2009): 475-485.
 Sapolsky, 2004
 Gunnar et al., 1997
 Caughy, M. O., DiPietro, J. A. and Strobino, D. M. (1994), Day-Care Participation as a Protective Factor in the Cognitive Development of Low-Income Children. Child Development
 NICHD study of Early Child Care and Youth Development − Government publication
 “Your Child’s Behavior”
Reprinted with permission from Chabad.org
By Shalvi Weissman M.Sc.
I know that eating disorders have been around for a while, but now that I am raising my own daughters, the topic concerns me more. I see that our culture surrounds girls from younger and younger ages with media that portray thin not only as "in," but as the only acceptable way to be. The pressure of dieting and physical appearance is something that my eight year old daughter is already aware of!
She will pat her belly and ask me if I think she is fatOccasionally she will pat her round little belly and ask me if I think that she is fat. She is a little chubbier than some of her friends, but certainly nothing unhealthy or out of the ordinary. Should I put her on a diet? I don't really want to encourage the extreme focus on body image in our home. I have a friend with a teenage daughter who started out a little chubby, went on a diet and was recently hospitalized for anorexia, I certainly don't want that.
Are there other factors that make a young woman more likely to have an eating disorder? What can I do to protect my eight year old daughter as well as her five year old sister?
You are right to be concerned. Eating disorders are a danger that the young women of our generation fall prey to. A recent study of teenagers in Minnesota showed that 13% of girls and 7% of boys reported disordered eating behaviors. It is most likely that your daughter will have among her friends someone suffering from an eating disorder.
I will not go into the details of what anorexia, and bulimia look like as there is much information available, and obviously you have some awareness already to be asking the question that you did. If anyone reading this is concerned that they or someone close to them is already suffering from an eating disorder, it is best to speak to a doctor immediately, as the chances of a full recovery are much higher when the illness is diagnosed early and treated immediately.
Use food to feed hunger, but not to feed emotional deficitsYour question of how to create a safe environment to prevent the development of an eating disorder in your daughters is a very important one. The research shows that while there is no one "cause" of eating disorders, parents can influence many factors that that can lower the risk.
Your hesitation to put your eight year old on a diet is certainly in place. Anyhow 95% of weight taken off by dieting is put back on with interest. It is likely that she will thin out as she grows taller. Many eating disorder cases start out as diets that get out of hand.
You, as her mother, can create an atmosphere in the house that is conducive to a healthy mind and body. Buy and serve foods that are colorful, fun and nutritious. It takes time and creativity, but is well worth the investment. Use food to feed hunger, but not to feed emotional deficits. Don't worry about your daughter being fat.
Downplay the Importance of Being Thin
How do you feel about your own body? More than half of women surveyed in the USA said that they refrain from activities that they would like to participate in because they are embarrassed by their appearance. Don't be one of them! Develop a sense of self that is based on who you are and what you do, not how you look.
Your daughters will absorb and internalize your attitude. Comments like, "This makes me look so fat!" "Doesn't Aunt Hilda look great? She went on a diet," or "I was so good this week, I lost two pounds," are poison. Better to say, "I was so good this week, I didn't gossip at all!" and "Doesn't Aunt Hilda look great? Ever since she started volunteering at the hospital she has been smiling much more!" The more you have a positive and balanced approach to food and body size, the safer your home is.
If your daughter pats her belly and asks you if she is fat, ask her if she knows what's in that belly. There is a stomach, intestines, a liver, kidneys, etc. Explain to her what goes on inside there. Let her feel a little bit of awe at the function of her body. Jewish tradition has us make blessings every morning for our basic physical abilities, even being able to go to the bathroom! Our bodies are tremendous gifts no matter what shape or size they are!
Develop Your Spiritual Side
Spend time every week alone and with your daughters doing something spiritual. Young children connect very naturally to prayer. Emphasize that what makes people special is their soul, and how they use the gifts that life has given them to do good. The richer the inner life is, the less important the external becomes. If you notice, the days that you feel bad about the way you look are often days that you feel bad about who you are. Build yourself and your family on the inside and that will shine through.
Express Feelings Honestly
Our bodies are tremendous giftsWhen your children see you expressing your feelings in an honest and candid way, both positive and negative, they will learn "feeling vocabulary." Even with your five year old. If she gets upset, talk to her about what's going on. Help her to define it to herself and you. I have heard from girls with eating disorders that when they felt bad they would tell their parents that they felt fat. Feelings were not talked about in their homes, and they could never just state honestly that something had upset them.
