Monday, April 23, 2018

Prince the Puppy... the secret to life?

My husband tried to warn me about the realities of bringing a puppy into our already super high-energy, action-packed, lots-of-young-kids home and lifestyle; but I was all like 'but they're soooo cute!! I could totally handle it!!'

And even though he did leave me with this niggling feeling that he might definitely be right, did I calmly and rationally accept his sage words or at least give myself a little more time to ponder them? Or did I beg and plead and threaten eternal misery without a new puppy for our family?? You might have guessed it... definitely something more like the latter....

Hence, meet Prince!

Prince is our adorable adopted puppy (3 months old) who came to the Amar family about a week and a half ago after we casually went to the local humane society's weekly adoption fair without ever having officially deciding that getting a dog (or puppy dog!) was the right thing for us... but those eyes did me in (and my husband too... seriously he didn't put up any fight... which was my sign that this was our dog sent from heaven... *gush*...)...

Now although this was all exciting and fabulous (oh yeah, to our kids too, since, uh, my whole original point of getting the dog was for their overall benefit in ultimately becoming their most fantastic, highly-developed selves G-d willing... and of course because they are even better at begging than me)... I am now starting to acknowledge that bringing home a puppy on a whim, having no real sense of what taking care of a puppy entails or requires (equipment, time, training skills or otherwise), and doing so on a Friday afternoon when you're Sabbath observant Jews and pet stores, google puppy advice, better yet youtube puppy videos (thank you thank you thank you makers of said videos!! you guys rock!!), and the ability to launder and properly wash any puppy accidents will all have to wait at least the next 25 hours, might not in fact be something I would recommend to others :)

However, my life philosophy tends to be 'go big or go home' so bring on the erev Shabbos puppy love!

So without any restraining tools (puppy gate, sleeping/training crate, fenced in yard...) and basically zero clue how to train a puppy (potty, behavior, or basically anything), Prince came home to our excited and loving family.

Now let me take a step back for a second and explain why the idea of getting a dog even came into our (my?) heads...

I'm kind of obsessed with my kids (when I'm not whining and complaining about them) and figuring out how to raise them to the best of my ability, and I got the idea that a dog might magically provide so many benefits (responsibility, compassion, sensitivity, self-confidence, easy-going-ness.....) and I'm actually still hopeful (and somewhat confident) that this might still be the case in the long run b'ezrat Hashem. Just don't ask me how many times this week I had to google 'why have a dog' for reassurance!!

Yet in the first ten days of dog ownership, I have found that in fact I was the one who needed 'dog therapy'!! Prince is adorable and delicious and has a precious personality. He's also like a toddler with jaws and no diaper running around my house- eek! Accordingly, I have been playing serious catch-up this week trying to figure out how the heck to deal with him! Working hard and with my family members doing a decent share of the work, I have already boasted a few times about my great relationship with my new canine friend. But I have already messed up a few times too... and in trying to correct my mistakes and figure out what to do for the future, it occurred to me that these dog training/ dog care principles I'm learning are actually almost identical to proper child-rearing strategies and adult self-development skills... so if I can just figure out how to do them with the dog (who doesn't give me a choice but to figure them out!!), then perhaps I will dramatically improve my own character traits while also becoming a much better mom to my kids!! WOW! Didn't see that one coming! 

So while the details are for another post, some highlights of what I might have to look forward to are:

  • managing the environment rather than disciplining (create the routine and behaviors you expect rather than waiting for things to not be the way you want and communicating that through punishment... rather be planned and pro-active with A TON OF POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT)
  • don't ever use fear or anger or harshness when teaching
  • be consistent!!! how else can the one you're teaching know what you want from them??!!
  • don't get frustrated- be calm and patient (good one, right?)
  • create a routine so they know what to expect
  • give them enough attention
  • your love & attention is the best reward
  • don't bribe! they should do what you say/ask because they respect you...
  • enjoy them
  • predict their needs
  • expect their success and act with their best intentions at heart
Ok, not that I'm totally failing in these areas, but I definitely need positive reinforcement!! haha you can tell i love my pup, i'm already trying to use dog training puns...

anyway, at the current moment we're still loving him and excited even though it has already been a whirlwind after only a week and a half, but I'm hopeful that the love and lessons he will bring to our family (for both me and my kids, and hey maybe the hubby too), will make it all worth it... as I explained to my kids the other day, it's ok that it's sometimes hard taking care of the dog because all the best things in life require hard work, and they were my case in point... they all got it. 

