Faith, Trust, and Peaceful Thoughts: A Jewish Approach to Gentle Parenting
By ISJL Education Fellow Rena Lubin
As parents, we may teach our children to remember and embody Jewish values such as chesed (kindness), kavod (respect), kavod atz’mi (honoring of one’s self), emunah (faith/trust) and s’lichah (forgiveness). We can't just teach these values - we must embody them - and more than that, consider putting these values at the forefront of how we choose to parent our children.
Chesed in the Home
Gentle parenting begins with kindness, or chesed, in the home. An important component of this is how parents choose to talk to their children. Kind conversations breed a strong connection, right? A soulful parent will talk with, not at a child. A soulful parent will ask questions, and be receptive to questions asked of them. A soulful parent will be open to emotions, listen to and talk through the validity of their children’s feelings.
In addition to communicating chesed, gentle parenting implies that parents infuse chesed into their overall family dynamic. Yes, gentle is in the name, but this approach suggests that you maintain a light-hearted, peaceful, and fun-loving home.
Kavod for Kids
Though your children may be learning about kavod (respect), at religious school, it’s important to remember to keep a respectful home as well; this consists of treating one another with respect, respecting your children with the respect you would give to an adult, and instilling kavod atz’mi (honoring one’s self) at a young age.
Treat your children like the partners they are in the family! Though they may be little, they still have voices, thoughts, opinions, and feelings! This means they’re also able to conceptualize what they’re comfortable with; a gentle parent will not force anything upon their child, whether it’s a hug or a high five or a food they dislike or an unwanted talk. A gentle parent will ask their child questions, give options, or agree on boundaries together. They demonstrate kavod in action—not only for the role they have as the parent and teacher, but for their child’s individuality and autonomy.
Remembah Emunah and S’lichah
While you have a house filled with kindness and respect, gentle parenting also has to do with how you communicate options to and handle the behavior of your children. With that being said, remembah to practice emunah (trust) and s’lichah (forgiveness) with your children! Sometimes you may have to have those not-so-fun conversations when your little one says something unkind or “accidentally” bites someone, but in this case, remember to explicitly refer to your children’s behavior, not your children themselves.
Because we know everyone has rough days, as gentle and soulful parents, it is also important to practice emunah and s’lichah with ourselves! We are the example our children see most. Trust in yourself—you are capable of being the fun-loving parent who exudes kindness and has respect for their child! Foster a trusting and forgiving approach in your parenting, and that will be reciprocated. Continue this practice by apologizing when you are wrong or mess up, step away from a situation before you become frustrated, and forgive yourself—because hey, we’re all human!
Ultimately, gentle parenting is all about instilling em’pat’yah (empathy). By bringing values such as these into our family dynamics, we can build our home around soulfully raising children with kindness, respect, trust, and forgiveness, so that they can grow into loving, peaceful adults!