David Kohn, LCSW, CASAC and author Slovie Wolff address parents at a parenting event.

“Parents, would you do anything for your children?”

These words were part of an invitation to gather parents together for an Evening of Parenting Awareness offered by The SAFE Foundation and Magen David Yeshivah on the evening of February 26th 2013. Parents in attendance hailed this event as highly informational and a worthwhile investment of their time.

Project SAFE teacher, Yossi Sirote, opened up the lecture with an anecdote. He said, “One day, my 4-year-old heard me telling my wife that something was quite dumb. At that moment, my child went on to repeat her new-found word over and over again. ‘Dumb, dumb, dumb…’ I realized then, that I am being watched and that every moment is an opportunity to be a good role model for my children.”

David Kohn, LCSW, CASAC,  Clinical Supervisor at The SAFE Foundation, one of the founders of Project SAFE and the Founder and Director of DK Counseling, PLLC, was first to present. Hespoke about the benefits of having a healthy family. He said, “Studies show that children who come from healthy families carry with them invisible shields that protect them when exposed to unhealthy situations. These children are more able to navigate successfully through life.”

Here are some of David’s suggestions on how to create a strong family identity and raise the health level of one’s family:

  • Share traditions. Make a big deal out of birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, and good report cards. You can even set up a shared family calendar on your phones.
  • Have clear rules and expectations. Use language such as “Our family does this. Our family does not do that.”
  • Make sure all in the family know that they’re cared for and that you all have each other’s backs. Family members should feel that these relationships will still be maintained, even when it’s annoying to do so.
  • Have a family meal at least twice a week. This should not be used as a time for lectures, but rather it should be a pleasant event that all look forward to.
  •  Leave loving and encouraging notes for your spouse and children on mirrors, pillows, in lunch boxes, etc.,
  •  Establish rotations or rituals wherein each child has a chance to spend special alone-time with his parent/s.
  • Have important conversations. Think of when is best to discuss and how to initiate discussions about significant issues using clever conversation starters. Prepare responses ahead of time and think of what you can do to make the conversation successful.
  • When you make a mistake and/or lose your temper, treat it as an opportunity to discuss what happened that led you to that behavior. This will help them to develop emotional intelligence.

Slovie Jungreis-Wolff, relationship and parenting instructor and noted author ofRaising a Child with Soul, spoke next. She said, “Children today are filled with a sense of entitlement and can be very disrespectful. When disrespect overtakes the family, no one is happy- not the mother, not the father and not the children. Just as a car needs brakes, so too does a family need effective discipline to keep the respect level in check and the family healthy and happy.”

Slovie’s suggestions effective disciplining are:

  • Do not lose control. When a parent screams, he destroys the bond he has with his children. Some people say, “This is what we do. We are screamers.” But this only shows a child that his parents cannot maintain control and are not worthy role models.
  • Separate the child from his actions. If you tell a child often enough that he is lazy, he will grow up believing that he is lazy.
  • Be consistent. Do not make empty threats, set unrealistic punishments for misbehavior, nor establish rules based on your moods.
  • Elaborate on your expectations. Do not just say, “Be good.” Explain what that entails. Spell out the behavior you expect and be clear about what the boundaries are.
  • Display a functioning parental team. When you join forces with your child against the other parent, as in: “Don’t tell Daddy…”, you are only teaching your child to one day hide his actions from you. When you are disrespectful to your spouse in front of your child, you are also teaching him to be disrespectful to you.
  •  Maintain dignity. We should not go down to our children’s’ level to get them to like us, but rather be someone your children respects and someone who can serve as an appropriate role model. Our children need for us to be guides and leaders.
  • It is helpful to use the laws set by Judaism to establish a child’s awe for his parents. They are: don’t allow a child to call parents by first names, sit in parents’ seats, hit a parent-even in a joke or playfully,contradict a parent, or refer to a parent as “he” or “she”.

Slovie ended off by saying, “Laugh with your children; fill your home with joy. The best gift you can give your children is that of a peaceful home.”