Wish us luck!!!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

my dad

Tonight marks the first Yahrzheit (anniversary of the Hebrew date of death) of my father, Dr. D. Geoffrey Shulman (Hebrew name: David Yaakov ben Moshe Pinchas). My father was definitely the biggest fan of my blog (for example if I had 100 page views in a week, probably about 50 of them were from him checking back to see if I had written anything new yet!). Towards the end of his life I was mainly motivated to make new posts in the hopes that he would have the strength to read them and they would make him happy; however, in this past year since his death I guess I have felt the need to process my emotions on my own and withdraw from the public stage that is the internet, hence the lack of blogging until now...

But tonight, thinking about my wonderful father, I feel like I'm finally ready to get back out there and share my thoughts on this crazy fast-paced life that seems to be racing by in the hopes that my experiences might touch one of you and make your day, your week, or your world a little bit better. And if that happens, it should be l'iluy nishmat (for the elevation of the soul in the next world) of my father, David Yaakov ben Moshe Pinchas.

Now, for those of you who don't know... if you thought my life was hectic before, you have no idea what it's like now! BARUCH HASHEM (thank G-d) I am now the fiercely proud mother of 5 children under 6!!! now how in the world did that happen you might ask, well, my secret trick was to have twin boys this past March! they're now 3 months old and we're having quite the fun time over here at the amar residence...

so I assume your first question is how i'm even surviving, right? well here i have to give credit to my dear friend shalva schneider who taught me the technique 'secrets of the baby whisperer' for having a 'blissful baby' that is predictable and content most of the time (G-d willing)... not to say my nights (and days, ha) are not still long and tiring, but they are a whole lot easier than if i had 2 little guys who just cried all day with me not knowing why... so shout out to shalva, and anyone having babies, you just have to learn baby whisperer, it's the beeeeeeeeeeeeeeest!!!

ok with that said, my other latest secret of life is being present and enjoying the beautiful moments... because as any young mother will tell you, sometimes your patience can be tested to the point where you feel you just can't take one more apple juice spill or one more argument over a chair or one more child coming in to the room right when the bab(ies) are about to fall asleep, and then your kids can do something just soooo sweet that you want to melt and you feel like an idiot for having been near outrage (or tears, as the case may be) just moments before. FOR EXAMPLE, the other day my 3 'big' kids (ages 2, almost 4 and almost 6) were playing in the living room while i was trying to get the babies down for the night in the bedroom... i was feeding them in the dark and quiet and they were seeming quite relaxed. then suddenly it came. my 2 year old scratching at the door for my attention. there it was... the frustration in my chest threatening to bubble up and explode as i contemplated how in the world i could last if i had to start bedtime routine all over again, when she switched from her vague door clawing to the utmost adorable sing-song way of saying 'Ima take'... it was more like 'EE-ee-ee-ma-a-a, ta-a-a-a-ake' and i've actually been singing it in my head for a couple of days now. i had no choice but to smile and laugh at this beautiful little being out there who wanted nothing more than to give something to her mommy (i don't even know what it was, probably a bottle cap or old carrot stick or something) and she was so happily oblivious to her surroundings that she was just merrily singing her request absent-mindedly (i think it went on for a few minutes until i finally came out... btw it didn't even bother the babies after all my feelings of impending doom)...

but what's the point? it's that the potential to melt/ smile/ feel utter joy in your surroundings is lying there around the corner no matter what you're going through. sometimes it takes a lot more strength to access, but there is always blessing and beauty to be seen if you just let yourself.

when i was thinking about my dad today, one of the things that came to mind about him was his unending sense of optimism. anyone who knew him would say he was an eternal optimist, and this was a quality in him i always deeply admired. no matter how dire the straits seemed to be he could always try to find the bright side and give you a smile or a laugh to brighten the room. even when he was so sick a couple of months before he passed away, his strength and courage, and this trait of incredible optimism, shone through. all of the approved drugs for his type of cancer had already failed him and he was moving on to experimental drugs when he told me with a smile 'don't worry jules, i'll just last as long as i can on some cocktail of experimental drugs until they find the new one that will cure me.' to me this epitomizes my dad. no matter how dark and scary the road ahead, he chose to illuminate it and see the hope and the beauty.

my blessing for all of you is that in the moments of your life, whether they be good or bad, you too should make that choice and see the hope and beauty that surrounds you.