Eating and restricting food is often a sad replacement for communication. If a child cannot express her feelings she is more likely to eat them or purge them. It is not realistic to ask a parent to listen to everything a child wants to say at all times, but make sure to spend some time each day listening to each child. When life is tough for them they will come to you with their problems if you have proven to them that you are a trustworthy confidant. The time that you invest now listening to their small problems will have big returns in the teenage years.
Deal with the Aftermath of Trauma
As far as I know, your daughters have not been through any trauma. One study showed that 74% of girls with anorexia had experienced some sort of trauma, and more than half of them exhibited some symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. It is well known that sexual abuse is a risk factor for eating disorders.
If your children have been through something that they may have experienced as traumatic, be sensitive to any changes in their mood, appetite or sleep patterns, and contact a mental health professional if you are concerned.
Don't Create a Perfectionist
Perfectionism drives anorexics to be perfectly emaciated, and still not be satisfied with their bodies. Help your children set realistic goals for themselves, and work hard to achieve them. Self esteem is built in both children and adults when we accomplish things that are challenging to us, but within our range of ability. Don't criticize a child for not being to do something that is beyond her. Don't worry, they will naturally enjoy their successes, and strive for more.
Do an Emotional Housecleaning
If you or your husband have heavy personal issues, deal with them now, and don't pass them on to your kids. Your emotional health sets the standard for what your kids feel is normal. If there are addictions, low self esteem and constant arguments between the parents, your children will internalize the discord, and it will show at some point. Studies show that problems at home put kids at a greater risk for eating disorders, addictions, and other problems.
The richer the inner life is, the less important the external becomes. While there is nothing you can do to make your child's life problem free, you don't need to burden her with your problems. Likelihood is that if you have been carrying the problem this far in life you will need some help to resolve it. Find someone you trust and do the work. Being lazy here may cost heavily later.
Limit Media in Your Home
You are right that the media are targeting your daughters. There is a huge market aimed at teens and youth. That doesn't mean that you have to let it into your home. You are the parent; you decide on the quality and quantity of media in the home. Today there are many resources available that focus more on being good than looking good. (Check out Chabad's great kids' website!)
When your girls are older it will become more difficult to control what they see outside of the house. When you are driving and come across a billboard that uses slender female bodies to sell anything from insurance to dish soap, talk to your girls about the absurdity of it. Most models are thinner than 98% of American women. They are trying to sell an extreme that is not healthy for most people.
Educate your daughters to be objective and critical of media. If you have taught them in their younger years to appreciate internal qualities it will be easier for them to use their judgment and not feel judged by all that they see.
Teach a Spiritual Approach to Food and Body
The Torah teaches us to make blessings before we eat. We use food to create the special feeling of Shabbat and holidays. We abstain from food on certain days of the year when we are meant to focus on other things, yet we eat reasonably before and after fast days.
Our body is a gift that is fantastically functional. With it we can do so much to make the world a beautiful and meaningful place. The more that we see our physicality as a means to a greater end, the less likely it is to stand in our way.
All that said, we are just human. We do our best and a sprinkling of prayer is a good seasoning for even the best parenting!
You are right to be concerned, but don't get stressed out. Trust yourself, and your love for your children. Your positive and balanced approach to life will rub off on them!
The Angels and Us
By Shalvi Weissman M.Sc.
Reprinted with permission from Chabad.org
There are angels in the world who tell us that we're not good enough – and they are right! As perfect beings, angels hold up perfection as their standard of measurement, but their measurements have been getting us humans into trouble from the very beginning.
When G‑d decided to create the world, in His humility He asked the angels what they thought. The answer was, of course, "No! Don't do it! They will tell lies, they will break the rules, they will make mistakes, and it's not worth it!"
G-d never expected perfectionG‑d, however, decided that despite the risk, it was a worthwhile investment- and Adam and Eve were created. His explanation to the angels was that we would be kind to each other.
When it was time to give the Torah, the angels didn't want Him to entrust it to us.Moses was in heaven for forty days and forty nights learning the Torah and preparing to bring it down to the Jewish people. The angels came to G‑d and said, "What's this lowly mortal doing up here?"
"He's come to receive the Torah and bring it down to the Jewish people."
"What?! You've got to be kidding! You are giving the greatest supernal celestial delight to a bunch of lowly human beings?! They will surely profane it! They are not deserving!"
G‑d told Moses, "Answer them."
