Rebbetzin’s Perspective: Class #4
Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on Naaleh.com
My seven year old daughter thinks that she can insult and call people names without a care. She also acts rude to our guests. I have explained numerous times that it isn’t nice but she doesn’t listen.
The wisdom of seven years hasn’t taught your daughter the art of sensitivity. She probably doesn’t understand how people feel when she calls them names or treats them unkindly. She can connect to herself, but not to others. Try to find several good children’s books in which the theme is getting beneath another person’s skin. It could be in the genre of “The Ugly Duckling,” where the one who was despised and in pain ultimately turns into the swan. Get her to identify with the hero and feels his pain. Then ask her, “If you would have been there with all the others, would you have made fun of the duckling? Had you been one of the kids in the class with Rabbi Akiva, learning aleph beit, would you have laughed at him?”
Try to find as many opportunities as you can to tell her these stories, either at bedtime or on Shabbat. Fictional tales are good because it creates enough emotional distance so that she won’t be defensive. It could take at least a month or so to open her heart a little. When you see visible signs that she’s starting to understand, you can talk to her more, not about mistreating guests, but how to make them feel good. Invite someone she likes and have her serve. Then move the conversation on to how one should treat a visitor. Ask her, “Do you want our guests to feel bad? Of course not, even if you don’t like them, you’ll try your best to make them feel comfortable.”
As time progresses, make her aware that nobody enjoys being called names. It hurts people’s feelings. Teach her the right way to express herself. Encourage her to use positive, heartening words. With time and practice she’s bound to improve.