Top 10 Things to Teach Your Jewish Kids – Kveller
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Top 10 Things to Teach Your Jewish Kids


There is a lot of talk about bucket lists nowadays. It seems like everyone has a list of things they’d like to do before they die. 

Now, while I would love to travel to Australia or Switzerland — or even to my local grocery without a 78 phone calls from my family — I recognize that none of this is happening anytime soon. As the mom of six kids, who range in age from 5 to 21, I realize that this stage in my life is focused on the hopes, dreams, and day-to-day needs of the next generation. 

So, instead of a bucket list of things I personally want to achieve, here is my bucket list for raising children. These are the 10 things that I hope they learn before I kick the proverbial bucket (unless parenting kills me first). I hope you’ll find these goals to be applicable to your family as well. 

1. Be a mensch.

Mensch is a Yiddish term roughly meaning a “good person.” The word cannot fully be described by the confines of English, but, in short, it’s someone who acts with honor and respect for themselves and others.

This goes beyond the opening doors for someone or giving up your seat on the bus. It’s more like thinking of others and wanting to do the right thing. For example, when walking through a room, if Child A sees a Child B minding their own business, they pass by without incident. But, since we gotta start somewhere, I am hoping, at the very, very least, that my kids will not do the wrong thing, such as Child A knocking into Child B. (I didn’t want to bang into her! I promise I didn’t see her standing right next me!”) Yeah, right.

2. The art of communication.

Luckily, they all know how to speak. Anyone within a 4.3-mile radius of our house knows that talking is not a problem here. Rather, I’d like them to learn how to get a point across without any physical contact, or without torturing our poor dog by hitting decibels only audible to her.

Unfortunately, just teaching “please” and “thank you” aren’t enough. After all, “Stupid, could you please pass the salt,” also employs the word “please.” How about just making requests without any superlatives or opinions (especially those which categorize someone’s intelligence which, last time I checked, wasn’t an integral part of any of this).

3. The importance of siblings.

With so many kids in our home, everyone knows how important everyone else is (or, rather, how they think I think everyone else is more important than they are). But I want my kids to understand that a sibling is someone who is forever connected to you. From the moment they are born — when they are so cute and fun — to when they become the “Stupid” in the above salt request, to when they are grown and they need more from each other than condiments. Siblings are forever. Also, no one else in your life has so much blackmail information on you, so be kind to each other. You never know what you don’t want anyone else to know. 

4. Money isn’t everything.

And, sometimes it isn’t anywhere. But let’s try not to focus on that. If they have food to eat, clothes that have been recently washed, and shoes that fit, they are in good shape. They are doing better than 65 percent of the world. Appreciate it. And us.

5. Marriage takes work.

And time. That means when Mommy and Daddy go out for the evening, it isn’t just to get away from the chaos. Well, OK — sometimes it is to get away from the chaos. But it is also so we can remember why we got married in the first place and, hopefully, to give you a healthy example of why you should want to get married, too. Because, at the end of the day, no matter how stressful or chaotic things are, spending your life with those you love is worth more than anything else.

6. Take responsibility for your actions.

If you drop it, pick it up. If you spill it, wipe it up. If you kicked her, even by “accident,” say you’re sorry. Just because “you didn’t mean to” doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt; so, say you’re sorry, and try to do better next time. If your siblings see you take ownership of your actions, they will start to take ownership of their own, too. 

7. How to do laundry.

It doesn’t get done by itself. Enough said. 

8. The importance of privacy and personal space.

If I close the door, I want to be alone. Whether it is to use the bathroom, take a nap, or eat some chocolate in peace — no, I really don’t want to share — is the door closed? Then leave it closed. Everyone needs to have time to themselves. You want it (at least, I assume you do, because you guys are always kicking each other out of each other’s rooms). Giving each other and yourself space and privacy helps you get that much needed downtime. Everyone needs time to be by themselves, to think and to relax. When you give others space when they need it, it shows you respect them. Refer to #10. 

9. Listen to others.

This goes even when the “others” are your parents or friends. People have things to say. While you may not always think it’s relevant, listen. Ask questions. Think. Respond appropriately. Part of mastering communication (see #2) isn’t just talking — it’s listening. Listening shows you care about the other person. And trust me on this one: If you truly listen to someone, they will (probably/eventually) listen to you. So if “Stupid” in the salt request doesn’t appreciate the nickname, stop using it.

10. Respect.

Our old friend the Golden Rule got it right: “Do unto others as you would like done unto you.” If you wouldn’t like it done to you, then don’t do it. Or, at least think first. And then think again. And, before you kick/punch your sibling back, stop and consider the  retaliation, especially if said sibling is older and/or stronger. Remember that you aren’t the only ones with feelings — or kicking ability — in this world. Just imagine if everyone in the world treated everyone else with respect. There would be world peace(!), greater economic advancement of underdeveloped nations(!), and you might even get more summer vacation and less homework out of the deal. 

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