Spirituality and Setting Limits

by Beth Giladi, Principal, B’Nai Keshet Hebrew School

Spirituality and setting limits aren’t usually thought of as going together, but I think we can all agree that the art of setting limits while simultaneously affirming our children is a relentless, and I dare say, saintly task of all parents.  We validate their needs and desires as we gently guide them to appropriate behavior, and encourage them to tolerate the delay of gratification.  The enormity and repetitive nature of this task causes fatigue in all parents, with some parents surrendering under pressure and allowing their children to make the rules, and others of us responding with a harshness that serves no good purpose.  It seems we can all benefit from seeing our parenting as an integral part of our own spiritual growth.

To discipline, we need to be disciplined about creating a stable and routine environment for our kids, regardless of their age.  We need to be as consistent as possible and we need to be able to say, “No.”   It communicates a parent’s faith in his or her own discipline, and in the growing self-control and frustration tolerance of the child.  When we experience that limit setting will benefit our own spiritual development as well as our children’s, perhaps we gain the fortitude to take on this part of parenting with less dread and more compassion.

As parents, we constantly struggle against the impulse and instinct to hope that our children will experience only joy.  What actually is more important, though, is for us to model coping with adversity.  It is a very difficult and powerful change for parents to realize that appropriate parenting includes withholding as well as giving.  And finally, we can only parent in the world that is, not in the world that we wish could be.  Trying to prevent our children’s frustrations and difficult lessons is potentially harmful.  Helping them through these doorways is an exciting task for us as parents, and one from which we will all grow.

All of these changes and developing parental skills demand that we have faith: in the people to whom we entrust our children each day for learning in school, in the children themselves to have the judgment to surround themselves with good role models, and in the power of the universe that brings tears, growth, and exquisite joy in appropriate measures.

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