Babies Need Company

The alon Talmei Geulat Am Yisrael always has a column about family life. As usual, this has more to do with psychology than Judaism, but the author of last week’s column, Varda Virzvinski, makes some valuable points. She is a member of the organization of Rabbinic Marriage and Family Counselors in Israel (which I have never heard of).

After an introduction in which she criticizes parents for repeating ineffective techniques, Virzvinski states two principles:

One: The relationship between a child and his parents is interactive.

Virzvinski explains that when parents respond to behavior they want to discourage,  they often end up encouraging it. Lecturing, giving orders, and criticizing are counterproductive. She writes, “The child does not act ‘according to our instructions,’ but according to the relationship between us. We need to learn to set up a relationship that will lead him to become what we want him to be.”

You can see more about this in my review of Gordon Neufeld’s book, Hold on to Your Kids.

Two: The need for company/society.

Virzvinski continues:

God created man as a social being. Man’s nature leads him to desire company and community, that will defend him and meet his needs. This need for company develops when he is still a baby, and cries to let his parents know that he needs help because he is hungry or wet. From the moment of birth a baby seeks to create a connection with his parents so that his needs will be met. Thus the need to relate to mother, the family and the society is the most important motivation in his life, and all of his actions stem from this need. [Emphasis mine.]

Most parents overdo it when defending and worrying about their child: They cherish him as if he were a plaything, hug him, play with him, overwhelm him but don’t give him room to get involved at home. It’s as if we rock him in the cradle, but don’t let him out to walk. We send the message, “Sit on the side, you are small. We are big.” This reaction causes the child to feel rejected. We adults are happy to have is a small child at home, but want to keep him wrapped in cellophane. When the baby touches the upholstery, gets things dirty, removes fragile objects from the closet,  disturbs us and annoys us our reaction is: No! Forbidden!

This reaction sends a message of rejection. The child doesn’t understand what he did wrong, but he feels the rejection. This feeling prevents the child from displaying his abilities and developing his potential. It causes atrophy. The longer the child is discouraged from participating in household life, the more his ability to act constructively is damaged. In its place come feelings of inferiority, disappointment and bitterness. His sense of belonging is damaged, because he feels that he doesn’t contribute constructively.

When a child realizes that the he is not allowed to get involved and can’t contribute to the home, his only means of survival is in a way that will ruin his relationship with the family members, society and the whole world — he begins to “bother.” Thus he informs us that he is also part of the family, but has never given the opportunity to use his talents constructively.

If we are careful to include our children, consult with them, ask for their help, allow them to share household tasks and encourage them, they will grow up to be effective and healthy members of society.

Parents concerned about socialization with peers don’t always recognize that the most important socialization is with parents, and begins at birth.