My wife taught me something great! Actually, she has taught me a lot of great things but I thought I’d share a short one. If you speak to children like you think children should be spoken to with a funny cute voice, then they will stay childish for longer. If you speak to them as you would anyone else, they often rise to the occasion.
When the American author Pamela Druckerman moved to France, she was surprised to find that the restaurants she went to rarely had a separate kid’s menu. Instead, children were expected to eat the same food as their parents. She saw something similar in French kindergartens, because the French want their children to experience a variety of cuisines and develop their palates. French children are exposed to a much greater variety of tastes and textures than some of their Australian and American counterparts and develop a healthier relationship with food.
Kids don’t grow up overnight, but if we dumb things down to a level we think suits them, they adjust themselves to that level. If we speak to them with more maturity in an appropriate way, they are more likely to develop with more maturity. As we approach Shavuot – the festival that emphasises the importance of growth, maturation and a challenging of our Jewish literacy, we should learn from the French and stretch ourselves beyond our expected limits.
As is often the case, Judaism is watered down to provide a sense of ease, let’s use this Shavuot to extend ourselves. As the Torah is re-revealed to each one of us this coming Saturday night, let’s embrace the challenge of maturity. It is within our hands to help shape the way in which we and the children we interact with view themselves – let’s teach them to rise up, own up and stand up with maturity!