The Blessings of a Skinned Knee
by Wendy Mogel, Ph.D.

Penguin Group, 2001. ISBN 0142196002.
Reviewed by Lee Ambrose
Posted on 07/18/2004

Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Nonfiction: Relationships; Nonfiction: Faith/Spirituality/Inspiration

The Blessings of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children is a true gift to anyone who is raising a child in this hectic, modern world. Written by nationally-known clinical psychologist, educator, and workshop leader Wendy Mogel, the reader is given a glimpse of parenting without the conspicuous consumption practices so prevalent in this era.

Although this book uses Jewish teachings to substantiate the approach to childrearing in the new milleneum, it speaks to everyone—no matter what their chosen faith. Because I am not Jewish, I found some of the words and concepts a bit foreign, but the author is quite adept at explaining for those who are not followers of the Jewish faith.

Even twenty years ago, as I was raising my three daughters, I found myself wondering what had happened to the basic principles that had been so accepted when I was being raised. Mogel has brought them to the forefront in this most enlightening and affirming book. As I read the book, I felt I was having a conversation with a like-minded friend. I found myself nodding in agreement, smiling with fond remembrances of similar situations handled in similar ways, and wishing that every parent would take the time to read and implement some, if not all, of Mogel's practices.

"This book is not a formula for foolproof parenting. It is a lens, a way to look at the world, your life, and your family. Judaism has given my family unexpected moments of closeness and harmony, clarity about daily ethical dilemmas, and a sense of the holy potential of everyday life. It has guided me as a parent more profoundly than any other way of thinking I've yet found, and I hope it will do the same for you," writes Mogel.

Mogel outlines nine "blessings" for parents:

  1. The blessing of acceptance: discovering your unique and ordinary child
  2. The blessing of having someone to look up to: honoring father and mother
  3. The blessing of a skinned knee: why God doesn't want you to overprotect your child
  4. The blessing of longing: teaching your child an attitude of gratitude
  5. The blessing of work: finding the Holy sparks in ordinary chores
  6. The blessing of food: bringing moderation, celebration, and sacrifice to your table
  7. The blessing of self-control: channeling your child's Yetzer Hara
  8. The blessing of time: teaching your child the value of the present moment
  9. The blessings of faith and tradition: losing your fear of the G word and introducing your child to spirituality

One of my favorite chapters/ blessings was that of time. In this chapter, Mogel validates some of my own thoughts on the scheduled lives we create for ourselves and our children. In a day and age where there are three activities for each day of the week and not enough hours in the day to stop and enjoy one another, I found Mogel's input to be priceless. Her "time savers: everyday methods to guard time" are gems our parents and their parents before them seemed to know instinctively... gems we seem to have lost sight of in our busy world.

Find time to connect with your child, Mogel advises. Allowing children time to get bored provides them with an opportunity to find ways to amuse or entertain themselves—like daydreaming or playing for the sheer sake of play. "Let them dawdle," she says. The author points out that when we move faster, adhere to stricter schedules, and tend to look for immediacy in much of what we do, we sometimes fail to allow children to operate at their own pace. Allowing children to move at a child's speed lessens the pressure they feel to accomplish a given task.

Today, I am a grandmother raising her young grandson. This book found me just when I was questioning whether I was being fair to him as I imposed my values of respecting adults, using manners, sitting down for family mealtimes, and not having scheduled activities every moment of every day. It would appear that, at least in Mogel's eyes, the answer is an emphatic "Yes!"

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