Raising Resilient Children

by Fraidy Katz

I recently took my daughter to three high school interviews and was struck by the difference in approach between the three.

The first one gave the girls the passages in Chumash to  memorize in advance so that they would know how to perfectly read and translate at the interview. This reminded me of the helicopter parenting approach where parents hover over their children and make sure that they have all of the tools to be successful in life.

At the second school the principal told my daughter that she was not going to ask her to translate any passages, because in case she wouldn’t know an answer, my daughter would feel bad and she would feel even worse. This is like the popular liberal approach of today called lawn mower  parenting, where parents remove all obstacles completely from their children’s path to prevent them from God forbid having any challenges in life.

But it was the attitude of the third principal that really resonated with me. She told my daughter to open up the Chumash to a random page to a passuk and Rashi that she hadn’t yet learned. She proceeded to read it together with her and gently guide her to the correct questions and answers. And when she couldn’t translate a word, she helped her with word attack skills like finding the root of the word so she could figure it out. When they finished she said, “Wasn’t it geshmak to learn it together?” And it was. The most important thing we can teach our children is that life will not be perfect and we will have struggles and challenges but that we can still be ok despite of them.

When I first introduce my first grade students to a real book I always tell them, “You for sure will not be able to read words in this book. You have three choices when that happens. A. You can start crying. B. You can call Mrs Katz on her cell phone for help. Or C. What strategies can you use to help yourself? Maybe look at the picture, or sound it out, or think about what makes sense.”  After this, the possibility of failing and not being able to read is no longer scary because they expect it to happen. The question is, what are they going to do about it.

A common refrain in Rebbe Nachman’s teachings is that descent and setbacks pave the way for future growth. These are part of life and there is no reason to fear them. This means that as humans we are prone to make errors and this should be expected. The main question we must teach our children and ourselves to ask is, “What?” What will I do now to help myself so that not only will I not be hindered by my error, but I will even grow and thrive thanks to it.


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