Parenting columnist and Mamaleh Knows Best author Marjorie Ingall wants to rebrand the proverbial Jewish mother.
What’s the biggest takeaway from your research into Jewish parenting through the ages?
If you actually look at the history of Jewish motherhood, not just at the brief post-war period that gave us the stereotype, Jewish moms have been very good at putting ethical teaching first. There’s a reason why Jews have been successful against terrible odds. We should chill out about enrichment and helicoptering, and we should encourage our kids’ intellectual interests.
What tips do you have for the modern Jewish parent?
Try as much as you can to tune out the hyper-intense parents. “She’s not reading novels yet? Everyone else has read The Brothers Karamazov by 8!” Tune them out; focus on the pleasures and the joys. When we focus on our kids, they are super cheap entertainment. It’s time you don’t get back. There is no right way to parent. The only wrong way is to get worked up about things that don’t matter. Let your kid be a geek. Geekery has always served the Jews well. Just chill.
Which figures from Jewish history win parenting awards?
The one who was the genesis of the book is Glückel of Hameln. She is the original mommy blogger. She had a really good sense of humor. She was able to have a little bit of perspective. She had 8 million children, and she was widowed young. Her interest was having her sons employed. She found different places in the business for her sons. She’s the opposite of the clingy, put-my-head-in-the-oven person. The other person was Isador Isaac Rabi, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. He said, “My mother made me a scientist. My mother said, ‘Did you ask a good question today?’” Jews have always been good at asking questions when it hasn’t been popular. Being popular is overrated.
Are Jewish parenting values getting diluted by mainstream American culture?
To a degree, being immigrants — like Hamilton — we get the job done. Now that we are in many ways the inner circle, we can lose our edge. It’s important to have sympathy for the groups that are where we were 50 years ago. Building bridges with other cultures, remembering that we were strangers in a strange land, is all super important and will help us remember the Jewish values that have served us throughout time.
Refresh Your Parenting Style
Five things you can start doing today to upgrade your family dynamics from Sarina Behar Natkin, LICSW, a parent coach, speaker, and author in the Seattle area.
Model behavior — and self-care
Focus more on yourself, and model what you want your kid to do. What are the core values you want your kids to have as they grow up? It’s not enough to tell them; we have to do it. We can motivate our kids by fear and punishment, but they miss out on learning life skills, such as problem solving and self-discipline.
Change the way you come home
Parents can take the first 10 minutes to focus on their kids, and kids get that connection that they’re wanting at the end of the day. When you get that, you’re able to work through your tasks faster. After the end of 10 minutes, the kids are on to their own thing. That has been a game changer for many families. It’s a simple thing, but it can shift the whole evening.
Let the other parent parent
Dads tend to be — and this is stereotypical — wired to focus on one task at a time. When they play with kids, they focus on play. I appreciate how we have different styles. We need to let them have their space. Every parent can love a child unconditionally, and it’s not something that one gender does better than others.
We’ll look back on this era of parenting and laugh about afterschool activities. Our kids are so scheduled, it’s out of hand. Steve Jobs got into computers because he had the time to be bored!
Check your bias
We have a responsibility to educate ourselves and our children. Our kids are always listening, so we need to be aware of our bias to avoid passing it along. This also means teaching our children how to stand up for themselves and others as an ally.