The Torah as guide to good parenting

NEW YORK, July 31 (JTA) — Pharaoh may have been a tyrant, but what kind of parent was he?

A new program asks parents to consider this and other questions. It’s part of an attempt to incorporate Jewish values into parenting skills.

The idea came from Jewish community groups in St. Louis two years ago.

Looking to create a parenting skills class based on an already developed model, “we were surprised there was nothing established using Jewish values,” said Marci Mayer-Eisen, coordinator of the pilot program at the St. Louis Jewish Community Center.

Research led the Jewish groups to Active Parenting Publishers, which had already printed a Christian supplement to its Active Parenting Today program, which is devoted to helping parents.

The company, which agreed to help them create a Jewish parenting program, expects Active Parenting Today for Jewish Families to be available nationwide in August.

The parenting program consists of videos shown at six two-hour sessions for parents, followed by discussion. The parents use the methods they learned in class with their children, and then report back on the results in subsequent meetings.

Program leaders can engage in one-day leader training workshops from the company.

In the Jewish version, leaders present models of parenting based on examples from the Torah.

The Pharaoh, for instance, is presented as an example of a strict autocrat, while Moses’ brother, Aaron, is given as an example of a permissive leader who did not stop the Jews from building a golden calf while wandering in the desert. Moses is shown as the democratic parent.

Laurie Katzman, who participated in the St. Louis pilot sessions, said she had a “laid-back” parenting style before she that before she took the workshop.

“I lacked the discipline I needed to dish out, and I learned how to distribute that to the children,” she said.

But she said the Jewish aspect of her class often took a back seat to parenting methods.

“We got into the Judaism at the end of evening, and sometimes it wasn’t as long as could have been, but the class itself was so meaningful,” Katzman said.

Since classes vary depending on their leader and participants, the final Active Parenting product may contain more Jewish content than the workshop Katzman attended.

“How can we use thousands of years of Jewish parenting to give us some inspiration?” asked Mayer-Eisen. When parenting becomes stressful and overwhelming, she said, parents can remind themselves that everyone, even their child, was created in God’s image.

(More information on the program can be found on the Web at activeparenting.com)

NEXT STORY