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Counting of the Omer

Counting of the Omer

The perfect time to teach respect to our children: Sefirat HaOmer

Published on Tuesday May 14th, 2019

Last year, in the first days of Sefirat HaOmer, a Jewish newspaper published an article on the serious Avera (fault) committed by the great Torah students of Rabbi Akiva. They did not show respect to each other, and they died. The period of the Omer then became a time of mourning.

The newspaper, therefore, asked its readers to be vigilant about Onaat Devarim, that is, about hurting someone through words. And it went on to illustrate this point through various examples, taken from the book of Rav Zelig Pliskin “The power of words”, that may fall into this harmful category.

Here are some examples:

“How many times have I told you?!”

“You never...”

“You always...”

“What do you think you are doing?”

This list appealed to me. How many times have we talked like this to our children! Don’t we repeat to them endlessly:

“How many times have I told you to put your clothes away?”

“You NEVER do your homework when I ask you!”

“You ALWAYS leave your toys everywhere!”

“What do you think you are doing? Will you stop riding in the street!”

In their book “How to talk so kids will listen & listen so kids will talk”, the authors Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish suggest that we stop blaming and accusing them again and again. In fact, children feel attacked by such comments, which are counterproductive because our children only focus on defending themselves without being able to change their behavior.

Then how can we make it better?

Just by INFORMING them of what we think, but without accusing them. It gives something like this:

“Your clothes go into their drawer.”

“Your homework must be finished by 7 pm.”

“Toys go into the toy box.”

“5-year-old children ride their bike on the sidewalk.”

These sentences can be repeated as many times as necessary.

But what if you fail and hear yourself again accusing and blaming? You can always save the situation saying a sentence that will allow you to resume the proper tone of the conversation: “In this house, we don’t accuse...” It would sound like this:

“How many times have I told you to put your clothes away? Oh boy, I forgot! In this house, we don’t accuse others, because it is a form of Onaat Devarim... Your clothes go into their drawer, Rachel.”

When you react like this, you give your children an excellent example, and this on different aspects. You teach them in particular that:

  • Everyone can make mistakes. Indeed, even parents do.
  • Everyone can do Teshuva – repentance, as soon as they realize they were wrong.
  • Effective communication is always possible and doesn’t mean accusing others.

But how are you supposed to react if you assume that guideline... and then hear your kids accusing you or blaming others?

“Why didn’t you buy my favorite Bisslis?”

“She is so annoying, she always takes my toys and I can’t find them!”

You may answer:

“You look disappointed, but that's no reason to accuse me like that. Just say ‘Mummy, can you add my Bissli to your shopping list?’”

“You seem upset at your sister, but that's no reason to talk to her like this. Let's find a place where she can’t reach your toys.”

Let us take advantage of this period of Sefira (counting of the Omer) to speak to our children more respectfully. Speaking to them respectfully is the first step in a process that will lead them to talk respectfully to us, and to other adults throughout their lives. It is a great way to bring peace into our homes and into the world.

The Torah-Box Team - © Torah-Box

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