“The Joys & Oys of Parenting” makes a Chanukah gift that’s useful and enjoyable.
It’s a guide to effective parenting through a Jewish lens. Written by psychologist Maurice J. Elias and Athenians Marilyn Gootman and Heather Schwartz-Allen, the slim paperback book speaks to those with older children as well as to families welcoming new babies into their homes.
The authors are parents and grandparents with decades of personal observation and professional experience. Gootman is an educational consultant, author, retired University of Georgia professor and Jewish educator. Schwartz-Allen works with academic issues for UGA student-athletes and has worked in nongovernmental organizations around the globe.
“The book is a very positive affirmation of what Judaism has to offer,” Gootman said. “And Chanukah is a good time to think more about Judaism and Jewish values.”
The book is organized in seven chapters. Each concludes with a brief summary called “From Oy to Joy!” that lets adults know when all their work has paid off through what their children are doing on their own.
The book ends with a discussion guide, making it perfect for a parents group or a discussion session.
The book reads like an extended conversation with a trusted friend or relative, reassuring you that you can succeed in rearing children who value their Jewish faith and other human beings.
The first chapter talks about creating a peaceful home by learning to listen skillfully, communicate respectfully, express anger constructively and minimize sibling rivalry. Parents should always remember that children are observing them and copying their behavior.
“These four principles will benefit our children today, smooth out our daily routines, and help produce effective, competent people capable of shining light wherever they go in the world,” according to “The Joys & Oys of Parenting.”
The authors use verses from Proverbs — “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention” and “One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and one whose temper is controlled (is better) than one who captures a city” — to suggest how parents and caregivers should think about handling their anger and modeling constructive methods for children.
Six chapters that build on one another follow. Parents, grandparents and caregivers receive tips on how to establish routines, foster resilience, promote responsibility, spark motivation, nurture kindness and cultivate gratitude.
The language is accessible and applicable to children of all ages, Schwartz-Allen said.
Setting routines leads to a more peaceful home, the book says. Having a set time for dinner, for television and computer, and for bedtime tells children that arguing is useless.
Doing things in the same order each day lets children know what to expect — the world is chaotic to children, and predictability gives them confidence and helps them navigate it.
Eating meals together helps bind family members to one another. Ending the day with the Shema reminds children of their connection to G-d and their Jewish faith.
The book also tells readers how to “sanctify the passage of time through Shabbat.” Setting aside one day “offers us connection, continuity, and security in who we are and where we’ve come from.”
Lighting candles, eating a Shabbat meal together, giving children ownership of the day and introducing a special activity for Saturday afternoon are all ideas for making the day special. There’s even a recipe for challah — a good way to give kids hands-on involvement in Shabbat.
It’s also important to establish your family’s own traditions and practices around the Jewish holidays. Make up rules for playing dreidel during Chanukah. Create an “advent calendar” for the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot. You can adapt the ideas to your own family.
“The Joys & Oys of Parenting” is published by Behrman House and is available through Amazon.
The Joys & Oys of Parenting
By Maurice J. Elias, Marilyn E. Gootman and Heather L. Schwartz
Behrman House, 264 pages, $15.95