Monday, October 13, 2014

Be'rei'shit 75 - Your child as your Ally

Before God created man,  God said ' Let us make man '. Be'rei'shit 1:26. He consulted with his heavenly council and also asked their permission before he created man.  Man was destined to have dominion and rule over the lower world. The Sages say that God is teaching an important lesson and ethical behavior= derech- e'retz. People in power should consult with their subordinates and get their permission.  Communication and dialog preceded only  man's creation , because man is different from God's other creations. Man was given the power of speech which enables him to communicate his thoughts and feelings. Together,' Man' can share different perspectives and concerns, build God fearing communities and solve problems in a collaborative way. Gods words -  ' Let us make man '  tell us that communication and collaborative problem solving are intrinsic to man, and that man expresses his uniqueness by consulting, problem solving  and achieving consensus with others.

Educators and Parents  should be communicating and having a dialog with kids about their expectations and hopes for building a cooperative  community of caring learners or a family dedicated to supporting each other and other members of the community. Instead of focusing on obedience by creating rules and consequences in a top-down manner , parents , educators and kids can participate in drawing up guidelines and core values that should guide behavior and goals. Problems can be addressed not by 'dong to ' kids with rewards and punishments but  ' working with ' kids using Collaborative Problem solving  -  identify concerns and perspectives and then brainstorming  mutually satisfying , durable and realistic solutions. The Talmud teaches that teachers learn the most from their students, so kids do have  much to offer.  The author Eli Neuberger says - the method of withdrawing privileges and other punishments is essentially negative. I can't communicate with you and so I'll hurt you if you don't mind me. The positive counterpoint is: We all make mistakes and you can trust me to help you do better in the future.

The Ba'al Shem Tov says that when God says ' Let us make man', He is talking to man himself. God is saying ,  man – be my partner and ally in building a world based on Godly values of service , humility , holiness and community etc  despite the challenges of man's physical side and attraction to a physical world. Parents and educators can view kids as partners and allies or people who are immature, controlled by evil impulses and cannot be trusted. If you cannot trust kids to behave you need to control their behavior with lots of rules and consequences. And according to the Pygmalion effect, kids will act according to your negative expectations. Kids see their roles as only to do what their parents want and say, so there is a constant power struggle between kids who are fighting for some sort of autonomy and self- expression and parents/teachers'  wishes. God is saying – focus on the positive side of kids, see them as allies and partners in building a school of cooperative and caring learners, a family with ideals and vision , one  that  supports its members and cooperates to help others in the community. If you trust kids, you can make them feel part of a great idea and movement. And according to the Pygmalion effect they will become more responsible and caring people. Discipline is no longer a question of what will be done to me, what will I get – the consequences for me  or what's in it for me – but how do my actions impact on others , how do they reflect my core values, what do I want my classroom or family to look like.

When God says ' Let us make man ' He is saying to parents and educators. See in your kids and students potential allies and partners in building  school communities and families based on a vision and ideals.  And the way to go is to consult with kids , let them participate in the decision making process  and setting up of guidelines and core values.  Solve problems in a collaborative way , so that consensus is achieved by brainstorming mutually satisfying solutions. Kids are  encouraged to engage in an autonomous way in the moral  act of restitution to fix damage or restore injured relationships . ' Let us make man ' is a call by God to us to become the men, women and children that God created us to be.

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