As parents, it’s important to see the intense, often irritating traits as the seeds of a child’s greatness.
Try reframing some negative traits in this way:
Your stubborn child as persistent
Your loud child as exuberant
Your shy child as cautious and modest
Your reckless or rule-breaking child as daring and adventurous
Your picky or nervous child as serious and detail-oriented
Once you have thought about what your child’s negative (and reframed positive trait) is, consider whether your child has an opportunity to express her natural tendencies in a constructive way. For children like Lucy, perhaps presenting her with opportunities to remind Mommy about things she needs to do, to set the table, and to teach her sister a new game every week will provide positive outlets to her seemingly negative traits. While this might not help her to get ride of her negative inclinations, it will definitely give her positive ways to express her yetzer hara.
When Reframing Doesn’t Succeed: How To Discipline Verbally
Of course, there will be times when your child’s yetzer hara gets the best of him and he will need to be rebuked or punished. In this case, Mogel points out, we can again look to Jewish tradition and culture. The Rambam lays out the essential criteria for administering a helpful admonishment to any person (including children):
Administer the rebuke in private.
Speak to the offender gently and tenderly.
Remember that you are speaking for the wrongdoer’s benefit – not to humiliate or seek revenge against him.
Put your rebuke in the context of your high regard for the person being rebuked (after all, you wouldn’t be disciplining them if you didn’t care about them).
Talking to your child in this sensitive and positive way will allow your message to be heard in a clearer and more lucid manner. It’s amazing in how many ways the Torah can guide our daily lives.