On March 24, the Shomrai Preschool Parent Teacher Organization hosted Rabbi Dovid Rosenbaum of Young Israel Shomrai Emunah in Silver Spring, Maryland, for a lecture titled “Perspectives on Raising a Jewish Child.” He included anecdotes and words of advice that pertained not only to parents but also to the educators in attendance.
“We are living in such a rapid-paced environment, and it was so great to sit down and be reminded of what’s actually important for raising our young children to be kind, giving, happy, and filled with Jewish pride,” said Miriam Levson, one of the event’s organizers and Shomrai Preschool parent.
Rabbi Rosenbaum made an especially significant point, which was the importance of acknowledging Hashem as our partner in guiding and educating our children. As important as our role may be in our children’s lives, they have free will as well as their own unique qualities. Children need time and space to be themselves, and to be appreciated for who they are, said Rabbi Rosenbaum.
“We need to let children make their own mistakes and we also need to let children have the opportunity to fail and be able to see themselves in the mirror and still see they are beautiful people,” he said.
Additionally, children learn from the actions of the adults in their lives. It is important to model respectful behavior, speech, and attitudes toward all individuals, including our children, peers, as well as elders.
When it comes to less-than-desirable qualities and behaviors in our children, there are a few things to bear in mind, Rabbi Rosenbaum said. First of all, it is best not to react to behavior that is, in fact, age-appropriate, will be outgrown, and is neither harmful nor disrespectful to others.
“If a child is doing something that he won’t be doing anymore when he is walking down to the chupah,” — for example, insisting on wearing pajamas to school — “then it’s not something you should worry about,” said Rabbi Rosenbaum. “We need to focus on the more important issues like not speaking rudely to others.”
If the behavior is harmful or disrespectful, however, it is important to respond in a way that is best for the child to learn right from wrong. It can be helpful to reflect on the child’s strengths at times when his or her behavior is less than exemplary, and one should take care not to react to challenging behavior in a way that may cause embarrassment or frustration.
Rabbi Rosenbaum also mentioned the importance of accepting and taking into consideration feedback from a child’s teacher. Relaying concerning feedback about a child is one of the hardest yet most important tasks of an educator. As Siena Ornstein, a teacher of 3- and 4-year-old children at Shomrai Preschool, reflected: “Sometimes, I need to relay information to a parent that may be difficult regarding observed behavior or conduct. When I have shared my insight with parents, I have been touched by how grateful they were to receive the information and how proactive they were in developing a shared solution.”
“Teaching is truly a partnership between child, parent, and teacher. All three participants help the child to reach his or her potential,” she said.
Finally, the subject of spending time with our children was broached. In our busy lives, said Rabbi Rosenbaum, it is imperative to seize the moments that we have with our children and to make the most of them. This could be while driving carpool, sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, or just spending time at home. Those moments are times when parents can make ourselves available to our children to engage them in conversation and really listen to them. For example, “If we are in the car with a child, leave the music off and put the phone away and the quiet will provide open opportunities for our children to talk to us if they’d like,” he said.
“As director of Shomrai Preschool and also as a parent, the insights shared by Rabbi Rosenbaum struck me as being so in line with current best practices, not only in modern parenting literature, but also very much complementary with our preschool’s educational philosophy of seeing each child as capable, competent, and treating him or her with respect and positive regard,” said Suri Kinzbrunner.
Rabbi Rosenbaum’s full lecture can be found on the Shomrai Preschool website, www.preschool.yise.org.
By Suri Kinzbrunner
Suri Kinzbrunner is the director of Shomrai Preschool and lives with her husband and seven children in Silver Spring, Maryland.