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August 23, 1991 - Image 65

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-08-23

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

BACK TO SCHOOL

Parenting,
Schmarenting

The art of Jewish parenting
consists of mastering a few
well-worn phrases.

ROBERTA GALE

Special to The Jewish News

E

yen though I am now
old enough to recognize
the futility of plucking
newly-discovered gray hairs
from my head, many of the
words of parental wisdom
that were drilled into me as
a child continue to stick to my
psyche like the mythical bowl
of hot oatmeal force-fed to me
by my mother even in sum-
mer. Some were quite helpful,
others will require thousands
of dollars worth of profession-
al help to forget. Despite their

effect, I have come to the
realization that the art of
Jewish parenting boils down
to a few well-worn phrases.
It's not necessary to read
tedious books and attend
time-consuming workshops
on the art of child-rearing. In
fact, you don't even need to be
Jewish or have actual chil-
dren to be a Jewish parent.
Simply study the following
phrases, culled from years of
childhood research.
1. THE RHYME
This technique, once solely
the domain of Jewish parents,
appears to have crossed re-
ligious and ethnic lines over
the years. It's also one of the
greatest and most fun chunks
of "parent-speak" for begin-
ners to learn. Simply take
the most important word of a
child's comment and pair it
with a nonsensical word that
rhymes.
lb whit: "Mom, I need $15
for purple hair coloring."
"HAIR, SCHMARE, stick
with the color you were born
with!"
2. IF (insert exaggerated
potential tragedy here),
DON'T BLAME ME!
In the never-ending at-
tempt to allow their adoles-
cent "personal space," some

Jewish parents use this meth-
od to absolve themselves of
responsibility. For example, if
a teen is considering going on
a skiing trip, the parent
allows him/her the freedom to
choose while warning of the
potential danger. "So go on
your trip. But if YOU FALL
AND BREAK YOUR LEG
AND HAVE TO STAY
HOME IN A CAST FOR 12
WEEKS AND EAT PUREED
CARROTS THROUGH A
TUBE IN YOUR STOM-1
ACH WHILE YOUR
FRIENDS ARE HAVING
FUN, don't blame me!"
3. WHAT ARE YOU TRY-
ING TO PROVE WITH
THAT (insert irritating ac-
tivity or mode of dress here)!
This is a wonderful, all-
purpose comment that can be
used by parents when they
are frustrated or just don't
understand why a child is do-
ing what he is doing. When
your 16-year-old son grows his
locks longer than all the
members of Guns n' Roses
put together, try "What are
you trying to prove with that
HAIR!" The comment is also
effective for dressing down

kids for acting like kids, as in
"What are you trying to
prove with that CHILDISH
BEHAVIOR!"
4. IF (name of child's •
friend) JUMPED OFF A
BRIDGE, WOULD YOU DO
IT, TOO?
Occasionally, it's a good
idea to check your child's
sense of individuality,
especially as it relates to
bizarre food, clothing, hair-
styles or other annoying rites
of adolescence. Warning: If
your child is still young and
impressionable, now is not the
time to explain that it would
be okay to jump off a bridge
in certain instances, such as
when it is about to be de-
molished.
5. WHEN I WAS YOUR
AGE . . .
This all-occasion expres-
sion, perfect for any situation,
any time of the year, is es-
pecially effective when doling
out presents or punishments.
If a child whines about receiv-
ing only 14 Nintendo car-
tridges for his birthday, it's
the perfect time for a parent
to chime in with a chorus of
"WHEN I WAS YOUR

AGE, I WAS LUCKY TO
GET A PIECE OF ALUMI-
NUM FOIL FOR MY
BIRTHDAY. WE WERE SO
POOR I HAD TO GO
NAKED, AND AFTER
SCHOOL I HAD TO MILK
COWS, PLOW THE LOW-
ER 40, CHURN BUTTER,
THRESH WHEAT AND
WORK IN THE FAMILY
STORE." That ought to show
the little miscreant a bit of
humility.
6. MAYBE NOW YOU'D
LIKE TO SHOW (child's
friend) HOW YOU (insert
despised activity here).
If a kid isn't doing what she
is supposed to, nothing
makes her do it more but feel
like doing it less then bring-
ing us those lapses in front of
a friend. Example: If your
daughter Jennifer is showing
her friend Stephanie her New
Kids on the Block facial hair
removal system, this is a
great opportunity to turn bla-
tant teen consumerism into a
more productive activity.
"Maybe now you'd like to
show STEPHANIE how you
CLEAN YOUR ROOM!"
7. WHAT WILL YOUR (in-

sufferable but well-heeled
relative) THINK?
Every family is blessed
with one blood relation who
cannot be matched for pure
awe, fear and gift-giving abili-
ty. Invoke the name of this
relative whenever your child
is misbehaving and she'll stop
dead in her tracks. Nothing
will force a dating teen to
come home by 10 p.m. on a
Saturday night more effec-
tively than the words "What
will your UNCLE MORRIS
think?" A creative postscript
such as "Maybe I'll call him
and let him know that you
don't want that blazer for
your birthday, after all" can
be chillingly effective.
8. DON'T TALK TO
YOUR MOTHER/FATHER
LIKE THAT!
My folks used this one
whenever I talked back, or
"smart-mouthed 'em" as they
say in some states. This
phrase is very helpful when
you don't know the answer to
a child's question, and want
to avoid looking like a total
dolt. 0
Roberta Gale is a freelance
writer in Baltimore.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

65

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