Category Archives: Jewish values for children

Loving-kindness / Chesed

It is written: A day should not pass without acts of loving-kindness, either with one’s body, money, or soul.

-Rabbi Yeshayahu Segal Horowitz, Sh’nei Luchot Ha’Brit

Jewish tradition recognizes acts of loving kindness as the highest level of soul traits. According to Jewish thought, true loving-kindness, or chesed in Hebrew, must have completely selfless motives. If our goal is to be a kind, loving community where children, friends, parents, and teachers all treat each other with kindness, what does that look like to us and to our children? Mussar teachings express that in order for our actions to qualify as chesed, we need to go out of our way to help those in need; we must be sensitive to others’ feelings and we need to demonstrate with our actions that we care.

ID-10012149Children are instinctively considerate and kind. “The desire to help is innate,” says David Schonfeld, MD, director of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “At first, children like to help others because it helps them get what they want. Next, they do so because they get praise. Finally, they begin to anticipate the needs of others, and it becomes intrinsically rewarding to do nice things for people in their lives.”

Since the experts tell us that children naturally want to help others, what do we as parents need to do to insure that this inclination will grow, rather than be extinguished? Modeling acts of kindness for our children provides our greatest opportunity to reach this goal. It is important for children to understand that they can demonstrate small acts of kindness every day and these small acts have tremendous power. Bring more kindness into your family by modeling it for your children. If you operate a loving and kind household, children learn to be loving and kind, not only in their homes, but in their communities as well.

Read and reread books encouraging kindness to your children. Some suggestions are: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein and The Giant Hug by Sandra Horning. When children demonstrate loving-kindness we need to express our pride, so they learn that we value these actions.

“No one has yet fully realized the wealth of sympathy, kindness and generosity hidden in the soul of a child. The effort of every true education should be to unlock that treasure.”

-Emma Goldman

Want to teach Jewish values to children? Mussar for Children: Jewish Values for Everyday Living Curriculum is the only Jewish values program geared specifically for young children.

Click here to purchase
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 The Mussar Institute
© 2015 Michelle Princenthal

Photo by graur razvan ionut.

Humility / Anavah

The Jewish Value of Humility, Anavah in Hebrew, refers to occupying our proper space, neither too much, nor too little. — Alan Morinis, Everyday Holiness

Are you occupying your proper space as a parent? ID-10063645

The difficult question is: How do we determine what our proper space is? As parents of young children this is a question that we could ask ourselves every day. We know that if we occupy too little space, avoiding our responsibility to teach and guide our children, we are not fulfilling our obligation as parents and the cost may be tremendous.

Do you hover over your children attempting to protect them not only from harm but also from failure and disappointment?
Parents are often overprotective because they are concerned for their children’s safety, which is understandable. Parents need to be aware, however, that children who have been too sheltered from life experiences often respond by being frustrated, and cry easily when they are faced with challenges. They may grow up unequipped to navigate their lives and be unable to solve problems that present themselves in the real world.

Are you preoccupied or even obsessed with your children’s successes in school or other activities?
Another reason parents may be overprotective and over involved is that they may look at their child’s accomplishments and failures as a direct reflection of themselves. They may even be embarrassed by their children who are not as successful as they want them to be. These parents may constantly intervene and have a hard time stepping back and letting go. They may not allow children to make their own mistakes, or even acknowledge that they have made mistakes so they can learn from them.

What is the right amount of space to take up in your children’s lives?
Allow children to feel life’s challenges, to solve problems, make choices and experience consequences. At the same time be attentive, aware and ready to step in when it’s necessary to protect them from dangerous paths. As with everything in life, it’s all about balance.

Want to teach Jewish values to children? Mussar for Children: Jewish Values for Everyday Living Curriculum is the only Jewish values program of its kind geared specifically for young children. To purchase click here.ewish values for children

 The Mussar Institute
© 2015 Michelle Princenthal

Photo by Ambro.

