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By: Tammy Sassoon
Recently, I’ve been receiving a lot of phone calls and emails from parents. They tell me that they’ve learned so many parenting strategies, yet have such difficulty implementing them! Some of these parents even say that they’ve attended multiple parenting classes and read scores of parenting books and yet can’t seem to apply what they have learned. These struggling mothers are less alone than they realize. Though they believe their child-rearing problems to be unique, the remedy is actually universal. Below is the answer I repeatedly offer:
I very much identify with what you’re saying. While raising my first few kids, I also found that though I knew so many parenting strategies, something was stopping me from being able to implement them. And so I read more, and attended more courses but even these additional efforts were still not producing results. I came to the realization that all the knowledge and education in the world would only be so valuable. Along with it, I needed to maintain my inner state of serenity. I needed to stop trying to change my kids, and start working on changing me.
Why was I unable to use calm language while the kids were fighting? Why was I unable to use strategies that I knew would be effective when the kids struggled to listen? The resounding answer I came to was that I was not calm inside. But I still wondered: What do people who don’t yell at their kids do to achieve that state of serenity?
Givers and Takers
They accept life on life’s terms. They don’t expect, they accept.
There are two possible ways to conduct your life. The first is as a “taker,” and the second is as a “giver.” The “taker” spends much of his or her day figuring out what he or she can get out of life. (I want to find a good parking spot, I want a raise, I want my kids to behave, I want my kids to do their homework quickly, I,I,I,I,I, etc.) The “taker” has a long wish list of all the conditions necessary for him or her to live a fulfilling and productive life. Of course, many of these things do not materialize, because often Gd has a different, smarter, better plan in mind. And because of that, one who views life from a taker’s perspective experiences repeated disappointment.
The giver’s perspective is the exact opposite. The “giver” asks himself: “What can I bring to life today? How can I be of service to those around me?” Such a person achieves a true state of inner peace, because he or she is focused on fulfilling their purpose in this world. When her children go off to school, a mother who is a “giver” reflects, “I am so lucky to have had this opportunity to help my kids get ready for school.” So, too, when this same mother finds her kids fighting, she asks Hashem, “How can I be of service to You and Your children right now?” With this sense of inner peace, she separates the kids without any distress.
In case you’re concerned that you have been a taker for much of your life, don’t worry too much. The fact of the matter is, that’s the state we were all created in. Hashem meant for us to be takers and enjoy the bounty of His world. Throughout our lifetimes, though, our goal as parents, and as human beings, should be to move away from the selfish state that we were created in and towards the selfless mentality of a “giver.” This transition may happen slowly, and it’s okay to take it one day at a time. On a practical level, you can start by doing two things:
1.Upon waking up each morning, ask Hashem to aid you in being a giver that day. Ask for the understanding and foresight needed for you to take just the right steps to help others.
2.When you find yourself struggling to parent well, ask Hashem to remove your own will from the situation, so that you can better figure out what He wants from you in
If you’re like me, you’ll find that this inner work will give you the ability to implement the strategies that you once found so difficult to use.
Tammy Sassoon is a behavioral therapist and parenting coach. She gives live workshops as well as “train by phone” telecourses to teachers, principals, therapists, and parents,
in order to help them gain compliance from even the most oppositional children. She can be contacted through her website, www.tammysassoon.com.