So Moses asked them, "What does the Torah say?"
"Well, it says to honor your father and mother."
"Do you have a father and mother that you must honor? What else does it say?"
"Not to covet."
"Do angels have possessions that you need to be warned not to covet? What else?"
"Not to commit adultery…"
Moses was able to convince them that the Torah, full of laws about money, food, and relationships, clearly belonged among us and not them, but they still wanted to burn Moses up with their fiery breath. G‑d told Moses to hold on to His holy throne, and by doing so, Moses was saved and was able to deliver the Torah.
It's made for usAny spiritually sensitive individual realizes that keeping the Torah in its entirety is a near-impossible task. The angels were right. We mess it up. We make mistakes. However, that's nothing new to G‑d. He knew from the get-go exactly who he was dealing with. He made us!
How many times have you intended to help out a friend, do something special in honor of Shabbat, give your kids a better Jewish education, work on having a better relationship with your parents, etc., but when you thought it through, it seemed too hard, impossible to do perfectly/ completely/ consistently- so you forgot about it altogether?
It is almost as if we can hear the angels making their arguments against us. What they're saying is probably true. But there is a deeper truth- the truth of the truth is that even if you do one good deed one time, you have created spiritual progress that will last for all of eternity. You are bringing nachas, joy, to your Creator and holiness into your own life. The effort that you invested will never be lost.
This is something that angels don't understand. How can we get credit for what seem to them to be small successes? But they don't have to deal with the kind of stresses that humans deal with on a daily basis.
Once, G‑d decided to show them. Three angels came to visit Abraham after he was circumcised, to tell him that he was going to have a son. Abraham made them a meal to remember: veal tongues in mustard with fresh bread and the works. G‑d gave them the ability to eat just this once. For a moment those angels enjoyed sinking their teeth into a succulent meal, and they were so immersed in the pleasure of it that they lost touch with their spiritual reality a little. Ever have that happen? Of course! Food and all of the other physical pleasures can bring us closer to G‑d, but they can also make us forget ourselves and our Creator. At that moment the angels understood what it means to be human and to have to deal with the challenges that we deal with. It took them a hundred and something years to recover from the spiritual fall of that one meal and to return to heaven. It wasn't until three generations later, in the days of Jacob, Abraham's grandson, that those angels where able to go back up to heaven (this is one of the meanings of Jacob's dream of the ladder with the angels going up and down- it is said that Jacob was witnessing the return of those three angels to Heaven.)
Even Moses had to deal with doubts caused by the angels' grumblings. TheMidrash teaches us that when G‑d first appeared to Moses at the 'burning bush' and asked him to go to redeem the Jewish people, Moses said no. They spent a week arguing about it. Sounds like chutzpa, but Moses really had a point. He said that he knew that although he would be able to bring the Jewish People out of Egypt to receive the Torah and go into the Land of Israel, he would not be able to purify them spiritually enough for them to attain complete redemption. He knew that they would sin after he died and be sent into an exile similar to the one they were already in. So why bother?
Sound familiar? But G‑d wanted him to go anyway. That's what we have to do as well. What Moses was saying was true, but the truth of the truth is that we must go anyway. Do the will of G‑d in this moment and don't think too much.
The truth of the truth is that this Shavuot we are going to receive the Torah. Before the holiday is over, whether we wanted to or not, most of us, in some way, will probably have violated it. G‑d still knows what He's doing when He gives it to us. You see, it's made for people who might want to steal, covet, or run amuck following their own self-will. It's made for us! We're the ones who need it, and G‑d loves us so much that He gives it to us – knowing that we're going to make mistakes, but also knowing that we will be kind to each other. Maybe a small part of that kindness is to stand by our friends' side in their moment of weakness and remind them that it's okay to be human – G‑d made us that way.
"Spare the rod and spoil the child." We've all heard it, right? Only there's one problem: that most quoted 'biblical' parenting instruction doesn't appear anywhere in the Bible!
William Langland's The Vision of William concerning Piers Plowman, 1377, includes this line: "Who-so spareth ye sprynge, spilleth his children." That is old English for the phrase we are familiar with. KingSolomon, in Proverbs,1said something that on the surface sounds similar, but actually means something entirely different: "One who spares his rod hates his child, but he who loves him, disciplines him in his youth." Let's compare the two phrases:
Can we compare spoiling a child to hating him?.Spare the rod and spoil the child.