with hopes of continued writing and inviting you into my world, and with much love,

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

oneness and completeness

a quick thought my friend shared with me:

so i've written before that the jewish understanding of marriage is that two individuals who each have a half a soul, come together to unite that soul and really they are like one person...

so here's the thought: when our other half is doing something we are not pleased with or that we look down upon, instead of criticizing and judging, we can look at it as our own personal lacking, and therefore we can on our pick up the slack and work on that area ourselves, therefore completing who we are as a total person... the hebrew word is to be 'mashleem', to complete...

sometimes an easier way of doing this is the old 'putting ourselves in somebody else's shoes'... but if we do this genuinely and really picture how we would feel/ want to be treated in that situation, we can often gain tremendous compassion and insights to move forward with... and it could be just what we need to judge favorably and be motivated to work on that area of growth ourselves, on their behalf...

a tricky concept, but i thought it was worth a quick mention... questions welcome...


Tuesday, June 12, 2012


when I first got married, my husband and I had the opportunity to live in Brooklyn for 2 months en route to immigrating to Israel (East 10th and Avenue P for those of you in the know). We took a cute little 1-bedroom basement apartment and equipped ourselves with just a few necessities for our humble abode. New to domestic life (having your own apartment for just you and your husband cannot be compared to dorm life or even rooming with friends in college*... note: i'm pretty sure my roommates and i called our landlord if we needed a lightbulb changed... we were super oblivious to the requirements of running a home), I was having fun experimenting with cooking, cleaning, and even having a laundry pile for two :).

I remember one of the first weeks we were there, we were preparing for Shabbat and I decided that I would figure out how to wash the floor (specifically in the Israeli style of "spongea" where you take a long squeegie stick and wrap some type of absorbent floor towel around it, pour soapy water all over the floor, and then basically rub the towel all around- not sure why the old invention known as 'the mop' never made it here...). So there I was, swishing and pouring and having a grand old time, and I realized that I was actually so excited about what I was doing... I had zero feeling of 'ugh i'm stuck doing this chore when i'd rather be doing something else'. rather, I felt like a little girl playing house, only it was real! there was a husband and a home and a whole real life that I was privileged to be at the center of. And cleaning the floor was just an expression of that reality and so it filled me with absolute joy!

Ok great. So I was a blissful newlywed and the dirty floor water didn't get to me. What's the big deal?

Well, let's fast forward a little bit to our home in Israel which is *Baruch Hashem* busy with little ones, lots of action, and lots of guests, specifically on Shabbat. So Friday afternoon when we are busy finishing all the preparations before Shabbat starts at sundown, there can inevitably be a lot of pressure and even stress. So when the floor is still not clean and then I have to race to try to get it done (my husband is actually extraordinarily helpful around the house, but it turns out this whole spongea business is kind of an art and he has yet to tackle it and learn this most valuable trade himself, so meanwhile floor-cleaning is my responsibility)... so when i'm racing and rushing, let's picture it, do you think i'm in that same blissful state of absolute joy??

probably not!! i would probably look more like a mean angry person who just wants everyone else out of her way...

so how is it that the same act of cleaning the floor can bring so much happiness in one instance (reminding me of my blessings of having a husband and home) but in another it could drive me to resentment, anger, or even despair?

I think the answer comes from two things. 1) Expectations & a feeling of Entitlement. 2) Willingness to see and accept the good.

Now while we might be tempted to say that really the second situation I just described is genuinely harder (trying to accomplish ANY task with young children at foot is never simple) than the first, I can assure you that that is not the real issue here, because there have also been plenty of times when I set aside time to clean the floor when the kids were at school, there was no time pressure, and little else to do, and yet STILL it did not arouse in me the same feelings of bliss that are apparently achievable while spongea-ing!!

