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Rites of Passage




My children were recently called to the Torah for their bat/bar mitzvah. It's an ancient tradition signalling their passage into Jewish adulthood at age 13.


Rites of passage were once common among many tribes around the world -- where kids would undertake a physically challenging endeavor to be accepted as an adult. The Aborigines endured the Walkabout. Ethiopians used to cover themselves in cow dung and have to jump over bulls.


Not only are many of these traditions erased, our 13 year olds aren't entrusted to wait in the cold at a bus stop by themselves for 10 minutes. We're totally robbing them of their ability to get comfortable getting uncomfortable.


My kids' lives were never in danger. They did study countless hours for over a year to learn Hebrew and the many tunes they had to chant in front of hundreds of people. (My son thought he was going to die -- suffering from a horrible stage fright!) They sacrificed a lot to go through this rite of passage. Of course, we were proud of them. More importantly, they were proud of themselves.


Self esteem comes from kids accomplishing things they're proud of, not us telling them they did something well. And, they're getting comfortable being uncomfortable.


We're so used to being snowplow parents. We're the ones in front of our kids constantly clearing the heavy snow from their paths. We get involved to prevent them from getting hurt; from feeling pain, or making mistakes. Yet that's how kids grow, learn, and develop into happy, healthy and functional adults. We doing our kids a great disservice. They need those "character building" moments to see what they can achieve on their own. We all need to get comfortable being uncomfortable. It's those difficult times that build our self-esteem, build resilience, and give us grit.


According to Michael Easter and his groundbreaking book, "The Comfort Crisis:"


"Scientists are finding that certain discomforts protect us from physical and psychological problems like obesity, heart disease, cancers, diabetes, depression, and anxiety, and even more fundamental issues like feeling a lack of meaning and purpose."


Easter, Michael. The Comfort Crisis (p. 5). Harmony/Rodale. Kindle Edition.

You don't need to slather your child in dung and make them jump over bulls. You should give them some sort of rite of passage event they need to work hard for to achieve well earned success.



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