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Parenting On Setting Boundaries: The Siddur’s Wisdom for Modern Parents 

By Rabbi Amy Grossblatt Pessah

What do joy, responsibility, boundaries, and confidence have in common? Besides being four qualities parents hope to instill in their children, they are also four traits that reveal themselves within the pages of the siddur, the Jewish prayer book and that we explored in Hebrew College‘s Parenting Through a Jewish Lens class, Ancient Jewish Secrets for Raising Modern Children.

In each session, we explored how different parenting values and priorities are reflected in specific prayers.  By discovering joy in Psalm 150, responsibility in Aleinu, boundaries in the Kaddish, and confidence in Ein Keloheinu, we found a new way to look at the prayer book, as well as the parenting insights hidden within.

During the High Holiday season, we frequently encounter the Kaddish, a prayer which praises God and appears numerous times in various forms, throughout Jewish prayer services. In class, we spoke of how the Kaddish serves as a boundary marker, appearing to let us know that one section of the service was over and another one beginning.  This led to a conversation about setting boundaries with our kids.  Parents of young children wondered, “At what age can we start setting boundaries? What do we do when our kids cross the boundaries that we’ve set as parents?” We spoke honestly about our individual levels of comfort with the boundaries we do (or don’t) set in our lives as parents, partners, and friends. While some parents may initially have felt uncomfortable setting strong limits with their children, we came to learn that boundaries are important in helping kids feel safe, in providing children with routine and with a sense of predictability and by helping to build a sense of trust and follow through. Rules in the house are the micro; rules at work are company policy and are the macro. By teaching our children how to follow house rules we prepare them for becoming upstanding citizens in society.

As a parent, it might feel overwhelming to start boundary setting and, yet, what emerged from our class was the importance of discerning what each parent’s core values are and from there,  creating two or three non-negotiable boundaries that support those values. For example, if you can’t live in a messy home, maybe cleaning up toys after playtime is a non-negotiable or if privacy is important to you, maybe knocking on doors before entering is what you want to focus on. Regardless of what you choose, the important thing is to not overwhelm your child/ren with too many rules.

This discussion was one of many that helped parents identify what was important to them and then work towards being a role model for their children. I hope that each participant left the class with a greater sense of how ancient Jewish wisdom can help guide us as modern parents as well as a recognition that we each have inner wisdom and experience to share that can help us navigate the challenges of parenting together.

Amy Grossblatt Pessah is a rabbi, writer, spiritual director and mom who resides in Florida. She is the author of  Parenting on a Prayer: Ancient Jewish Secrets for Raising Modern Children.  Rabbi Amy will be teaching  again this fall for Hebrew College’s Parenting Through a Jewish Lens program – Finding Blessing in a Messy World: More Ancient Jewish Wisdom for Raising Modern Children. For questions about this and other Parenting Through a Jewish Lens classes, contact Ahava Rosenthal.

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