Studies examined 50 years of research on the effect of spanking children and found that when children are spanked, they are more likely to become more defiant. This may not come as much of a surprise to us, but it does force us to think about best practices in terms of disciplining children. Dr. Alan Kazdin is Sterling Professor of Psychology and Child Psychiatry at Yale University. He is currently emeritus and was the director of the Yale Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic. His research shows that it’s not just spanking that’s ineffective. Any sort of punishment, including time-outs, only leads to greater defiance. Kazdin’s method, what he calls “positive opposites,” is a little more nuanced than simple positive reinforcement, but the idea is that we can change children’s negative behaviour by focusing on the positive aspects of the behaviour.
Parashat Emor opens with an apparent redundancy. “Emor” – Say to the Kohanim, the sons of Aaron, “V’eamrata” – and say to them. Rashi notes that the double expression can be interpreted as להזהיר גדולים על הקטנים. The Kohanim were cautioned to ensure their children do not become tamei – ritually contaminated from the dead.
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein says homiletically that the Torah teaches us a powerful lesson in Chinuch – education. The adults must be told to regulate their own behaviour, which will thereby influence their children. “Emor” – speak to the adults “V’eamarta” – so that their actions will “speak” to the children and they will learn by example.
There are many layers of education which include various forms of appropriate discipline. However, the first step to educating is to model appropriate behaviour. Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky ztz”l (father of R’ Chaim Kanievsky ztz”l) famously used to say Chinuch (education) is 50% Tefilah (prayer) and 50% being a role model.
Rabbi Shlomo Gabay