Grandpa was right: a little hardship breeds character

I read "The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children" (Wendy Mogel) a while ago, and was recently reminded by a friend how good it is. Mogel is a former child psychologist who now actively practices her Judaism, and it’s in this context that she forwards her thesis: that in our quest to make life "extraordinary" for our children, we undermine their ability to find happiness in normal life. Usually, this setup would make me want to run screaming from a parenting book. Psychology AND religion! One of the reasons we started Parent Hacks is because we were tapped out on expert advice. But, this book speaks with humor and humility, and is full of wisdom I respect and try to practice.

It’s all about how the minor discomforts in a kid’s life — dealing with boredom, having to respect elders and rules, wrestling with self-control, etc. — teach strength and character, and ultimately set kids up for a happier life.

"No duh," right? But one can lose sight of these simple truths. No one wants to be the bad guy, as we often must be as parents. Sometimes it’s easier to go for the short-term happy (give him the lollipop) than the long-term happy (teach him the joys of anticipation and self-control), especially at 5PM.

Everything Mogel writes about is common sense, but her lovely examples and gentle humor make this such a pleasant read that it all sounds new again. And although she draws her theme from traditional Jewish teachings, this is not a "Jewish" book, per se. I think most anyone, including those who are not religious, would find value in, and even enjoy this book.

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  1. Stu Mark says

    First, I just found your site via BoingBoing and I am psyched.

    Second, I am the “housewife” of the family. I am a 38 year old male with a wife who works full-time, bringing in all of the money. My job is to stay home and take care of our two kids, who are now 10 and 13 (and take care of my wife, obviously). I love my job, even the boring stuff like laundry, as I really do enjoy the feeling that I am providing for my family, that I am nurturing them, providing them with comfort.

    However, I’m also the Dad, which means I am, more often than not, the bearer of bad news. News such as “Your homework won’t go away on its own.” and “Hitting is not very cool.” and “No, I won’t allow you to go without a shower for days at a time.”… It is tough, but it has to be done. And skinned knees have to be appreciated. Falling is good. Failure is good. If we don’t know about our own pain, how can we develop a desire to help others who are in pain?

    I support any parent who reads this book, as I support any parent who reads any parenting book or website. Thanks to the folks at ParentHacks for contributing directly to a better society and better homes everywhere.

  2. Melinna says

    This is one of the alltime best parenting books that I’ve read..and man, have I read too many of them. I recommend it to all of my friends if they are interested in mindfully raising their children to be self-sufficient. I believe it’s never too late to implement some of Dr. Mogel’s suggestions. She’s wonderfully wise.

  3. Tonya says

    Also got linked up to you from Boing Boing – what fabulous fun and USEFUL information you have here. =) I love, love, love this book though. Thumbs up on the recommend!

  4. says

    I knew this site would be great as soon as I saw this book listed. I recommend it to all of my friends.
    I love that Mogel teaches us to find the positives in our children’s seemingly bad behavior.
    And every day, as my four-year-old pushes all of my buttons, I say to myself, “She is assertive, not bossy. She is persistent, not stubborn. My girl is going to go far.”
    Thanks for a super site!!