Home / News / LocalRSS Feed
Having PIES are conference speaker’s tools for parenting
March 1st, 2011
Michael Brandwein, keynote speaker at the recent Jewish Parenting Conference, said he had received a phone call from one of his two sons at 11 p.m. the night prior to his talk.
His son had called him to discuss a problem. Brandwein thanked his son for calling, praised him for calling to him to discuss a problem, and told him how glad he was that his son felt comfortable doing so.
This was an example of he employed his “four top tools” for parenting that fit the acronym “PIES” — Positive, Immediate, Enthusiastic, and — most important of all, he said — Specific.
“We tell students that they have done a ‘good job’, or we will say ‘you did it,’” Brandwein said, “but we need to go further. We need to tell our children why it was good.”
Sponsored by Lubavitch of Wisconsin, the third annual Jewish Parenting Conference was held Feb. 13 at the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center of Milwaukee. About 100 people attended.
Brandwein’s presentation was titled “Bringing Out Their Best: How to Teach Your Kids Outstanding Skills for Life.” He is an educator, writer and producer of Emmy Award winning TV programs, plus a magician, a graduate of the Second City improvisational group.
“How do we get something from nothing?” Brandwein asked. “We need to teach our children the process, or path, to becoming good (or tenacious, disciplined, cooperative) people.”
Brandwein told the audience that parents tend to notice negative behaviors. We need instead to “Tell people the things we like. When we see something of value, say it out loud.” Moreover, “tell them you value something right away, not two hours later,” he said.
In a personal research study Brandwein asked many different children the question, “Are you a good (valuable) person?” He found he could group the children’s answers into four categories.
The first category included ‘the sad’ children who said, “Nope, not really.” The second group said, “Yea, I guess,” but when asked, “How do you know [you’re a good person]?” they couldn’t explain it.
The third group answered “Yea, sure,” but when asked, “How do you know?” they could only explain their goodness with the absence of a negative — “Because I don’t get into trouble.”
Only members of the last group, “Yeah, I guess,” were able to give details as to how they knew that they were good or valuable. These children, Brandwein concluded, had acquired a “depth of understanding.”
The study showed him what he called Brandwein’s Law: “It’s not enough to tell them that they are good, we must tell them why.”
What does Brandwein think about Yale Law School professor and author Amy Chua’s controversial “Tiger Mother” style of parenting? In an email response, he wrote:
“[Chua’s] article in the Wall Street Journal [Jan. 8] made me very sad because it seemed to describe a way of preparing a child to be successful but defined success as being an A student. An A- is apparently not acceptable to the article’s author. There is no mention of teaching how to build friendships… How do children learn to show warmth when the methods used to motivate them are cold?”
A second featured speaker at the conference, Slovie Jungreis Wolfe addressed the topic of her new book, “Raising a Child with Soul: How Time-Tested Jewish Wisdom Can Shape Your Child’s Character.”
Wolfe is an author, and an instructor and founder of Hineni Couples and Young Parents, and is daughter of the renowned Rebbitzen Esther Jungreis.
Regarding the state of our families today, Wolfe said, “We have children who should be the happiest children on earth, as they have more than they could want, have traveled all over the world, and yet they are ‘bored’. Our children feel entitled, and nothing is ever ‘good enough.’”
Despite the family being home together in the evening, they are in a “dead zone” — each person involved with their own technology — “and we don’t even look at each other or communicate with each other,” she said.
How does the Torah counter this? ”We must nurture appreciation, and practice ‘HaKoras HaTov’ — recognizing the good. When we get up in the morning, we are say the Mode Ani. We say thank you to God — for the time that we have, the people in our lives, our partners, the privilege to raise children.”
Parents must model appreciation and gratitude, she said. Just because someone is doing a job -- the bus driver, the waiter, Daddy or Mommy — doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be grateful, she said.
Wolfe has also written a response to Chua’s article, available online, and she contends that in Chua’s entire article, “there is no mention of character.”
“We are here as parents to teach compassion, kindness and goodness,” Wolfe wrote. “Our goal is for each child to reach her potential. Not by calling her ‘garbage,’ nor through shame. But rather, through raising a child with soul.”
Diana Kahn is a Milwaukee educator and freelance writer.