Ok, so number one, expectations and entitlement... when we feel like we deserve something or expect it to go only our way, and then it doesn't or we don't get what we want, it is very easy and most natural to then feel down about the situation. So if my floor needs washing and I start saying 'oh poor me I can't find any cleaning help (which urgh btw is true, really haven't found anyone!)' or 'it's not fair, why should I be doing this when really i have better things to do' (which is also true to some extent, i really do have a lot of other obligations) or 'cleaning the floor is beneath me' (ha that last one i made up, not one of my usual complaints)...  then I have both long-term and short-term options to deal with the situation:

long-term: if i feel my concerns are legitimate, then instead of whining or having self-pity, i better just decide to fix the situation (i.e. hire someone to do it for me or teach the kids to do it... which btw i really did, they just used water and no soap and had a great time (note: spongea= way cooler than mop, if you didn't catch that yet), but then you have to worry about them not slipping, it taking too long, etc.... so there's a balance)... but basically, what i'm saying is that if you feel like something in your life is not the way you would like it to be, then by all means, go about finding a solution to fix it for yourself, that is totally legitimate... but if your solution does not include changing the circumstances that have got you to this place (either because it's not worth it for you or maybe it's just beyond your control) then we are left with the choice of being miserable or of changing our attitude...

so what's the short-term fix? it's that attitude change... if i know that today i'm the only one who will be cleaning my floor and i do want it clean, then i could mope my way through the chore (feeling bad for myself and ever more resentful towards the rest of the world as i go), OR (here it comes...) I could throw away those feelings of entitlement and those expectations that things should be otherwise, and simply accept the task at hand. And once I've shed those negative thoughts and can say 'ok so right now my job in the world is to clean this floor' then I am free to move on to the next step, willingness to see and accept the good.

So let's go back to newlywed-me. Not only did I not have any expectations that someone else should be doing my chore for me, but I naturally felt grateful that it was MY chore because of my new stage in life. So seeing the task as mine, I could easily look around and see all the wonderful things that went along with it (which by the way are just as true today... thank G-d I have a husband, a home, energetic children who 'get in the way' of cleaning because they need my attention which really I am so lucky for, etc. etc.... ). The good is there, we just have to let ourselves tune into it.

And this applies for everything in life. If I was expecting a promotion but didn't get it, I have to first shed my expectations and entitlement that 'that job was mine- I DESERVED it.' Once I can say, 'no, I have the right job for me and another opportunity will come along in the right time' (and btw I'm allowed to think of why i DIDN'T get the job and try to learn lessons for the future so maybe next time I will get it, it's just the unproductive negative feelings we want to get away from right away), then I can make a list for myself of all the things I'm grateful for (I still have my old job, I didn't get fired, I have friends, family, a car, 2 hands, my eyesight, nice jeans, comfy shoes, really yummy gum... we can choose whatever we want)! The point is that happiness is ALWAYS within our reach no matter how hard things are.

SO remember, when things don't go your way and you want to choose to be happy, you've got to:
- throw out your feelings of entitlement and expectations that things should've been another way
- look for the good, focus on it, and feel good about it

I hope this will help you all out, and hopefully I will listen to my own advice!!!

I also just ask everyone to please keep my father in your prayers for a complete recovery- his name is David Yaakov ben Golda.

Thank you all, love julie

Saturday, March 17, 2012

2,524,608,000 seconds

One week ago today i experienced what was probably the most terrifying experience of my entire life. 

I thought that my precious, beautiful, sweet little red-headed 2-year-old girl was dying in my arms. Thank G-d she is and was fine, but I don't think I will ever forget the fear that pulsed through my body at that moment.

I was walking home with my family on a sunny Shabbat morning through the stone streets of Jerusalem's Old City where we live. It was me, my husband, my kids, and my husband's cousin and his young family walking home after a peaceful outing to shul and to the park. Very near to the end of our short walk home we had to climb a set of stone stairs. I was at the tail end of our group, facing backwards as I bounced our baby and stroller up the stairs with the skilled technique of an old city resident. Half-way up I heard my little daughter start to cry, seemingly because she wanted something.

Before I even knew what was going on, as I climbed the last couple of stairs, I started my usual line about how we use our words when we want something instead of crying... And as I scooped her up in my arms to finish telling her this, I could hear my husband and cousin attempting to explain to me that she had fallen during her protest and was now crying for good reason. But their words were just an echo ringing in my head because as they spoke I quickly began to realize that something was very wrong. My daughter started arching her back as one might do in a temper tantrum, only I realized that as she did it her body went stiff, her eyes rolled back, and she went limp in my arms. She very quickly turned blue in the face, I saw she wasn't breathing and I started screaming hysterically. 

"Get a doctor! Save my baby! Why aren't you doing anything?!" I shrieked urgently. My husband had grabbed my daughter from me and was trying to get me to calm down but I stood in the street hysterical as passers by stopped to try to help and figure out what was going on, only I didn't know myself. 

