Rivkie Brownstein, Beis Moshiach
My son likes to do his homework in the morning. The problem is that he takes out his homework and daydreams until it’s almost time to go to school. I used to notice what was going wrong and mention it. “Do your work!” “You are not paying attention!” Eventually I realized this method just wasn’t working. I needed something more effective.
A Moshiach-Imbued Education Method
In the verse from Yeshaya about the promise of Geula, it says Hashem will return our judges and advisors to us as they were, but it skips out the return of the officers, which is mentioned in the Torah. The Rebbe points out that when Moshiach comes, we will not need police officers to “force” people to follow the instructions of the judges, because all people will want to follow instructions on their own and do the right thing based on internal motivation to do what’s right. Now, in Yemos HaMoshiach, we are supposed to educate our children with this goal in mind – for the children to do good out of internal motivation.
When it comes to education, there are many different approaches. There are so many ways of rewarding or giving consequences to children to motivate “good” behavior. The highest, most effective way is when a child is motivated to do the right thing from within, not out of fear of punishment or wanting a reward.
How can we facilitate that?
Every child wants connection and they will do anything to get that connection. What we give our attention and energy to is what we will get more of. What we focus on will expand. The Nurtured Heart Approach, a method for building inner wealth in children, talks a lot about this concept. The NHA is based on 3 stands:
1. Absolutely No: I will absolutely not give any energy to the negative behavior that I do not want.
2. Absolutely Yes: I will give all my energy and passion to what is going right and the behavior that I want to see.
3. Absolutely Clear: I will have very clear rules and boundaries, so the children know what is expected and there is no confusion.
On my first day of teaching preschool, I learned a powerful lesson during lunch time. Most of the children were sitting nicely and eating but one or two were standing on their chairs. I made an announcement that there is no standing on chairs during lunchtime. Before I knew it, most of the kids were standing on their chairs and laughing.
The next day, I decided to try something different. The same two kids stood on their chairs looking at me for a reaction. Instead of giving attention to the behavior I didn’t want, I pointed out the kids who were sitting. “I notice some of you sitting, eating your lunch. That shows me you are following the rules as well as being safe!” Pretty quickly the kids who were standing, sat down as well. “Look, I’m sitting too!” I gave them attention right away for the behavior I wanted by mentioning: “I notice you are sitting! You are following our lunch rule of sitting on our chairs when we eat!”
The key is to catch our children in moments of greatness and saying what we notice, “I notice you are sharing your cars with your sister, that shows me that you are a giving person.” Or, “I see that even though you are angry, you are speaking to me in a respectful tone, you have a lot of self-control and I appreciate the respect you are showing.” It is natural for us to notice what is going wrong and comment on it. But when we shift gears and look for what is going right, there will be a spiral of more and more right going on because that is what we are giving attention and connection to.
This takes a lot of practice and is a challenge especially at first. But if the main goal is for our children to be Chassidim of the Rebbe who do the right thing and have true Ahavas Yisrael, we can do this! We are all human beings and naturally will not be perfect always. But just like an airplane that eventually reaches its destination because the pilot knows how to straighten out despite constant winds; we can give ourselves and our children the gift of resetting, having clear expectations and focusing our energy only on the positive.
And with my son and his homework? I tried to make a conscious effort to point out what was going right and the outcome was completely different!
Now it goes something like this: “I notice that you are all dressed, you ate breakfast and you are sitting at the table with your homework and notebook! What a great start to a wonderful day! Look how responsible you are!” The first day I tried this, I was amazed to see the results. My son started his homework right away happily, feeling proud of himself for being ready on time with no extra reminders!
Try it! The results are amazing.
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