Caring for Animals / Tza’ar Ba’alei Chayim


birdAccording to Jewish teaching, compassion should be extended not only to humans, but also to animals. For example, the Talmud tells us that before we sit down to a meal, we must first feed our domestic animals.
This teaching expresses the intention that animals are to be treated with kindness, attention, and respect.

Teaching our children to care for animals with compassion leads to children who respect and treat each other with kindness. According to the National PTA Congress, “Children trained to extend justice, kindness, and mercy to animals become more just, kind, and considerate in their relations to each other.”

Children do not instinctively understand the importance of treating animals kindly; they need to be taught. Incorporating acts of kindness to the furry, feathered, and finned animals that children encounter can be simple and fun. Feeding and handling animals gives children opportunities to learn. If you have pets at home, the easiest and most important way is to lead by example. Show children how to properly walk their dog or gently play with their cat. Teach them the importance of keeping clean a bird cage or fish bowl. Remind them that pets need plenty of water and need to eat on a regular schedule, just like people. Show children that you value animals by being patient with them. Hitting or yelling at pets is cruel and harmful, just as it is to children. Caring for animals means that we protect them, keep them clean, give them attention and affection.

turtleIf you don’t have animals at home, there are still many opportunities to learn to treat them with kindness. Sometimes tiny creatures wander into our homes. Children can help them find their way out nonviolently. Avoid statements that demean animals, such as, “I hate mice” or “Birds are stupid.” Model behavior that protects animals. Take a walk at a beach or park and pick up plastic rings, bottles, and trash that can harm birds, dolphins, and other animals.

Supervision and guidance are necessary for children to understand how to treat animals with care. Here are are some suggestions for parents:

  • Read books about animals to open dialog about kind behavior towards them.
  • terrierWatch movies about animals, such as Chicken Run, Bambi, Lady and the Tramp, Shiloh, Free Willy, Babe, My Dog Skip, Finding Nemo, Milo and Otis, and Shark Tale. Talk about who treated the animals with kindness and who did not. 
  • Teach the importance of gentle touching. Guide children by showing them how to be gentle and slow when approaching an animal. Young children may show too much enthusiasm and inadvertently be rough.   
  • Teach children that teasing an animal is unkind and that startling or frightening an animal can cause them to respond aggressively.
  • Teach caution with regard to unfamiliar animals. Prepare children to be aware of the warnings that animals give, such as, growling, hissing, barking, and baring their teeth.

The practice of respecting, protecting, and caring for animals will help children to behave with kindness, not only toward animals, but also toward other children.    

http://www.petakids.com

 The Talmud derives this from the verse, “And I will give grass in your field for your livestock”—and only thereafter “and you will eat and be sated.”

Want to teach Jewish values to children? Mussar for Children: Jewish Values for Everyday Living Curriculum is the only Jewish values program geared specifically for young children. To purchase click here.

 

Terrier Image courtesy of SOMMAI at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Cockatoo Image courtesy of 2nix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Turtle Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

J

Faith/Emuna

door“We stand before a doorway behind which we will not find belief, definition, idea, logical proof, or concept, but directly perceived experience.”

–Alan Morinis, Everyday Holiness

Faith, or Emuna in Hebrew, most directly translates to faith in God. Our children often ask us about God. They may ask during difficult times, after a death or tragedy, or even during quiet times together. Many parents find it difficult to talk to their children about God and to answer their questions about God. Adults should be willing to acknowledge that they don’t always know the answers to these questions. If you struggle with their questions, try to understand your own feelings and thoughts about God before responding to theirs. You will then be better able to help your children to understand this difficult concept. Ask yourself, “What do I believe about God?” “What do I wonder about God?” Parents may choose not to share their personal beliefs; instead they might say, “Some people believe…” or “Jewish people have been asking these questions for years and years,” or “What do you think?”