It turns out that when my daughter had been upset about whatever it was, she had lost her footing and fallen down very hard on her tailbone right onto our ancient stone sidewalk, which was apparently a much harsher fall than I had realized, having not seen it myself. So my husband and the others around me understood that she had just had the wind knocked right out of her and she would be fine. As soon as he took her from me, she actually came to and started crying, and I heard voices floating in the air with claims that crying is a good sign, which somewhere inside me rang true and I calmed somewhat although only on the inside (I'm pretty sure I was still crying and possibly screaming on the outside). Luckily, within a moment or two, a friend and neighbour stepped out of his house and saw the situation, quickly re-assuring us that she had only fainted, as his daughters unfortunately have a tendency of doing quite often, and there was nothing to be alarmed about. When she had fallen so hard, she went to cry but was a little shocked and couldn't catch her breath- hence the not breathing and fainting... 

So thank G-d, this near-death experience was a fake-out. But it made me realize that it just as easily could not have been, G-d forbid. When she went limp, not-breathing and blue, I felt like someone pulled this mighty off-lever of life, one like you might see controlling a factory floor. It was like in one split second, for no reason, out of the blue, my baby's life was just being shut down and there was nothing I could do about it. So I just started screaming. All I could think was, if we need to get her breathing again, we only have a few seconds to do it, and not being in the middle of an emergency room surrounded by a team of doctors with all the right equipment, I felt like a traveller in the desert knocked to the sandy ground from thirst, with no water and no salvation in sight. 

From this, I learned two things. One: we cannot wait for the off-lever to be pulled. I did a google search to see how many seconds are in an average human life. I came up with the title of this post- 2,524,608,000 seconds (or 80 years, if we're that lucky). Two and a half billion seconds and how many of them do we really use? In how many of them are we really grateful that we're even alive? That we have loved ones? That I even have a precious little 2-year-old baby girl? LIFE IS JUST TOO SHORT. We just do not have the luxury of time. 

We have to be who we want to be and live the way we want to live TODAY. I live in Israel. Today I might be in more danger living here than if I lived in Germany in 1939. A nuclear Iran could wipe me off the map, and you know what? The day before would be a normal day, just like today. And if it was my last day, how would I have used it...


Enough pettiness! Enough complaining! Enough 'if-only's! Every second is a gift to be treasured, experienced, and elevated towards a higher purpose. 

The Jewish understanding of G-d is not just that He made the world and left it to run by itself. The Jewish G-d is not only Creator, but also Sustainer and Supervisor. You know what that means? That for every second I have with my precious daughter, not only is He not pulling the 'off-lever', but He is pushing the 'on-lever'! 

And that was the second thing I learned. Not only must we appreciate every day, hour, minute, second... but when we are scared or feel like we don't have anywhere to turn, we have to be real that there is somewhere to turn- the Source of it all. As I stood there screaming, helpless, what I was really crying out for was for the green light to go back on, to hear the sound of the power-up... the gift of life to come rushing back into her- the gift of life that comes from G-d at every single moment, only normally much less noticeably. 

So if G-d is the one giving life, then why call out for doctors at all? 

In this world we have to put in our effort (it's called "hishtadlut" in Hebrew). In my situation, I was right to be calling out for help and doctors, because that's the way G-d created the world (e.g. that medical issues are solved by medical experts), but that doesn't mean it stops there. Because in addition to our efforts to work things out for ourselves in the physical world, we also recognize that there is a spiritual world that impacts what happens. And that is why we call out in prayer. So not only do I call out to the people around me, but I must also call to our Father in Heaven to make the change, to flood my daughter's little body with life again, to save my nation from another horrific onslaught G-d forbid, to save other loved ones, to rid the world of evil, poverty, starvation... First our effort, then our prayer to finish the job... that's the way it works...

We needn't wait for death and doom to loom over us before we wake up and see how good were 'the good ol' days'. Rather, let us see that we are in them now, that no matter what hardship exists, there is always good to be experienced and cherished. 

If any good comes from any of you reading this, may it be in the merit of the full recovery of my father, David Yaakov ben Golda. Please take a moment to pray for him if you can.

