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The Rabbi on the Beach @ The Shul on the Beach

All About Manners


18 and Under – Making Room for Miss Manners Is a Parenting Basic – NYTimes.com.

This NY Times article written by a pediatrician follows the usual course of “today’s generation has bad manners, but it is not a new problem, it has always been this way… etc.”. The doctor recommends a book called Miss Manners’ Guide to Rearing Perfect Children. Great title by the way. Perfect? Really? Where do I sign up? Maybe a bit of hyperbole there…?

The aforementioned book makes one very important point that we have been underlining over and over again in our Messilas Yesharim classes. The idea that we are all born as selfish children. The book has its own approach to dealing with this issue. I raise the issue here to remind myself that that childishness that we are born with, the child inside us, he never grows up, he is with us until we leave this earth. Our challenge is to channel that child and not allow the selfishness inside us dictate our decisions. When we recognize that the child inside us that used to say “gimme, gimme” and if it had the chance would eat jellybeans for every meal is actually still inside us we can begin to deal with it. The child’s message changes from jellybeans to newer more sophisticated version of jellybeans. But he is still there and always will be there. Our job is to the boss of that child and allow our adult, mature loving selves to persevere. You may find some real good advice in the Messilas Yesharim classes in this regard.

Well, actually the doctor’s favorite part of the book is to me a big mistake as well the root of these problems in the first place! Here is the excerpt from the article where the doctor praises Miss Manners approach…

“I like Miss Manners’ approach because it lets a parent respect a child’s intellectual and emotional privacy: I’m not telling you to like your teacher; I’m telling you to treat her with courtesy. I’m not telling you that you can’t hate Tommy; I’m telling you that you can’t hit Tommy. Your feelings are your own private business; your behavior is public.”

The message here is that you can think whatever you want just you need to keep it to yourself. This is actually good advice as a last resort but it cannot be the right way to develop good people. The only way to develop good people is to develop the skills necessary to be good people. Hiding your feelings is a useful tool but it is not the most important skill in becoming a good person.

The missing ingredient here is trying to see the good in others as opposed to finding their flaws and then “hating” them for it – privately of course. If a child says that they dislike someone then the way to help correct that behavior is by helping the child see all the good that the other person does and all the nice things about that other person. This is a very rare and very basic skill. If we only see bad in the other person to the point that we feel negatively towards them then we need to adjust how we view them. We can do this and this is actually developing the adult in us and taking charge of our child inside us.

Imagine if the entire world was teaching their children to see the good in other people instead of the negative. The world would definitely be a better place! Not to mention all the therapy and other side-effects that would be avoided by people not having to suppress their negative feelings!

I am going to start imagining that world now, so I will end this post…

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5 Responses

  1. Alan Lipman says:

    Suppose the person/group has no redeeming attributes, or really has to be hated for self protection.

    • rabbifink says:

      That is a great point!

      The article is talking about raising children and there is no such thing as a child that has no redeeming attributes… right?

      The Torah gives us parameters for when it is permissible to hate – and it is those situations where I concede to your point.

      I think it is preferable to error on the safe side of caution and NOT to hate unless absolutely necessary under Torah law…

      ef

  2. […] in the NY Times and In Our TImes To be fair I have had my share of criticism of the New York Times. I don’t call them anti-Semitic though, that just reminds […]

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