Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Blessing of a Skinned Knee

This book, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children, was recommended to me by a fellow teacher on Facebook several weeks ago.

And while I am neither Jewish, nor a parent, it looked like an interesting read, so I checked it out from the Sacramento Public Library. I read it from cover-to-cover and would definitely recommend it for parents, teachers and anyone else who cares about kids.

I want to share a few quotes from the book, but before I do, let me tell you a little bit about its author. Wendy Mogel, Ph.D. worked as a private psychologist for fifteen years in Hollywood and Beverly Hills. Then, she began lecturing, leading parenting groups, and consulting with parents and schools. Dr. Mogel is married with two daughters.

Here's a quick synopsis of the book:
"The Blessing of a Skinned Knee shows parents how to teach children to honor their parents and to respect others, escape the danger of overvaluing children's need for self-expression so that their kids don't become "little attorneys," accept that their children are both ordinary and unique, and treasure the power and holiness of the present moment" (taken from inside the jacket cover).

Wendy shares the experiences of the some of the moms and dads in her parenting groups, along with her observations and learnings.

Dr. Mogel writes, "What have I learned from my years of leading parenting groups? The hidden secret in the community of abundance in which I live is its anguish. Unsure how to find grace and security in the complex world we've inherited, we try to fill up the spaces in our children's lives with stuff: birthday entertainments, lessons, rooms full of toys and entertainment, tutors and therapists. But material pleasures can't buy peace of mind, and all the excess leads to more anxiety--parents fear that their children will not be able to sustain this rarefied lifestyle and will fall off the mountain the parents have built for them" (p. 32).

She continues, "In their eagerness to do right by their children, parents not only overindulge them materially, they also spoil them emotionally. Many parents have unhappy memories of their own childhoods, memories of not being able to express their feelings or participate in decisions. In trying to undo these past violations, they move too far in the other direction--they overvalue their child's need for self-expression and turn their households into little democracies. But the equality they maintain at home does not give their children a sense of self-esteem. Instead, it frightens them by sending the message that their parents are not firmly in charge. By refusing to be authority figures, these parents don't empower their children, they make them insecure" (pg. 32).

Now, granted, most of the families Dr. Mogel worked with were very wealthy, but nevertheless, I found many of her observations to be spot-on. Having worked as a teacher for over five years in a middle-class community, I've interacted with emotionally and materially spoiled children. And I've observed families that appear to be run by the child (or children), not by the parent or parents.

(Ok, I'll step off my soapbox now.)

This book is not simply a collection of Wendy's observations, though. She also presents practical and useful suggestions for parents and teachers--many of which she uses at home with her own daughters. As you would expect from the title of the book, Dr. Mogel spends a good deal of time talking about Judaism, fleshing out important Jewish teachings such as the Torah and the Talmud. Having very little knowledge of Jewish customs and teachings, I learned a lot. And in most instances, I found it easy to simply substitute a Christian custom or teaching.

After finishing Dr. Mogel's book, I visited her website. There, I found a summer reading list for parents put together by the New York Time's magazine. Wendy's book is at the top of the list, but the others are definitely worth checking out, too.
Speaking of teaching, many of you have asked about my assignment for this coming year. Seeing as I'm returning from a leave of absence, I won't be assigned to a position until mid-August. Until then, I'll be substituting and crafting and blogging. But I'll let you know when I know what and where I'll be teaching.

1 comment:

Alicia said...

I picked it up from the library yesterday. I just finished the first chapter and I am really enjoying it. Thanks for the recomendation.

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