Thank you. 
Love, Julie

Monday, February 27, 2012

floor-baking incident part 2

so my father lovingly pointed out that to the unknowing, outside observer, not punishing children who pour baking ingredients on the living room floor does not in fact appear to be a sign of fantastic, stellar, brilliant, out-of-this-world parenting that I claim it to be, but rather it may appear more like negligent, incompetent, and all around poor parenting...

so which is it??

well... clearly it's the first! ha! especially since it is what i endorse and i am the writer of this blog... but please, let me explain...

first of all, I have to reiterate what I wrote in the last post, which is that not yelling/getting angry/punishing at the time of misbehaviour is only one component of the parenting strategy, and by refraining from doing these things, we are NOT ENDORSING the misbehaviour. Rather,


that means that in a situation like this I have to do a few things:
1. In the moment of misbehaviour I have to communicate unconditional love (i.e. the message that the child is inherently good, only the behaviour is bad, and I love them no matter what they've done even if I don't love the behaviour) [check. we did this when we reacted calmly, without losing control or our temper, and by not saying something mean and therefore inappropriate]
2. Diffuse the situation. [check. we did this by removing the little ones from the situation (put them on the couch) and putting away all renegade kitchen items]

now this is what I want to focus on today...

3. Identify the behaviour that needs to be worked on-- in this case there are a few different lessons I can choose, like the importance of not wasting food or of mistreating our home by making a big mess, but I think they really do know these concepts because most of the time they don't have any problem with them... the problem really seems to arise when they know they are without direct adult supervision for a few minutes... so with that in mind, the desired behaviour I will aim to teach them based on this is 'personal self-control and choosing to do the right thing on your own and not just because someone's watching you", and maybe we'll throw in a little 'proper morning behaviour etiquette' while we're at it...

4. Look for a Quiet Moment that you can then use as a TEACHING MOMENT. A quiet moment is one where there is a positive, loving atmosphere between parent and child, things are calm, and they can really focus on one another. It is essential to choose a time like this to teach the lesson you want your child to learn. And like I mentioned in the last post, teaching methods can vary and depend on the child's age, but examples include modelling the behaviour yourself (you should really try to do this no matter what anyway!), telling a story that exemplifies it, making a puppet show (for little kids), noticing when it does happen and giving positive encouragement, just sitting down and talking about it, etc....

Ok, now we're ready for my real life illustration of points 3 & 4 which I am happy to say happened just in time for this post!!!

So I just have to mention, that when we are talking about the teaching principles, they really apply mainly to my son (who's 4 1/2) cuz the other kids are really still too little...

Ok so I've already done my step 3, choosing what I want to teach my son... then yesterday I had the opportunity to do step 4. It was the early afternoon, my mother's helper couldn't come yesterday and so it was just me and the kids. The baby and my other daughter had both fallen asleep, and I was having some quality 1-on-1 time with my son, lying on the couch playing with clicks (possibly the best toy ever) and telling stories (for anyone who knows my son, you will know that he LOOOOOVES being told stories)... so here we were in a perfect quiet moment (1-on-1 time, atmosphere of love, time to focus on each other) so I decided to try telling a story that would exemplify the desired behaviour. it went something like this...

Once there was a boy named David and one morning he woke up in the morning and he washed netilat yadayim (Jewish ritual hand-washing in the morning) and said Modeh Ani (exclamation of thanks to the Almighty that we are alive and have another day ahead and it's awesome). David noticed that he was the first one up in his home, and then he went into the kitchen. When he got there he saw.... a huge bag of chocolate chips on his kitchen counter! (ha true story, this actually happens often, which btw is a reminder that the parents also have to set up their kids for success, meaning NOT leaving chocolate and candy in accessible places and then expecting them not to touch it when we adults ourselves have a hard enough time with self-control around food as it is!). So at first David got really excited and thought about how he wanted to take the bag of chocolate chips, go get his arts & crafts scissors, cut them open, and eat them all! Yay that would be fun!... WAAAAIT! Then David thought about his Mommy... how she would be upset. she would tell him that all that chocolate could hurt his tummy. she would say chocolate is not for breakfast. she would say that spilling the chocolate chips out could make them dirty and unusable and that's a waste. and so he decided that he wouldn't touch the bag of chocolate chips, and instead he went to the living room, and sat down to look at the pictures in one of his books (too young to actually read them) and wait patiently until Abba or Imma (our other names for daddy and mommy) come downstairs. 

Ok so after he sat enthralled listening to every word, when I had finished, right away he said "Ima, tomorrow I'm not going to take any treats. I'm going to sit nicely with a book!" Great. he identified with the protagonist and wants to be like him. So now I respond "Good for you! You are such a tzaddik (good/righteous person)!" This is a good start, let's see what happens. 

