February 17, 2005
By CAROLYN BLACKMAN
Staff Reporter, the CJN
Parenting is definitely a learnable skill, says rabbi and psychotherapist Tzvi Hersh Weinreb.
"No one is born a good parent; it is a skill that can be taught by experts," he said at a panel discussion following a positive Jewish parenting conference co-sponsored by Torah in Motion, the Orthodox Union and the Yetta Nashman Jewish Family Institute.
It is a goal-oriented teaching process, he said, "because there has to be an objective. Whether [we want our children] to turn out like [us] or opposite to [us], we all have some notion, consciously or unconsciously, of what we are trying to produce."
Parents need to make their goals explicit early on, he said. "Parents [don't want] their kids to be geniuses or the best athletes. They want them to be mensches. That is a goal, and to reach that goal parents must be teachers.
"You are a role model, and you teach best by example. To be a good parent, you must be a good person."
It does not happen instantly, said Rabbi Weinreb. "Parenting is a lifelong process, and Jewish parenting must be done within a religious framework.
"The essence of our religion is being a parent. Judaism is about the transfer of faith from grandparent to parent to child. The most important Jewish institute is the family," he said.
"A Jewish child must know they have a home to which the door is always open. It is a sanctuary and a shelter no matter what."
Children also need to learn a sense of pride of being part of the Jewish people, he said. "It is important for a child to develop a relationship with God, and have a sense that they can turn to God."
Rabbi Weinreb said that children learn best from imperfect models, not superheros. "It is wonderful to be a master of everything, but it is fine [for you and your children to take your journey of learning] together."
Rona Novick, a psychologist, added that parents are constantly growing and changing. "We cannot teach children by [displaying] opposite behaviour. We don't have to be perfect, but we must look at our behaviour."
With regards to adolescents, said Norman Blumenthal, a clinical psychologist, "the key is to preserve the relationship. When a normal issue conflicts with mitzvah observance, parents have to make a judgment call. [They have to decide what to insist upon.] If you get into a power struggle, you could be throwing out the baby with the bath water."
Reproduced with permission from The Canadian Jews News.
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