“You!” Mrs. Katz shouted. “You ruined my daughter’s backpack on the school trip! You owe me fifty dollars and I want the money by tomorrow! How dare you do such a thing?”
Dina just stood there, shaking in the face of the onslaught. Her mother, hearing the noise, came to the door and asked what was going on.
Mrs. Katz continued her tirade. “Your daughter ruined my daughter’s backpack. She owes me fifty dollars. What kind of girl does that?!”
Mrs. Hirsch was at a loss for words. “Dina, is that true?” she asked.
Dina shook her head and looked at the floor.
“What a chutzpah!” Mrs. Katz yelled. “Now you’re lying about it? I’m gonna — “
“Mrs. Katz,” Mrs. Hirsch interrupted. She wasn’t sure what to do, but she definitely didn’t want to know what Mrs. Katz would do. “Let me deal with her and get back to you, ok?”
Mrs. Katz protested, but Dina’s mother stood her ground, assuring her that if her accusation was correct, the damage would be paid for.
The door closed and Dina ran to her room. Mrs. Hirsch gave her some time alone before going in to her. She found her lying on her bed, upset. “Dina,” she said gently. “Don’t worry. I won’t be upset at you. And you won’t have to pay, I will. But please tell me the truth. Did you ruin your friend’s knapsack?” Dina shook her head angrily. She refused to say a word, no matter how hard her mother tried to get her to talk.
After some time Mrs. Hirsch gave up and left. Unsure of the right way to deal with the situation, she racked her brain for an idea and then remembered that she could call her parenting teacher for advice.
The teacher listened as Mrs. Hirsch related the scenario from beginning to end.
“I’m impressed that you didn’t get angry with your daughter,” the teacher began.
Mrs. Hirsch felt good — at least she had done something right!
“However,” the teacher continued, “there is something wrong here. A child is no match for a grown-up. Allowing another adult to verbally attack your child, even if she has a legitimate complaint, makes your child feel that not only are you not there to protect her, but that you are teaming up with the other adult against her. So even if you try to talk to her gently, she still doesn’t feel that you are on her side. I would say that if something like this ever happens again, as soon as you can, you should tell the other adult firmly: ‘I’m sorry, but if you have a complaint about one of my children, you must come only to me. I will deal with whatever it is and take it very seriously, but under no circumstances can you take it up with my child.’
Mrs. Hirsch thanked the teacher, hung up, and went to prepare supper. A few minutes later Dina came in to the kitchen, took a yogurt, and started eating at the kitchen table. Mrs. Hirsch turned to her daughter and said softly, “You know, Dina, it pained me so much that that lady yelled at you like that.”
Dina looked up in wonder. A big smile broke out on her face. She came over and gave her mother a huge, tight hug.
Dina, who was usually a pretty difficult kid, behaved like an angel for the next three weeks. Eventually, of course, she did go back to being a regular kid, but something had changed. She cooperated and listened to her mother on a much steadier basis than before.
The whole relationship changed just by Mrs. Hirsch experiencing a paradigm shift; she learned that a parent should be on her or her child’s side no matter what. This doesn’t mean that there’s no discipline. But it does mean that discipline is given for the good of the child, from a feeling of love for the child, without antagonism or seeming like the child’s enemy, G-d forbid.