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Let Kids be Kids

by Rabbi Manis Friedman

  

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Bright Doesn't Mean Wise

A child needs to know that he's a child in order to have a foundation on which to build a successful adult life. Treating a child as a miniature adult is really not helping the child to grow.

Sometimes children are very bright and very perceptive, and we can make the mistake of thinking they are wise. We may treat them as confidantes or peer. But by definition, a child's opinions, no matter how bright, are not wise. They are not based on the kind of knowledge Judaism calls da'at.

Da'at is a maturity of the mind, an ability to make connections and perceive the consequences of one's ideas, but without da'at, those ideas don't connect with the real world.

A child before Bar or Bat Mitzvah, is not a Bar Da'at. They may have alot of sense and intelligence, but not da'at. That's why their behavior doesn't necessarily correspond to their level of understanding.

So if you want to share knowledge with a precocious second grader, teach him eighth grade math. But never debate the ground rules for behavior; that belongs strictly in the realm of the adult who has da'at, and has learned wisdom from experience.

There's a certain comfort for children in knowing that they can listen to and trust an adult's judgment. If a child wins a debate with parents, not only will the parents be distressed, but so will the child
There's a certain comfort for children in knowing that they can listen to and trust an adult's judgment. If a child wins a debate with parents, not only will the parents be distressed, but so will the child. That doesn't mean that you have to disagree with them.

If they come up with a good suggestion, listen and genuinely consider it. You might say, "I thought about what you suggested and I've decided that we should do it." But the decision about what to do should be yours.

Never say, "Okay, you're right." That leaves them with the responsibility for their judgment, when you are the one who should take responsibility. And if you act on the idea and it doesn't work out, continue to take responsibility.

Compliment your child for the idea, but provide the security of knowing that an adult gave the final approval.

It Takes Time to Get it Right

We expect both too much and too little of our kids, mixing up normal maturation with moral development.

There's a big difference between behavior that reflects a child being a child, and behavior that is inappropriate for a child. One of the most frustrating things in childrearing is when you tell a child something over and over again - not to climb up to the cookies, or not to make a mess -  and he keeps on doing it.

Inappropriate behavior must be stopped, but if the child is merely being a child in spite of your expectations, then change your expectations.

Make sure not to get it backwards. There's the parent who knows that the child lies and exaggerates and lets it go. If the same child takes some cookies when he's not supposed to, or spills something at the table, it's a disaster and he get spanked. A child can't not spill and a child can't not go for the cookies, it's normal.


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RELATED CATEGORIES

Mitzvot » Education
Torah » Education
Life Cycle » Marriage » Family Life

Kosher
Literally means "fit." Commonly used to describe foods which are permitted by Jewish dietary laws, but is also used to describe religious articles (such as a Torah scroll or Sukkah) which meet the requirements of Jewish law.
Bat Mitzvah
The twelvth birthday of a Jewish female. On this day -- customarily celebrated with a lavish party -- the adolescent reaches adulthood and is responsible to observe all the commandments of the Torah.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.