Parshas Vayeitzei

Rabbi Gidon Goldberg's picture

Dear Parents,

As a school and community constantly focusing on middos tovos, character development, we all realize that perfecting flaws in character are an ongoing struggle. We are fortunate that our local Rabbonim and school all work hard by using Torah ideas to constantly focus and help us improve. School and home discipline require skill, modeling, and caring. Unfortunately, in a school or home setting, students and children can say things that are quite unhelpful to their teachers and parents. How we as adults respond can make all the difference! The school and teachers this year will be trained in a special discipline program entitled “Love and Logic,” an inspiring model that can change our mindset when we are challenged by students or parents. I found the enclosed article to be useful for both parents and teachers – enjoy!

Have you ever felt so angry that tears fill your eyes? That’s the state I found myself in as I listened to my own precious children say some hurtful things to me — to me, the woman who birthed them, loved them, fed them, schlepped them places! My mind and mouth were gearing up for an epic stream of threatening and guilt-producing words, and then I remembered the greatest gift I’d received from Love and Logic, that “anger and frustration feed misbehavior.” This gem, boiled down to its most basic construct, taught me that I could choose – actually decide – to stay calm. Love and Logic gave me written permission not to get mad.
It may sound almost foolish to some, and yet, I was stuck in a belief system that my own children (and others) were “making” me angry. It didn’t matter that I already had two college degrees and one of them was a Master’s in Counseling. I continued to lose my cool on a regular basis. How had I bought into the belief that others controlled my emotions? It started with modeling. Anger was a frequent visitor in my childhood home, and as my (amazing) older brother, Mark, said: “We weren’t taught that you could disagree without being disagreeable.” Another wise person once said, “What we experience we learn, what we learn we practice, what we practice we become.” (I have googled for the author of this quote to no avail.) We all know that practice can make permanent. As I grew into adulthood, I was stuck in the false narrative that “blow-ups” were just part of life, and I was not owning the fallout they caused because I continued to point fingers.

One of the most beautiful features of Love and Logic is its simplicity. It is not complicated, but it requires practice. As I practiced the art – yes, the art – of empathy and remaining calm during stressful events, I noticed something amazing. I was changing. I wasn’t changing into someone wimpy and permissive but, quite the contrary, I was becoming stronger, clearer, and warmer. I learned I could delay consequences and come back later when I was calm. I could decide not to take things personally, take a deep breath, and even crack a genuine smile and say, “I love you too much to argue. What did I say?” I could even choose to sternly say, “I am feeling upset right now – I need to get myself together before I make any decisions.” Our kids are watching how we handle frustrations. Again, modeling. It used to feel more natural to get angry, and yet I can attest to the fact that the more you use (and practice) the principles of Love and Logic, the less you have to “use” them – they just become part of who you are. Cooler heads prevail!

*Bonus: The next time you use a Q-TIP, remember this:
Quit Taking It Personally.

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman