Friday night I had R’ Ackerman from Project YES speak in my house. He went over what he spoke about 2 weeks ago, with Expectations and then he went on to discuss Pro-Active parenting.
He mentioned the importance of calling a child by their name when giving them praise and not just when criticizing them. So that a child shouldn’t associate their name as meaning they did something wrong. Where a child would hear their name and cringe thinking “what did I do now?”.
Now what is pro-active parenting? It’s where things seem to be going smoothly, the child isn’t getting into trouble or doing anything to upset you. But yet you notice something is different and therefore take on an active role.
For example, your daughter usually plays with friends on Shabbos, and you notice for the past few weeks she has been sitting on the couch and reading a book instead. Now on the surface everything seems fine, she isn’t getting in your way. But you realize something is different and therefore want to address the situation.
So you say to your daughter “I notice you have started to read books on Shabbos instead of playing with your friends, What happened that was different?” Now since the child is in middle of reading a book you can’t expect them to shut the book and talk to you. You have to think about the child, and tell them that you would like to talk to them, and ask them when they can.
Then once you start talking to your daughter and say “What happened”, your daughter may say that one time when she was playing with her friends, one girl was very mean to her and called her names and made her cry. Now as the parent it hurts to see your child upset so you may want to dismiss her hurt feelings and say “I’m sure she didn’t mean that”. But it is important not to say that! By doing so you are not validating your child’s feelings. You are saying they don’t know what their saying, and this will cause the child to feel worse.
Instead, say “I understand that must have been hurtful”. “What happened next” Now your daughter may surprise you here with what she continues to say. She may say “Then afterwards I took out a book to read, and another girl came over and we started talking about the book”. Then you say “sounds like you had fun with the other girl”. Then she’ll remember the good time and say “yea, I had a good time with her”.
Now at this point it could be all the child needed was somebody to listen to her. So after expressing her feelings and telling over the story with what happened, she may feel all better and say “I feel better now, Thanks Mommy for listening”. And then she will go on continue playing.
Just listening, is often what children need, for us to give them our attention, and be all there for them. Not always do we have to “fix” things for them. And often times there may be no solution, or it may take a long time to solve. Now after listening, you can ask the child what they wish would happen next time. Say “if there’s any way I could help, please let me know”, so the child knows that you are there for them. Remember that the child is the expert, and they will tell you how you can help them.
If there comes a situation where a child comes home telling you what happened and you just don’t know what to say. You can say “I don’t know what to say. What do you wish I would say?”. Now at this point it could be an hour after the event occurred and the child can be angry, and what they say now might not be the same answer they say the next morning when they have to deal with the consequences.
If a child comes home from school all upset and says that their Rebbi called them a bum and told them to never open their mouth in class again. As the parent you promise the child that the Rebbi must not have meant that. Because you weren’t there, so you really don’t know, and can’t predict. You cay say at this point that you don’t know what to say, and ask the child when they would like to talk about this some more.
If the child says they would like you to talk to their Rebbi, then ask them “what would you like me to say to him”. Also, keep in mind that your child is going back to school the next morning, and dealing with the Rebbi for the rest of the year. So you should talk it over with your child and spouse before you make any quick decisions. Often times there may not be a solution, rather a picking of “the worst evil”.