To help children understand the concept of faith, you may want to explain to them that faith is to believe in something, even though we cannot see it. We believe in many things that we cannot see. We know that air exists because we can feel it in our lungs when we take a breath. We see our hair move in the wind and leaves blowing in the trees even though we can’t actually see the air that moves them. We cannot see love, but we feel it and believe in it. Some people believe what they are taught. Others want proof, so it is more difficult for them to have faith.
Ask your children what wonderful things they see and feel that may be
proof that God exists, even though we can’t see God. Do we find it in the
awesome beauty of nature, the delicate perfection of a newborn baby, or
in the profound power of love? We encounter God’s presence in moments of awe and wonder, in acts of good and evil, in love, and in everyday experiences.

Cultivate the practice of expressing gratitude, possibly by saying b’rachot (blessings), a simple act of daily acknowledgement of gratitude for the gifts you enjoy. Practice gratitude by saying:
●  Blessings before enjoying a meal, snack, or drink

●  Blessings for life’s moments ­ joyful or sad

●  Blessings for wonders of nature

●  Blessings before a journey

●  Blessings for learning

Parents can guide children in the practice of prayer and create an atmosphere in which children feel comfortable questioning and wondering about God, faith, life, and death.

Want to teach Jewish values to children? Mussar for Children: Jewish Values for Everyday Living Curriculum is the only Jewish values for children program of its kind geared specifically for young children.  Jewish values for children

To purchase click here

 ©2015 The Mussar Institute 

Photo by basketman

B’ruchim Habaim, the blessing of welcoming

B’ruchim Habaim, the blessing of welcoming, is based in ancient Judaism and was modeled by Abraham and Sarah in the Book of Genesis. Abraham does four things that exhibit welcoming behavior. As guests arrived at the tent of Abraham and Sarah, they were warmly greeted, made comfortable, offered food, and given attention. Much has changed since the days of Abraham and Sarah, but we are still welcoming others into our tents (homes).

How can we teach our children the middah (value) of welcoming others?pizza

Warm and welcoming behavior should be encouraged at a very young age. Children can understand that when guests come to their home, it is their responsibility to make them feel comfortable and welcome. Children can do this by offering guests something they like to eat or drink, and also by their sharing toys.

Besides modeling welcoming behaviors that we want children to follow, adults should intentionally teach the basic welcoming behaviors. We need to take a little extra time and involve children in the tasks necessary to prepare our homes for guests, such as, choosing foods that guests would enjoy. Encourage, even the little ones, to help clean and prepare the house, showing them that you want your home to look nice for your guests.

doorbellBefore guests arrive, young children can practice what they should say as their friends arrive. When they come to the door for a party or a playdate, encourage your child to say things such as, “Hi, come in.” “Do you want to play in my room?” Remind children that they can play with their toys anytime, but their friends only have a few hours to play with them.

After a play date or a party is over, let children know that it is important to walk each guest to the door and say, “Thank you for coming.” Remember, at three or four years old, we can’t expect perfection, and practicing a new skill may feel awkward and uncomfortable at first. With practice it will soon feel natural to them. Children also need to learn that there is work to do after guests leave. Cleaning up after guests is part of graciously hosting others. Returning toys to their usual place, throwing away trash, and even writing thank you notes or drawing thank you pictures are important tasks to practice.

The secret to welcoming guests into our busy lives is to keep things simple. Treat guests as you would treat your family. There is no need to cook a gourmet meal. All guests need is comfort, not excess. If your preparations are kept simple, one more person for lunch or dinner will be a joy, and not a chore.

Teaching children to be thoughtful welcoming hosts and hostesses takes a little time and effort, but the investment of time is well worthwhile. If we have homes that are gracious and welcoming, then our children will acquire B’ruchim Habaim, the blessing of welcoming.Jewish values for children 

Want to teach Jewish values to children? Mussar for Children: Jewish Values for Everyday Living Curriculum is the only Jewish values program geared specifically for young children.

