Monday, October 02, 2006

Skinned Knee and Parental Involvement on Yom Kippur

In recognition of the most holy day of the Jewish Calendar I offer a post on learning. The New York Times today published a fine piece by Slate Magazine's Emily Bazelon. The subject of the article is a book by Los Angeles psychologist Wedny Mogel titled The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children.

Mogel having discovered Jewish faith after a primarily agnostic childhood discovered some of Judaism's tenets buried in the Talmud like fathers teaching their sons to swim. Mogel credits her faith's teachings for filling in gaps clinical applications of psychology cannot. Skinned Knee reads:

"Jewish wisdom holds that our children don't belong to us. They are both a loan and a gift from God, and the gift has strings attached. Our job is to raise our children to leave us. The children's job is to find their own path in life. If they stay carefully protected in the nest of the family, children will become weak and fearful or feel too comfortable to want to leave."

Mogel diagnoses many of her younger patients as lacking balance between their school lives and their home lives. These children are symptomatic of parents who push too hard when it comes to school and compensate as push-overs when it comes to chores, family obligations, and courtesies in the home life.

This dovetails with an area of research I've been recentlty exploring: parental involvement. Kathleen V. Hoover-Dempsey et. al (2005) review the literature in the field and conclude that parents' decisions about becoming involved in their children's education are influenced by role construction for involvement, sense of efficacy for helping the child succeed in school, perception of invitations to involvement, and life-context variables. To understand what these mean beyond simple deduction really requires a full read here, but examining why we participate in our children's lives, and how we participate in their lives can help us better prepare them to go do the one thing we cannot stop them from doing, nor should: our children will assume responsibility for our collective future.


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