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  • Writer's pictureRabbi David Paskin

Rebellious Children


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From Rabbi David

It this week's Torah portion, Ki Teitze, we learn about how to handle a defiant and wayward child. The Torah's approach to children with difficult behavior is challenging on face value. We are told that if a child is a glutton and a drunkard and refuses to obey his or her parents, the child should be brought out to the public square and stoned to death.

The likelihood that this was ever put into practice is slim but the text is jarring nonetheless. I probably don't even need to tell you that we take a very different approach to addressing a child's behavior at Gan Sinai. When a child misbehaves or does not listen, our first questions are what is going on for this child? What led to this behavior? What is the child trying to communicate to us about his or her needs?

Sometimes children, like adults, just have bad days. This is entirely normal. Other times, children misbehave because they are triggered or unable to express their needs. Our job as teachers and parents is to try and uncover these triggers and help our children grown in their ability to express themselves in positive ways.

Young children rarely learn behavioral expectations from punishment. They learn from positive reinforcement, modeling and an environment that addresses their needs from the get go and sets them up for success.

There is another piece to the behavioral puzzle. I believe that children need a safe place to push boundaries and test limits. Children need to know that as they discover themselves and how they should behave in the world that they can do so without feeling threatened and concerned that they will lose the love they so richly deserve and need. Gan Sinai is this place. When our children test our rules this is deep learning in action.

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