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Educating Children

Educating Children

A Blessed Family: Sharing a Mother Between Eight Children

Published on Monday September 9th, 2019

The happiness that prevails in large families needs regular emotional upkeep, and it is not easy. Mothers are physically exhausted by the work that it requires, but they nonetheless have to stop to give attention to a child. Is it possible to give each child the attention they require?

Binyamin was a normal child, as much as children can be. He ate well, studied well, woke up at a reasonable hour every morning, argued from time to time with his seven brothers, and most of the time he accepted the authority of his parents. There was only one problem, he had trouble going to sleep on time.

It was 9:30pm, which was already very late.

The other seven children were already showered and, in their beds, while Binyamin still refused to take a shower and go to sleep. This exhausting process was repeated every night: His mother would plead with him, explain to him, cuddle him, promise him rewards, try and be tough, threaten him. Yet, nothing worked.

This daily argument transformed itself into a war of attrition, where all parties lost out. His mother, at the end of the day, with eight children, used all her strength. When Binyamin began his series of excuses for not stepping into the shower, the latter had already lost all her patience.

She tried to explain to him the silliness of his behavior. If he did not like to shower, was it not better to get rid of this task as soon as possible? Instead of doing something difficult for only a few minutes, he was spending two hours trying to push off this task. When she discussed this with me, I realized there was something unusual going on.

If one looks at his general behavior, his refusal to shower does not match the behavioral profile of an obedient child like him.

Why does this particular event cause him to fight so much? Why are promises of rewards or threats of punishments not working on a child of only 9 years old?
I asked her to further describe to me her daily schedule with her children, and with Binyamin in particular. I tried to identify with her the source of her difficulty, and I suggested that she try something else. "I'm going to sleep in half an hour," she told him, "if you shower in the next quarter of an hour, we can drink together a glass of tea before bed. "Give me an hour," he begged.

I suggested that she remain firm, by setting a time limit. "It's a proposal for a limited time. In a quarter of an hour, the time will have expired''. She used this opportunity to explain to him the concept of "expiry". The image of the hot tea had an effect, and he got up and went to shower. Twenty minutes later, they sat next to a small table with glasses of hot, sweet tea and they had a pleasant discussion. Binyamin even drank a second drink. When he finished, he thanked her and told her he was going to sleep. Just like that. Of his own accord! The miracle also occurred the following nights.

He knew that showering was important to his mother, so much so that as long as he opposed it and succeeded in gaining time, he got more time with her. Just her and him. And especially after everyone was already in bed. All he needed was a few special moments with his mother. Ten minutes, two cups of tea, and he didn’t even need cake.

And in reality, this was not a miracle. Binyamin, like many other children who share their parents' attention with their many brothers and sisters, had trouble falling asleep because of the lack of attention he felt. He could not go to sleep with an "empty heart", just as it is difficult for us to concentrate with an empty stomach. It turned out he was not against showering, but it was his way of spending time with his mother.

A child's daily life is filled with sharing. They are a small part of a bigger system and are forced to share every detail of their life. Every child needs to know from time to time that he is unique, that he is special, and that for a few minutes his mother is only for him. Many children go around with a similar feeling to Binyamin, but do not develop it enough to express this distress or are not creative enough to come up with an intermediate solution and devious ways to fill that gap.

It does not require a lot from us: just a few minutes each day for each of our children. When you go out to ask a neighbor something, it's an opportunity to take a child and tell him: come, now I'm only going with you. When you sort out a load of washing, choose another child, and when you separate the colors and the white, close the door and show him that for that very moment you share a world that is only yours and his.

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