One who spares his rod hates his child…
Can we compare spoiling a child to hating him? More often we think of people spoiling their children because they love them. King Solomon wrote that one who loves his child disciplines him in his youth. Why do some people spoil their children, while others discipline their children firmly but lovingly, and yet others take the phrase literally and hit their kids?
Parents usually parent in the style that they do, not because that's what's good for their kids, but rather because that is what is suitable to them, the parents, in the moment. Let's be honest here. The way that we react to our kids has more to do with us and how we are feeling than with what the kids actually did.
If you are by nature warm, calm, collected, and have strong principles, it will come across in your parenting. If you are a hot-head, that too will come across. When your children feel that you are reacting to them based on your own "stuff" and not because of their actions and their needs, it will distance them from you. If you can see that your children need something that they don't want, or want something that they cannot have, and you can deal with it in a clear and principled way, they will understand that you are doing it for their best interest. If you flare up, you have lost your chance to teach them what you believe.
This can also be more subtle. People's moods and situations fluctuate. If a child comes to you in the evening wanting to tell you about what happened in school that day, and you had a successful and pleasant day in which you accomplished everything on your list, you might put down your newspaper, or turn off the computer, or hang up the phone, sit down with the kid and really listen. You might be surprised or impressed or even worried about what your child has to tell you, but you are open to hear the child out. When the child wants to communicate and you are emotionally available to receive what she has to say, the conversation will really be about the content your child wants to share, and the interaction will enhance your relationship.
Let's take the opposite scenario. You had a tough day. Everything went wrong. Traffic in the morning made you late to work. The boss was furious that you were late, because there is an important deadline tomorrow. You found out that another coworker was "let go" because of financial constraints. You scurried around in circles trying to do your part, but nothing seemed to be coming together. You forgot to pick up what you needed to make a healthy dinner, so dinner found its way from the freezer to the microwave to the table. You want to eke out some quality time with the kids, but your mind is only on the work you need to do to meet the deadline, and when you can finally get them out of your hair to do it—and you are worrying whether you are next in line to be "let go." When the kids sit down with their homework, you run to the computer. You look up and see Michael standing there. "What!? Aren't you supposed to be doing homework? What do you want from me?"
It's no longer about poor Michael; that's you and your stress speaking. Now the thing is, you are no dummy; you know that your stress is speaking. And Michael's no dummy either. He knows that you are in drive-through parenting mode. If you are distracted, Michael is free to do what he wants. If you catch him, one of two things will happen: either you'll scream your brains out and put on a good show, or you'll just let it slip by because you don't have the time or energy to deal with it, and because you know that you are stressed and don't want to take it out on Michael. Either way he wins—but really he loses, and so do you. King Solomon would call that hating the child.
Hopefully none of us would say that we hate our children. Yet all of us sometimes hate ourselvesNone of us are perfect parents, and we all fall into those traps at times, but hopefully none of us would say that we hate our children. Yet all of us sometimes hate ourselves. We hate our inability to control the situation, and the inability to be perfect. When life gets out of hand, unless we are very careful, this hatred can well up and spill out on our kids. We can't give love or stability to our children when we don't have it within ourselves. So what do we do? We do damage, either by giving our kids our money and our stuff instead of our hearts, or by hitting and screaming.
One who spares his staff hates his child. What staff was King Solomon talking about? A staff is solid and doesn't change. A staff is used for support on one's way. For parenting rules to successfully show our children that we are trying to build them in ways that are good for them, the rules must be solid and consistent; they must support the growth of the children on their paths, and protect the needs of the parents. The staff is the "measuring stick" that the parent can use to show the child that there are realities, principles that obligate us all.
Adults who have solid principles that support them in all their ways will be able to measure the behavior of their children in a predictable and safe way, and respond to inappropriate behavior in ways that don't undermine their parental authority or just blow off anger. They will be able to feel the support and love within themselves, and be able to support and love their children. "One who loves (his child) disciplines him in his youth." If you love your child you will help him to develop himself in a disciplined way in his youth, before things get out of hand. You will make time to explain to your child, not in the heat of anger, but in a moment of warmth and understanding, why you expect him to behave in a particular way, and why that is important to you, and ultimately to him.
It's pretty simple. Who you are is how you'll parent. You can only teach what you know. You can only give what you have. You can only build with the tools in your box. Fill yourself with warmth, goodness, and all that you dream of for your children. They will know you as a treasure chest, and come to fill themselves with knowledge and nourishment for life.
Spare the Rod?
by Shalvi Weissman M.Sc.
Reprinted with permission from Chabad.org