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By: Tammy Sassoon, M.s.ed

In this column, I have discussed multiple ways to bring out the best in our children. By far, the best behavior modification technique is the plain and simple act of MODELING whatever we would like our kids to be doing.

Let’s take the example of trying to teach our kids to be happy regardless of what is going on around them. We must ask ourselves, are wedemonstrating happiness, regardless of what is going on around us? We aim to teach our kids to “create their own internal weather,” to choose happiness at all times, rather than allowing happiness to be contingent upon circumstance. If that’s what we would like to see, then wemust be embody that attitude! So when our children do not listen to us,or when we can’t have something we dearly wanted, we still must model a calm sense of happiness. We have a choice – whether to be angry at the challenging circumstances or happy in spite of them. For the benefit of our children, we must choose happiness, no matter how difficult it is.

We can speak to our kids all we want about what we expect of them, but nobody internalizes a lecture that is devoid of living examples. If a salesman tries to sell a certain product but does not use the product himself, the customer is unlikely to have enough faith enough to purchase it. So too, if our children hear us preaching about something which we ourselves are not practicing, they are very unlikely to buy into it.

Many years back, I worked with an assistant teacher. The head teacher she worked under was noticeably unkind to the children. Though the principal would speak regularly to his staff about the importance of being kind to the students, this was a hard nugget for them to learn, because he himself spoke sarcastically to the teachers. Though the principal preached the value of kindness, because he did not actkindly, kindness could not flourish within the classroom.

The following year, the very same assistant worked for a different teacher – the kindest, sweetest, most loving teacher! She brought her students up to such a high academic level; their self-esteem skyrocketed under her care! And guess what? Only a month into the school year, this same assistant, who once had such difficulty treating her students with positivity, was speaking to the children kindly. In fact, it embarrassed her to even thinkabout being sarcastic with the kids, because she was in the presence of a teacher who who was modeling kindness.

I love how this story illustrates the tremendous powerthat modeling holds. As parents, we need to do less talking and more demonstrating. We need to work on ourselves, because our children copy what they see.

For homework, choose one behavior that you would like to see change in your child. Then, work on changing it within yourself. If it’s too overwhelming to think about changing an aspect of yourself forever, focus on changing for only one hour. Then keep focusing on this behavior for one-hour intervals until, bezrat Hashem, you see a permanent improvement in yourself. Soon, that improvement will translate to your child – and he will always remember that he learned it from youfirst.

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, or by phone at: 347 679 5466.