To Purchase Click Here

The Mussar Institute
© 2015 Michelle Princenthal
 

Photo by stock images and  Ambro

Silence or Sh’tikah in Hebrew

blog silence3Silence is defined as quietness, not speaking, ignoring something. Jewish perspective, and more specifically, Mussar perspective tells us something slightly different. We are not ignoring anything when we are silent; we are intentionally silent so that we can carefully listen and hear.  Jewish values for childrenblog silence

We all can benefit from silence at times; silence from technology, silence from social interactions, silence from all that distracts us. In silence we can begin to listen to greater things like our hearts and our souls.  Jewish values for childrenblog silence2

Both silence and speech are powerful devices that are not necessarily good or bad in of themselves. There are times when we should purposefully and courageously not be silent, for example, if we need to stand up to defend another from injustice or harm. For all of us there are times when we speak and our speech does not benefit others or may even cause harm to others. We recall, especially from childhood years, how damaging and painful words can sometimes be.

When should we teach our children to practice the middah (value) of silence?

  1. When they are going to say something that will hurt another person’s feelings.  Jewish values for children

  2. When they are going to say something that will hurt another person’s reputation.  Jewish values for children

  3. When they don’t know what to say. (If a friend is sad or upset just being with them is the most important thing.)  Jewish values for children

  4. When it’s their turn to listen. (Silence is important to being a good listener.)

  5. When they need to pay attention, to learn, to think, or be calm.  (When we are silent we can reflect.)  Jewish values for children


Help your children look for all five of these opportunities for silence and practice them. Model a reflective pause before speaking so your children can learn to do the same. To practice use only positive words when communicating about a situation or person. Practice keeping silent when harmful speech comes to mind. Listen to others more than speaking. Remember, speech is good when it is helpful to another. With practice we can learn when it is best to speak and when it is best to remain silent.  Jewish values for childrenblog silence5

The Mussar For Children Curriculum integrates Jewish values into the classroom and connects those values with activities completed at school and at home. Children learn through puppets, songs, activities, and practice. Teachers receive lesson plans, activities, book lists, and articles for school newsletters. Parents receive communication that explains the middah that their children are learning about, along with relevant book lists and activities that can be done at home to further reinforce the value.  Jewish values for children

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Mussar for Children was created by Michelle Princenthal in partnership with The Mussar Institute. It is the only values for children curriculum of its kind geared specifically for young children.  Jewish values for children

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©2013 Michelle Princenthal
©2015 The Mussar Institute

 Jewish values for children

Moderation or M’tinut in Hebrew

Moderation means to do something within reasonable limits and not to excess.  Jewish values for childrenblog moderation

There are so many areas where we all would like to have more moderation in our lives: eating fewer unhealthy foods, spending less money, watching less television, or spending less time on the Internet and playing video games. Many of these examples hit home for us and our families.  Jewish values for childrenblog moderation2

Today we see little ones who operate electronic devices, some as young as two years old! We know that technology for children is entertaining and when parents are busy and need uninterrupted time, technology is a great babysitter. For school age children there are many educational benefits from the use of technology.

However, electronic devices used without moderation have many disadvantages. Electronic stimulation has been shown to interfere with falling asleep and staying asleep. (American Academy of Pediatrics) Too many hours interacting with electronic devices results in less physical activity and is found to be associated with attention problems in children.  Excessive amounts of time spent interacting with electronic devices reduces time spent interacting as a family.blog moderation3

We all know that when our children watch television they are exposed to alluring advertising and inappropriate messages. Many studies have shown that children who watch TV without moderation are likely to read fewer books and have lower grades in school. If any of these issues are of concern to you, then its time to put moderation into effect in your household!  Jewish values for children

The first step is to talk to your family members about why moderation is important. When too much time is spent absorbed in technology, there is less time spent together as a family. Technology can be addicting and research has proven, especially in children, that it can have detrimental effects.

