real questions from parents around the world

How can we set boundaries and say no to our children without worrying that it will affect our relationship with them or even cause something worse?

There’s a concept in business called the “service recovery paradox.” It takes place when a customer thinks more highly about a company after they’ve solved a problem with their service, compared to how the customer would regard the company had there been no problem at all.
This proven theory is amazing: a customer will have more loyalty toward a company if he had an issue that was addressed to his satisfaction, beyond what it would have been had there been no difficulty to begin with!
The psychology behind this phenomenon is explained as follows:

All humans have a need to feel heard and understood. Effective service recovery meets this need since the company has empowered its customers to share their views and issues. The company has listened to its clients’ claims. Most importantly, it’s empathized enough to deal with the customers and their dilemmas. So the psychology behind the service recovery paradox involves the gratification a company creates by making its customers feel heard, cared about, and understood.

This means that even if the company wasn’t able to resolve the problem, but it made the customer feel supported and appreciated, it succeeded in building customer loyalty.
Let’s say a person bought a pair of shoes, and now he wants to exchange them. At one store, the clerk gives him a disgruntled look and exchanges the shoes begrudgingly. This doesn’t create customer loyalty; it might even cause the person to never return! However, if the customer enters a store, and the clerk there shakes his head sadly and spends a long time calling different supervisors to receive approval for the exchange — and in the end, he can’t get the approval, but apologizes to the customer profusely — he has just built customer loyalty.
We can — and should — apply this concept to parenting.

Imagine you have a house rule that a child can’t go to a certain place, and they ask you for permission to go there. There are two ways to respond:
You can tell the child, “No — you know the rules.”
Or you can say, “You know we have rules. Is there a special reason you’re asking this time?”
Child: “Yes. Everyone is going because it’s Chani’s birthday.”
Parent: “Oh, I see… I bet this means a lot to you. You’d be disappointed if you couldn’t go. Let me think about it and discuss it with Daddy/Mommy” (even if you know the answer will be no).

The parent then gets back to the child, without making the child wait too long, and without just throwing out an answer in passing. Instead, the parent creates the setting where the child knows the parent is focused on him and says:
“We realize and appreciate how much you want to go, so we gave your question a lot of thought. Unfortunately, the answer is still no. I know this must be disappointing, but Daddy/Mommy, and I think this is the best chinuch for our family. You may not understand it now, but one day you’ll be thankful. We’re only doing this because we love you so much.”
I know that some people will think the last three lines are old-school, but they are truly important. Even if your child can’t hear them now, it will be etched in his heart that you’re acting in his best interest and because you love him, even if he doesn’t understand.
Should you give your child something else in place of what he’s asking for? This is unnecessary and shouldn’t be done every time, otherwise, the child will expect something in return every time he receives a no. However, if you are not giving something to him in exchange for the no, look for an opportunity to do something positive for or with the child, unrelated to what they asked for.

Responding to your child the above way shows him that he’s been heard and understood. He’ll feel his parents’ empathy and love toward him. If anything, it will only strengthen your relationship — just like the service recovery paradox.

I discovered Judaism too late to raise Torah-observant children. How can I best influence them as adults and also one's grandchildren when there is resistance, disinterest, and influences from the non-observant Jewish in-laws and spouses other than by effective modeling and prayer, of course?

Our goal as parents is to cultivate children who can function in a healthy independent fashion. As they mature our chinuch strategies evolve and we move from a more directive role to one of guidance and encouragement.
When our children reach the stage in life when they’re raising their own families, we must give them the space and respect to do so as they deem fit. At the same time, we as grandparents understand that we have certain life
experiences that in many situations could be very helpful.
The overall idea is to be open to sharing our advice, when sought. We can gently suggest how observance will be beneficial in the larger picture , for example with their shalom bayis etc. If our advice is not sought then it is best
to allow our children to manage on their own and rely on what they have learned from you as parents as they developed. As much as we desire to impart our knowledge and We have only the best of intentions, unsolicited advice usually goes unheeded and very often even leads to your child feeling resentment, feeling disrespected or controlled.

I have a 6 year old son that’s constantly bullying her twin. He demands that she does whatever he wants otherwise he'll beat her up. If she has something he wants he'll just grab it away or punch her. I'm at my wits end. I'd appreciate some guidance.

Your 6 yr. old is smart enough to realize the difference in the level of physical strength between a boy and a girl at the age of 6 – and he’s using that to get what he wants.

Most likely what he really wants is recognition and importance from you, his parents. He’s acting out towards his sister to get your attention.

Perhaps start practicing with him positive validation once a week for at least two and a half months. Spend time with him, validate and reinforce his positive character traits. Try not to bring up at all the fact that he grabs away or punches to get whatever he wants. It’s also important to practice positive validation with his twin as well, so that there does not result an imbalance in the family in regard to her – but the time per week spent with him should be more. (for example two and a half hours for him; one and a half hours for her). After two and a half months of consistent weekly times, re-evaluate.

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