Tag Archives: Jewish values for young 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
Jewish values for children

 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

Peace in the Home / Shalom Bayit

The Jewish people have historically held an ideal standard for Jewish family life that is expressed in the term shalom bayit. Shalom bayit signifies wholeness and fulfillment.

“…a place that feels like family, the warmth of home.
Hillel, 70 BC-10 AD

ID-100232610The key to nurturing happy well-adjusted children is shalom bayit, a peaceful home. When there is a happy, wholesome, home atmosphere children tend to thrive! This understanding inspires us to improve our relationships at home in order to maintain peace in our home.

Young children are naturally bursting with energy and overflowing with emotion. Family life is filled not only with joy, but also with conflicting schedules, obligations, and challenges. With this reality, how do we live peacefully in our homes?

Jewish values provide us with guidance that helps generate peaceful interactions in our home.

  1. Simplicity (Histapkut): Simplify your family life as much as possible; be aware that commotion causes undue stress in children.
  2. Order (Seder): Everyday routines are calming and comforting to children. Knowing what to expect can alleviate conflict.
  3. Patience (Sav’lanut): Children need more time to accomplish tasks than adults do. Our patience will allow them to accomplish their objectives with less anxiety.
  4. Loving Kindness (Chesed): We tend to respond with kindness when treated in a loving and kind manner. This shapes our relationships as kindness blossoms and spreads to others.
  5. Forgiveness (S’lichah): Try to be forgiving and not dwell on the mistakes family members make. Anger and resentment generate tension in family relationships.
  6. Honor (Kavod): Being mindful of what we say and how we say it is necessary to show respect to others. Always consider how your words will resonate with a family member. Remember that our children watch us and learn to communicate with others by modeling our actions.
  7. Silence (Sh’tikah): Develop a consistent habit of listening first and speaking less. Disagreements often arise because of a lack of communication.

Observe and enjoy how family times become more pleasurable when you are mindful of these values. Maintaining respectful loving relationships with family members is the foundation for Shalom Bayit.

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.  Jewish values for children

 The Mussar Institute
© 2015 Michelle Princenthal

 

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

Listening with Care (Empathy) Shmiat HaOzen

mother and childListening plays a central role in Judaism. The Sh’ma reads: “Hear (Listen) Israel,.. (Deuteronomy 6:4)

In Pirke Avot it is written that one acquires Torah through forty-eight qualities, one of which is shmiat ha-ozen — being a careful listener. (Pirke Avot 6:6)                                                   

We know that hearing is automatic, but careful listening requires purpose and intention. We need to listen with an open mind and a caring heart to sincerely hear what is being communicated to us. Children often fail to listen carefully in their determination to immediately communicate their thoughts and wishes. As our children grow and develop, we need them to understand when it is important to be a careful listener. There are two important aspects to being a good listener: listening with attention and listening with empathy. To improve listening skills when children are young, provide them with continuous opportunities: tell stories and jokes, take them to the theater and performances and read to them on a daily basis. To sharpen listening skills, give children lists of tasks to accomplish and play listening and memory games. Teach children to wait and listen without interrupting, allowing others to finish speaking.

Once children listen with attention, listening with empathy, Shmiat Ha Ozen, can be taught. Listening with empathy is in the caring, not simply the hearing. Show children that you value listening with empathy by carefully attending to them when they communicate their thoughts, needs, and fears. In addition, children can be taught to read emotional cues in others, such as facial expressions and body language. When the opportunity presents itself, ask your child, “How do you think your friend feels? Look at his face, does he look sad?” If you acknowledge with pride their behaviors that reflect listening with care, children will repeat these behaviors. As with all values we teach our children, if we model careful listening with attention, sincerity, eye contact, and appropriate expression, our children will demonstrate Shmiat Ha Ozen, listening with empathy.

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

©2015The Mussar Institute

Photo by Ambro

Judge Favorably / L’chaf Zechut

 

scold “Do not judge your fellow until you are in his place.

The Talmud teaches, “Judge everyone favorably…” In other words, when we observe behavior that appears to be objectionable, we should pause and contemplate the possibility that there may be facts or circumstances that we are unaware of. What we see may not be exactly as it appears. Unless one knows otherwise for sure, one should assume that other people’s actions are good. Our obligation is to give others the benefit of the doubt and judge them favorably.

We are all guilty of passing judgment and jumping to critical conclusions rather than favorable ones. Why should we give others the benefit of the doubt as our sages instruct? One good reason is that we are often mistaken! We may not have an understanding of the complete picture. In addition, we ho
pe others will grant us this same consideration, giving
us the benefit of the doubt.

Imagine yourself at the store and you hear the cries of a child who has thrown child cryhimself onto the floor kicking and screaming. Customers turn to stare and comment on the parenting skills of the exasperated and frustrated mother. Is it your inclination to judge her harshly? Are you shaking your head and thinking, “That mother needs some better parenting skills.” Would you decide, “She really needs to restrain her child and stop that inexcusable behavior.” Or, in contrast, is it your inclination to judge favorably by asking yourself, “What difficult factors may be contributing to this situation? I wonder if the child has been up all night with an illness? Does the child have some special needs that contribute to outbursts and tantrums? Could something difficult have occurred recently in the family’s life, possibly a great loss?”

The habit of judging others harshly tends to be ingrained in us. We may need intentional practice to overcome it. If we see someone doing something of a questionable nature, we should not assume the person is doing something wrong, but rather we should interpret their actions in a balanced and favorable manner. If we look for and consider unknown factors that could be involved, we are likely to be kinder in our judgment. If we assume that another’s behavior involves circumstances that we are unaware of, it can release us from negative energy in our relationships. If negative judgment to a certain degree is part of human nature, then we need to train ourselves and our children to judge others generously.

girl thumbs upAs with all Mussar traits, the goal is to strive for balance. This means that we should strive to judge others with a generous spirit, but not blindly. We hope that with guidance and modeling from adults, our children will also judge others favorably with balance and compassion. The most significant contribution we can make to help children judge others favorably, is to model and inspire the behaviors that we want to impress upon them.

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

To Purchase Click Here

 The Mussar Institute
© 2015 Michelle Princenthal

images courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Pirkei Avot 2:5
Avot 1:6
Rashi on Pirkei Avot 1:6

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

Mussar Values for Children

Mussar for Children 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 for that month.  Jewish values for children

This Jewish values curriculum was created was created specifically for young children by Michelle Princenthal. Here are some samples of the children’s values work in school.  Jewish values for children

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 Jewish values for children