Old habits are hard to break, but not impossible. In order to facilitate a change in your home you will need to first let your family know that some of your rules will be changing. Specific time limits should be set for computer games and all computer and TV time. The good news is that activities and games that promote togetherness also promote a healthy lifestyle. But don’t forget, even togetherness should be practiced in moderation. We all need some time alone!

The Mussar For Children Curriculum integrates Jewish values into the classroom and connects those values with activities completed at school and at home. Children learn through puppets, songs, activities, and practice. Teachers receive lesson plans, activities, book lists, and articles for school newsletters. Parents receive communication that explains the middah that their children are learning about, along with relevant book lists and activities that can be done at home to further reinforce the value.  Jewish values for children

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Mussar for Children was created by Michelle Princenthal in partnership with The Mussar Institute. It is the only Mussar values for children curriculum of its kind geared specifically for young children.  Jewish values for children

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©2013 Michelle Princenthal
©2015 The Mussar Institute

 Jewish values for children

Trust or Bitachon in Hebrew

Bitachon generally translates as “trust,” which according to one definition is “a powerful sense of optimism and confidence.”  Mussar scholars have understood trust to mean “trust in God.” According to Jewish thought, trust is something to be valued, even treasured.  Jewish values for children

When do children learn to trust? Acquiring trust begins at birth. blog trustNewborns are dependent on their caregivers for everything they need to survive. If their needs are met, they will feel safe and begin to trust those that care for them. If their needs are not met, they will become fearful rather than trusting. Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development is one of the best-known theories of personality in psychology. Trust vs Mistrust, the first stage of Erikson’s theory occurs between birth and one year of age and is thought to be the most vital stage in life. The parent-child relationship is the first and most important social relationship a child has.  Jewish values for childrenblog trust2

How do children learn to trust? Children develop trust in response to specific interactions they have with others. New experiences and daily interactions with others guide children to differentiate between people who are trustworthy and those who aren’t.  Jewish values for childrenblog trust3

Can children be too trusting? Helping children develop trust does not mean blind trust. Being too trusting can be problematic and even dangerous. Children need to know common-sense rules that can help keep them safe. Make sure your children understand the rules you have set up for their safety. Balancing trust with caution is a skill they will develop with adult guidance.  Jewish values for childrenblog trust4

How can adults help children to learn to trust? Adults need to display behavior that is trustworthy. Try not to make promises to your children if you cannot keep them. If it seems that you might not be able to keep your promise, tell your child in advance. Explanations should be as honest as possible taking into consideration the developmental level of the child. Tell the truth in an age appropriate way. As parents and teachers we should focus on being trustworthy caregivers and role models. The result will be children who are worthy of trust, which transfers to trusting relationships later in life.   Jewish values for childrenblog trust5

The Mussar For Children Curriculum integrates Jewish values into the classroom and connects those values with activities completed at school and at home. Children learn through puppets, songs, activities, and practice. Teachers receive lesson plans, activities, book lists, and articles for school newsletters. Parents receive communication that explains the middah that their children are learning about, along with relevant book lists and activities that can be done at home to further reinforce the value.  Jewish values for children

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Mussar for Children: Jewish Values for Everyday Living was created by Michelle Princenthal in partnership with The Mussar Institute. It is the only mussar values for children curriculum of its kind geared specifically for young children.  Jewish values for children

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All materials and content are copyrighted.
©2013 Michelle Princenthal
©2015 The Mussar Institute

 Jewish values for children

Courage or Ometz Lev in Hebrew

Ometz Lev (from the Hebrew word meaning courage) refers to acts of courage.

