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Slovie Jungreis-Wolff signing book.

The Jewish Press: Your new book is called The Soul of Parenting. Is this a continuation of your previous parenting book, Raising a Child with Soul?

Slovie Jungreis-Wolff: Yes. You have to put your soul into parenting; it’s more than rules and tips. Your child is a part of your soul. The Soul of Parenting is the ability to get to that place of your soul and create a legacy through your children.

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While your previous work was released through St. Martin’s Press, a secular publisher, in 2009, this book is being released by Mosaica. Are there any differences in terms of target audiences?

No. Raising a Child with Soul was published by St. Martin’s Press so it could reach a secular audience. One thing I’ve seen in my travels and in speaking to parents throughout the world is that all parents have the same issues; when you tap into the knowledge of Torah, the resolution is there. No matter who you are, the wisdom is there for your embrace.

In writing The Soul of Parenting through Mosaica Press, I wanted to reach today’s fast-paced world. The book has short chapters, and there are tips for whatever topic you’re looking for; it makes for easy reading. Raising a Child with Soul laid the groundwork: You start with gratitude and go from there. Here, you can find topics ranging from bullying to technology, raising a happy family to character building. The table of contents makes it easy for you to find life-changing pointers.

How can parents strengthen their own souls?

I cover shalom bayis often in the book, because this is the greatest gift you can give a child. You want to give your child an intact home (if possible). A peaceful home is one where both parents share the same ideas about parenting and tackling the daily challenges that come up. [I discuss] avoiding pitfalls, such as one parent pitting the child against the other, the inability to hear your spouse, and the lack of respect between spouses, [which] can cause a child to disrespect their parents. The child will ask, “What example are you setting for me?”

A house filled with chutzpah is an unsafe home. The world is an especially frightening place these days; when you parent in unity, the whole environment feels good. The child will not have to look to the wrong outlets for love. When we parent our children, we parent ourselves. We find out about our own tolerances and intolerances.

There’s a story in the book where you mention how your father (Rabbi Meshulem Jungreis, ob”m) was called upon to comfort a family in aveilus. Afterward, your mother (Rebbetzin Esther, ob”m) asked him, “What did you say to the family?” He responded, “Nothing.” Lehavdil, how does a parent know when to say something and when not to?

There’s no one incident [to identify]. When you understand what your child needs, you know when to communicate by speaking and when to communicate through silence (in a good way, [with] empathy and understanding). The Soul of Parenting covers connections extensively because children must be connected to their parents.

How does one accomplish this?

One can connect to their children through presence – not presents. Be there for your children physically, spiritually and emotionally. By knowing your child’s likes and dislikes, you create a bond with them. You’ll know when to speak and when to remain silent. The same holds true for spouses. Sometimes your presence is enough. At other times, you need to be that reassuring person. Don’t wait for that incident to happen. I write about this in the book: Use challenges as stepping stones to create something better. Never leave off in a bad place.

Do you see yourself as the bridge between your parents and your children?

Yes. We need to give our children strong roots, especially today. If I don’t know where I come from, I don’t know where I’m going. Listen to and hear your child so they feel truly loved and heard. Don’t sweep their ideas away. Merge the past with the present to create a future.

At the Hineni convention in Madison Square Garden, your mother famously said: “You are a Jew.” While she was speaking to a crowd of thousands, how did this speak to you personally?

I knew that my mother didn’t create Hineni in a vacuum. She first sought out daas Torah by going to the gedolim with my grandfather (Reb Avraham Jungreis, ob”m). You need daas Torah for whatever you do in life. From there you can accomplish your dreams, armed with brachos.

My mother taught me that when you see something, you dare not remain silent. But what is your shlichus in this world? How can you make this world a better place? That left an indelible impression on me. One needs courage.

In addition to lectures, workshops and of course the book circuit, you also have a weekly column in The Jewish Press (“Slovie Says”), as your mother did before you. What is your process?

When parents attend my classes or workshops, they are best able to ask their parenting questions because they have the foundation of my chinuch talks and we are in person as well. In addition, when readers have questions, they reach out to me by email, and we are able to tackle specific concerns. At times, I am asked for a few sessions which, if possible, we work out by phone.

