Being a parent is wonderful and challenging, frustrating and infuriating. Anybody who is a parent knows what I mean. As one of my good childless friends once put it, “You are making a commitment for life to someone you have never even met.” As parents, we are often torn about how to respond to the inevitable crises that arise. Wendy Mogel, a social-clinical psychologist, draws on both her professional training and Jewish tradition to provide some answers to those dilemmas.
Mogel’s earlier book, “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee,” focuses in on the younger child. She understands our desire to protect our children, but worries that by overprotecting them we are preventing them from gaining the self-reliance they need to navigate the world successfully. We have to allow children to work at something, to achieve real success, if they are to feel the real power of accomplishment. Yes, they may spill the milk or get a scraped knee, but they will learn how to deal with that and persevere. And we will allow them to have the valuable life lessons that they need to become confident adults.
Her newer book, “The Blessing of a B-: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Resilient Teenagers,” takes a similar approach to the ever challenging older child. Again, Mogel gives practical, calming advice to parents. Yes, she asserts, your child is arguing with you, making you crazy, fighting with you constantly, but all of those pushes and shoves are part of your teen’s way of asserting the beginnings of his or her own independent personality. They may not achieve all that we know they can, but that really isn’t the point. They need to achieve it themselves for it to have any true meaning.
Mogel draws on traditional Jewish values and teachings as part of her underpinning of her approach. She shows that there truly isn’t anything new under the sun—children and parents have universally struggled with these issues.
On a personal note, I luckily stumbled upon the newer book when I most needed it—while my son, a high school senior, was working on college applications, late homework, and an extended essay for an International Baccalaureate Diploma. Even as I type this, he is still resisting help, still arguing, still moving at a snail’s pace. But, as a result of Mogel’s book, I am trying to breathe deeply and remember that he will survive this process. And so will I.
These books are a must read for parents and educators. They remind us that true learning is part of a process of trial and error, of experimentation and analysis. If we never give children the opportunity to fail, we are depriving them of some of the richest opportunities to learn.
Posted by Lydia Schultz.