We see references to Ometz Lev throughout history, in children’s literature, fairy tales, and in many of the stories we read to our young children about Hanukkah, Purim, and Passover. We recount stories of outnumbered Maccabees fighting their enemies. We describe Queen Vashti and Queen Esther standing up to the king who wants to kill the Jews. At Passover we retell the story to our children about Moses standing up to Pharaoh who kept the Jews slaves and even tell about first born Hebrew children thrown in the river.  Jewish values for children

These stories teach our children about our ancestors being courageous in the face of danger and overcoming fear. We often wonder though, about the value of sharing these stories that are filled with violence. Are we promoting unnecessary fear in our children who already live in a world filled with danger everywhere they look? Or will these stories help them to become courageous in their own lives? These may include everyday situations like sleeping in their own bed, separating from parents, or participating in activities for the first time.  Jewish values for childrenblog courage3

In recent years the suitability of violence in children’s stories has been strongly questioned. Experts do not agree on the value or consequence of reading stories containing violence to young children. What is clear is that it is essential to communicate to children that suffering is caused by violence. It is also essential to show children that there are courageous solutions to conflict other than violence. It is important to find books that discuss conflict and courageous solutions in ways that are meaningful to them in their lives.  Jewish values for childrenblog courage4

Children need to be aware of the realities of the world, both good and bad. Many experts argue that children’s literature that includes violence can be especially valuable when it teaches children how to cope with conflicts in their lives. Experts also believe that violence should have its place in children’s literature only if it truthfully reflects characteristics of the world that children should be aware of, no matter how much adults wish to protect them from it.  Jewish values for children

Our lessons on Courage help young children to deal with the issues that directly affect them, like going to the doctor, riding a bike for the first time, learning to swim, etc. The children learn how to cope with their fears through puppets, songs, activities, and practice. They express their fears through drawings and listen to other children talk about the ways they use courage to cope with their fears.

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The Mussar For Children Curriculum integrates Jewish values into the classroom and connects those values with activities completed at school and at home. Children learn through puppets, songs, activities, and practice. Teachers receive lesson plans, activities, book lists, and articles for school newsletters. Parents receive communication that explains the middah that their children are learning about, along with relevant book lists and activities that can be done at home to further reinforce the value.  Jewish values for children

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Mussar for Children: Jewish Values for Everyday Living was created by Michelle Princenthal in partnership with The Mussar Institute. It is the only values for children curriculum of its kind geared specifically for young children.

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All materials and content are copyrighted.
©2013 Michelle Princenthal
©2015 The Mussar Institute

  Jewish values for children

Friendship or Y’didut in Hebrew

BLOG 3 FRIENDSJewish tradition teaches us that friendship should be a shared responsibility. A friend is thought to be someone who helps to make you a better person and offers you support and companionship.  Jewish values for children

The character traits of the friends we choose are important because they directly relate to our ethical choices. The people with whom we spend time and form friendships directly impact the way we live our lives. Therefore, we realize how important it is for our children to choose friends wisely. Jewish values for childrenBLOG FRIENDS 2

For some children, making friends can be difficult, and finding out someone isn’t a true friend can be painful. We have all watched as our children are hurt by failed or difficult friendships. Much to our disappointment we can’t choose our children’s friends for them, but we can do something very important that will influence whom they choose: we can choose our own friends wisely! We can model true and valuable friendships for our children. We can have the kind of friends that we would like our children to have, and we can be the kind of friend that we would like our children to be. If we want children to be loyal friends, then we need to show them what friendship looks like.  Jewish values for children

BLOG FRIENDS 3

The Mussar For Children Curriculum integrates Jewish values into the classroom and connects those values with activities completed at school and at home. Children learn through puppets, songs, activities, and practice. Teachers receive lesson plans, activities, book lists, and articles for school newsletters. Parents receive communication that explains the middah that their children are learning about, along with relevant book lists and activities that can be done at home to further reinforce the value.  Jewish values for children

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Mussar for Children: Jewish Values for Everyday Living was created by Michelle Princenthal in partnership with The Mussar Institute. It is the only values for children curriculum of its kind geared specifically for young children.

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