How does a parent become more knowledgeable about what apps their children are on?

Spend time with your children. Knowledge is power. You have to know what your children are capable of and what they’re up to. If you give a child a phone – no matter what type of phone – things can be bypassed. You won’t believe what children are capable of, and parents are shocked by this. It’s better to not be shocked; speak to someone in the know. I’ve seen all too often how children could access sites which their parents thought they could not. Know what your child’s phone can do. Speak to an expert. In today’s world, you need to be aware.

Can you elaborate on your lesson of dayeinu?

We think that the more we give our children, the happier they’ll be. That doesn’t happen, because as soon as we give them something they want the next thing. Children today have not learned to be satisfied. “V’achalta v’savata u’veirachta”: You need the middle step, “v’savata,” to receive the bracha. If you don’t know how to be content in life you don’t know how to be appreciative. We don’t know how to be content. “Where are we going next time?” “Why don’t we have what they have?” “Why did they get to go there, and we can’t go there?” Why can’t we appreciate the here and now? Children look to compare from their parents: cars, homes, kitchens, Shabbos tables, bar and bas mitzvhas… it’s unhealthy. Social media feeds the frenzy. You can’t let yourself fall into that. Do what is best for you and your family.

Do you have any tips for keeping the children awake physically and spiritually at the Seder?

The first thing to ask ourselves is: Are we awake at the Seder? When children feel that we are excited, they become excited. When they feel that we are inspired, they are inspired in kind. Our children feed off of and feel what we’re giving them.

Secondly, it’s important to prepare a new vort that wasn’t heard before. it doesn’t have to be long; it doesn’t have to be a lecture or mussar schmooze. It has to be something exciting and different for your children to hear that will remain with them. And it has to excite you too. It can be a story. It’s not about the length of time you spend on delivery – it’s about the richness of your words.

Want to touch your child’s soul? It has to come from your soul. The soul of the parent. It’s OK to allow others to speak at the Seder too. Sometimes, people just like to hear themselves speak. At the same time, don’t pressure children to perform. This holds true at the Shabbos table as well. You don’t want to create resentment. Parents get impatient and say, “This is what I pay tuition for?!” It doesn’t work. Appreciate your child’s unique, G-d-given talents. Don’t tell them to hurry up; don’t get distracted. Whatever your child gives, they are enriching the Seder.

On that note, don’t compare children. Don’t ask why one gave such a “beautiful” dvar Torah, but this one wasn’t able to. Every child is a bracha. One way to get to the soul of parenting is to see the magic within every child. Yaakov Avinu gave every son a different bracha, but they all had to be in the room when he gave the brachos (as opposed to giving them separately). This was because every child needed to know the other sibling’s bracha. There’s no cookie-cutter bracha; every child is a bracha. It’s up to you to make every child see their gifts. Meaningless compliments and endless presents won’t get you there. See your child’s blessings and help them realize their mission in this world. That purpose can be to enrich the Seder.

It would seem that’s what your mother was speaking to [when she said at Madison Square Garden] “You are a Jew.” Yes, the venue was packed, and many more people heard the recording – not to mention all the people impacted by her today. Each person individually is imbued with talents.

I believe in telling each child they have a mission, because when you have a mission, that gives you purpose. One child is creative, one is musical, one is bright. Each one is unique; no two are alike. Bring out that talent. If a child feels bad about themselves, you can really lift them up. You can do that! You can use your gift, whatever it is, to make this world a better place.

On the Seder night, before we speak about the four sons, one of whom is the rasha, we recite, “Baruch HaMakom Baruch Hu” four times. Each child is a blessing. You have to figure out how to bring out the blessing. No child is born perfect; that’s what chinuch is all about. It takes work and patience – don’t give up.

 

Slovie Jungreis-Wolff’s book, The Soul of Parenting: Timeless Wisdom for Raising Today’s Children, published by Mosaica Press, is available at Hebrew booksellers everywhere, as well as on MosaicaPress.com. In addition to running Hineni Couples, Rebbetzin Jungreis-Wolff conducts weekly workshops, lectures around the world, and writes a weekly column in The Jewish Press. She can be reached at [email protected].

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