I’ve read a lot of books in my life (most of them fairly crappy detective novels), and very few of them have actually made a difference in who I am and how I move through the world. The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel is one of them.
I’ve read it three times, once before I had children, and twice since then. Even though it was only written just over a decade ago, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee has quickly become the classic guide for anyone interested in applying Jewish wisdom to their parenting. There are several reasons why this book resonated with me; it’s based on the teachings of my ancestors, and that’s meaningful for me. In addition, Mogel integrates her own Jewish journey and her experiences as a parent with her wisdom and insights from years as clinical psychologist. It’s a powerful and authentic combination.
In fact, I have just one complaint about this book–it’s almost too much information. Dr. Mogel writes about everything from truly seeing and accepting your child to teaching gratitude, from encouraging the development of self-control to introducing your child to God and spirituality. It’s just not possible to take it all in at once, which is why I keep coming back to this book. I find that different chapters and ideas speak to me at different times, depending on what’s going on in my life and with our family.
There are so many sparks of wisdom in this book. I’d like to share a few of my favorites, and hear what you think. Do you agree with Mogel’s teachings? What would you add or change?
“My advice to all of these parents is to tolerate some low-quality time. Have a little less ambition for yourself and your children. Plan nothing–disappoint your kids with your essential mediocrity and the dullness of your home.” (p. 57)
“A democratic system doesn’t work very well for dogs or children; it just makes them feel insecure. Parents get fooled because their kids are such skilled debaters, but children are not psychologically equipped to handle winning those debates.” (p. 70)
“Our job is to raise our children to leave us. The children’s job is to find their own path in life.” (p. 90)
“Your reasons for denying your child’s myriad requests have a larger context: you are teaching self-control, giving her practice in redirecting her yetzer hara, and strengthening her capacity for gratitude.” (p. 118-119).
“Miriam Adahan has a simple formula for effective parenting: one-third love, one-third law, and one-third sitting on your hands.” (p. 208)
And perhaps my favorite paragraph in the entire book:
“‘Can you see love?’ you might ask your child. ‘Love is something we know is real, but we can’t see it. I show my love for you by the way I tuck you into bed at night, bandage your knee when you fall, and make your tomato rice soup when it’s cold outside. To meet God we have to be like detectives and look for clues. Just as a candle hidden from view sheds its glow all around, we can see God in God’s reflection: in the good things people do for one another, in the miracles of nature, in our ability to change and grow.'” (p. 244)
Let’s get this conversation going. Do you look to Jewish teachings for guidance on parenting? What did you think about The Blessing of a Skinned Knee? Do you agree with Dr. Mogel’s suggestions? Disagree? Share your thoughts!
And remember, we’ll be hosting a Twitter chat with Wendy Mogel next Thursday, December 6th, from 2-3:30 p.m. EST. To follow along and ask Wendy questions, tweet @WendyMogel and use the hashtag #kvellerlit. If you’re not on Twitter but want some questions answered, leave them below and we’ll tweet them for you!