By Melissa Michaelson, Principal
If we always expect gold out of our children, or from those who surround them, we will forever miss the opportunity to see the silver linings in life. As Steve Freedman stated in last week’s blog, our reaction to a child’s mistake provides the beautiful leverage for a valuable lesson. As adults, when children make mistakes, we need to reach into the emotional and spiritual states of their heart and mind, and provide a safe environment for each child; an environment where the child does not run and hide, but rather takes responsibility for his/her actions. It is our responsibility to be the bridge for the child, between the mishap and wisdom, ultimately providing a lasting effect on each child’s personal growth and potential.
The journey of a child’s “growing pains” entails a road of obstacles, adversity, and missteps, all which provide opportunities to teach our children the silver lining that shines through any circumstance. Although this is not always an easy task, or the easiest conversation, it is our responsibility as adults to model for our children how to positively react, to dig deep into the situation, and to ask, “What is the lesson at hand?” or “How can we grow stronger from this situation?” As an adult observing a child’s mistake, we have the choice to react in one of the following ways:
1) Punish the child without a lesson.
2) Rescue the child (blame another person, no lesson learned).
3) Hold the child accountable while giving him/her the space to accept responsibility for the action. Then, seek the deeper meaning in the situation and use it as a growing opportunity.
The latter choice provides a platform for growth. It lends to the development of a trusting and open relationship, and defies the desire for a child to hide his faults. Faults, which we, no matter our age, all have. As Jews, this approach to accountability traces back to the start of humanity, and is modeled for us by God. In Genesis 9:3, after Adam makes the mistake of eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, he hides. Adam’s hiding, a clear expression of embarrassment, prompts God to ask him, “Ayeka?” (“Where are you?”). While on the surface God searches for Adam’s physical location, the question implies a deeper message: God seeks to discover Adam’s emotional and spiritual being, while giving Adam the space and opportunity to admit his mistake. Although Adam chooses the path of blame, God goes on to hold him accountable, teaching Adam the deeper lesson about life: working hard for what you receive. The expulsion from the Garden of Eden, an ultimate growing opportunity for all of humanity, commences life as we know it.
As parents, and educators, our opportunities to provide valuable lessons for our children are endless. However, it is up to us to take the extra time and thought to ponder the message at hand, even when the child, or others who have impacted the child, have made a mistake. Our attitude and energy, towards error have the capacity to positively influence the heart, future choices, and an empathic mind, if we let it.