Q: Pesach is around the corner, and I get knots in my stomach just thinking about it. Every year, with all the stress of preparing, cleaning, shopping, etc., I inevitably lose it and blow up at my kids. I always feel terrible and promise myself that I’ll never do it again, but each year is a repeat of previous years. All I want is to have a peaceful home. How can I go into this year’s pre-Pesach prep time feeling confident that I won’t blow up at my kids?
A: First of all, I’d like to commend you for reaching out. I guarantee you that you are not the only one feeling so much pressure at this time of year. And as our Sages teach us, “Aizehu chacham? Ha’roe es hanolad”—“Who is a wise person? Someone who anticipates the outcome.” Or as GI Joe used to say, “Knowing is half the battle.” So you’ve done a lot just by acknowledging that you have a problem, and trying to prevent the unsavory outcome.
Now, let the problem-solving fun begin! And I am serious—we can take the stress of Pesach prep and use it as a stepping stone to greatness. We can take these moments, which are full of hot and heavy negative emotions, and flip them around to become light and happy positive memories that will last a lifetime. It takes work, and it takes courage, but you’ve shown me that you have a very strong desire to become the beacon of light and joy for your family, so I know you can do it (and to all you other parents out there, if you’re reading this article, that means you also have the drive to get there. So you can do it too!).
Here’s what I want you to do (this activity is from Teaching Parenting the Positive Discipline Way*). Find yourself a partner—a friend, neighbor, spouse, co-worker—any other parent who is also interested in learning this powerful parenting tool. Get a chair. You’re each going to take turns being Mom and Child. Choose who wants to be Mom first. Have ‘Mom’ stand on the chair. Have ‘Child’ sit cross-legged on the floor underneath the chair. Mom—close your eyes and think of something that one of your kids does that really gets under your skin. Try and put yourself in that moment when you’re getting really agitated, annoyed and angry at your child. Now, open your eyes and scold your child while shaking your finger. It’s important to have fun and exaggerate.
We’re going to process this powerful role-play experience. First, Mom, how do you feel? Do you feel connected to your child? How out of control did you feel? Do you think that you were teaching your child ANY valuable life-skills? Please take some time to really internalize what you were feeling. The more you sit with these emotions and reflect on this experience, the less likely you are to become that angry, scolding, scary giant that invokes fear in your children.
Next, Child, how do you feel? Do you feel connected to your mom? Do you feel inspired to do what she’s asking you? How do you feel about yourself when your mom scolds you? Does it make you want to respect her? Do you feel like she’s a role model for you—someone you’d like to be when you grow up? Again, sit with these feelings. Ask yourself if you’d like your child to feel the way you felt when your mom was standing on top of you, all big and scary.
How powerful is this activity? I invite you to role-play this often, and reflect on it frequently, especially as you head into this stressful time. The more you internalize the lessons that you learned from this experiential activity, the more you will totally minimize the ‘blow-ups’ you describe above. And in the place where all that negative energy was will be love, happiness, and most importantly, connection. Blessing you and all parents with the strength and ability to stay connected to the big picture, and to remove anger from our hearts and our homes, and replace it with joy. Happy Pesach!
* Teaching Parenting the Positive Discipline Way, 7th edition
By Lynn Lott and Jane Nelson
Published by positive discipline, 2017