Alright, ready for the best part? So when I come downstairs this morning, what's he doing? Sitting very nicely on the couch looking at one of his books! WOOHOO! So of course right away I go crazy with the positive reinforcement, telling him how wonderful he is, what a huge mitzvah it is, how he listened so nicely, he's so responsible, such a big boy, etc., etc. He is beaming... then a few minutes later my husband comes down and right away my son says "abba! abba! guess what i did this morning?!". he tells  him, and then right away my husband proceeds to make a huge deal of it and we decide that today he will get a special treat...

So now yes it's true that we have to keep going with this for a little while to establish a PATTERN of the desired behaviour, but it is really amazing to see such a clear example of this strategy in action. So I want to say again, thank you Fran (Fran being my parenting coach and teacher)! And also thank you to my parents for encouraging me to clarify what it's all about...

hope this was helpful, and feel free to ask me questions if anything i write doesn't make sense. chances are i will be able to clarify!

wishing everyone a fabulous day,
love julie

Monday, February 20, 2012


ok just in case anyone thought they had wild kids, i would like to inform you that on one of my hazardous 5-minute sleep-ins this week, my husband and i came downstairs to discover that the kids were "baking"... a.k.a. they had taken out just about every mixing bowl i have and some pots and utensils, laid them across the floor, and proceeded to pour a bag of flour, 3 separate containers of sugar, a container of chocolate powder, and probably at least a handful of pretzels into the bowls and ALL OVER MY FLOOR AND HOUSE!!!!!! sooooo Baruch Hashem, my husband and i were both feeling pretty calm and we put the rebellious little ones in captivity on the couch and quietly and calmly proceeded to clean up the disastrous mess (which btw only took about 5 mins to clean)... and then we told them we would think about an appropriate punishment for later because we don't waste food, disrespect our home, etc... but we didn't really get mad or do anything harsh at the time of the incident, and you know what? that was the end of it...  no rage. no power struggle. no harsh feelings... just a little clean-up, a few kind words, and on we go... (btw they never ended up getting any punishment because it didn't seem necessary later on after the moment had passed)...

ha ok and so tonight when they took their yogurts into their room and started doing splash art all over the curtains i realized that they had in fact perhaps not learned their lesson, but now at least we know what to work on...

so i wanted to tell you a little bit more of the principles behind this strategy... i learned this method from my friend and teacher fran (pnina) merzel (btw anyone in jerusalem i emplore u to take her course! ask me for more info!)... and just today i got to hear fran teach again about some of these principles...

so the title of the class today was 'loving our children in the unlovable moments: the power of unconditional love'... anyway i'm not going to go into all of it now, but i will tell you a couple things...

she said that there are two dangerous assumptions people make during a child's misbehaviour that lead to inappropriate & untimely criticism: 1. If I say what the child did wrong, he will correct himself and do it right the next time. 2. if i don't say something, the child will not grow up to be a good person (at least in this area) later in life... but she says that not only are these assumptions wrong, but they are dangerous, because the more harshly we react with a child in a moment of misbehaviour, the less chance we have of fixing it, and in fact we might be doing a lot more damage by sending our child the message that he is unlovable!!

so... this means that in the moment of misbehaviour, we are not getting mad, shouting, or punishing. the first thing we do is look for CREATIVE SOLUTIONS to end the misbehaviour (including distraction, 'replaying the scene' (offering the child the chance to go back and re-do what just went wrong), humour, displays of love, ANYTHING)... because yes we want the misbehaviour to stop, but THE TIME OF MISBEHAVIOUR IS NOT THE TIME TO FIX IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! this is so counter-intuitive, it takes some major digesting...

rather, when a child misbehaves (like a child who smacked his brother that took his toy truck) we want to and should diffuse the situation (make sure the smacking has stopped), but then instead of on the spot going into why the child should not have done that, whether it's an explanation, a punishment, anger, or something else, what we SHOULD DO is make a mental note that we have to teach this child ways to communicate without using his hands...

and then later on, in a QUIET MOMENT we will be able to teach that skill, whether it's through modelling the behaviour ourself, telling a story about it, talking about that skill with an older child, or any other creative and age appropriate method, we actually have a chance to teach the child the desired behaviour!!!!

ok, this is just a snippet of a much broader philosophy and even only a few of my notes from today's class, but still thought it was worth sharing! hopefully will share more soon...

good luck!!