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A Powerful Concept to Alter Childrenís Behavior

There is a Jewish word that doesnít translate directly into English, but it informs my attitude to people who have undergone hardship and need help.

Translated, the word is a hybrid of several concepts, not standing alone on any one, but really the combination of all.

The concepts or words in English best to translate this Jewish word are; empathy, compassion, mercy and charity.

When one is troubled, has undergone hardship, is in a bad way, we want to show behavior associated with the combination of those attitudes. We want to be supportive, concerned, helpful and offer something enabling of a better outcome. We want to feel for the other and provide a hand.

For example, a parent may feel perturbed by the behavior of a child. The child who shows his or her struggles through behavior can be felt to be a challenge. Challenging behavior can be felt to be willful, undermining and oppositional. In response, the parent can feel angry, frustrated, uncertain.

With this Jewish concept, if we can understand and appreciate the challenges as the child experiences them, then we not only demonstrate an appreciation of this Jewish word, but in so doing, can alter our attitude towards the child. When we alter our attitude, a change in our behavior is soon to follow. As we change our attitude and behavior, it opens up a world of possibilities for the child to change theirs.

The child isnít bad. They donít have the language or skill yet to express their emotional pain or discontent. The childís challenging behavior is most often an expression of their pain and/or discontent. If we can show empathy, compassion, mercy and charity, then maybe we can come to better understand what is troubling to the child. The child experiences us as safe to open up to. This doesnít mean we necessarily give in to a childís wishes, but being heard and appreciated is a powerful tonic to distress and discontent.

The benefit of attending counseling is to help the parent get in touch with the childís experience of the childís life. If the child then joinís the parent in counseling, the parent is supported in providing the child an experience of parental empathy, compassion, mercy and charity. This enables the child to feel safe to express themselves.

Much emphasis is placed on diagnosis, assessing and providing behavioral interventions. Sometimes what is needed most is connection. Enacting this Jewish word can provide for that connection.

The Jewish word is rachmones.

If you see me, I will teach you not only how to say it, but how to show it.


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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
(905) 628-4847  


Gary Direnfeld is a social worker in private practice. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider Gary an expert on child development, parent-child relations, marital and family therapy, custody and access recommendations, social work and an expert for the purpose of giving a critique on a Section 112 (social work) report.


Call Gary for your next conference and for expert opinion on family matters. Services include counselling, mediation, assessment, assessment critiques and workshops.


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For information on Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, click here.


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27 Sina Street, Georgina, ON, Canada L4P 3E9 Tel: (905) 628-4847 Email: gary@yoursocialworker.com