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Joys and Oys of Parenting: Insight and Wisdom from the Jewish Tradition

Inspired by their own experiences as parents, authors Maurice Elias, Marilyn Gootman, and Heather Schwartz bring together their professional expertise and their Jewish commitment in a work designed as a guide for the practice of intentional parenting—making ‘conscious, deliberate, and value-based parenting choices.’
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Inspired by their own experiences as parents, authors Maurice Elias, Marilyn Gootman, and Heather Schwartz bring together their professional expertise and their Jewish commitment in a work designed as a guide for the practice of intentional parenting—making ‘conscious, deliberate, and value-based parenting choices.’

The Joys of Parenting: Insight and Wisdom from the Jewish Tradition,demonstrates how today’s understanding of child development and the importance of social-emotional intelligence is illuminated and supported by thousands of years of Jewish writings and wisdom. It offers both inspiration and practical advice for parents seeking a way out of the confusion and exhaustion that can often characterize family life. With its focus on wisdom and practices that have proven helpful to generations upon generations of families the book helps them address the oys of parenting while still embracing its joys.

Each topic in The Joys and Oys of Parenting is anchored by a story, biblical reference, or other essential reference point and supported by child development research. What follows then are goals and guidelines that provide practical tips parents can implement immediately and with confidence to create peace in the home, establish effective routines, set limits, encourage effort, promote accountability, and nurture kindness and a sense of gratitude in their families.

The authors also approach problem solving as a highly learnable skill. They offer an eight-step technique that can be employed to just about any parenting challenge, allowing parents to model these skills for their children. With clearly articulated steps such as listening to one’s feelings, stating the problem, brainstorming, and looking for obstacles that might hinder an idea for a solution, the guidelines can help mend frayed tempers and foster feelings of cooperation.

The Joys and Oys of Parenting includes an extensive discussion guide that turns this book into a key resource for community and congregational parent learning groups and workshops.

Praise for The Joys and Oys of Parenting:

“(The Joys and Oys of Parenting) highlights realistic and practical strategies of nurturing such important qualities in children as kindness, empathy, generosity, motivation, responsibility, gratitude, and resilience—qualities that are essential for well-being throughout our lives. While the book is rooted in Judaic traditions, the wisdom it imparts is applicable for parents regardless of their faith or beliefs”         --Robert Brooks, PhD, Harvard Medical School, Co-author of Raising Resilient Children: Fostering Strength, Hope, and Optimism in Your Child

“Parents of all faiths will be amazed by the practicality of Jewish tradition, just as they will be drawn to the ancient calls to wholeness, to peace, to goodness, and to love.”                                                                              --Timothy Shriver, PhD, Chair, Special Olympics; cofounder CASEL

“A must-read . . . The Joys and Oys of Parenting helps us fulfill the most important roles of our lives—raise good people who can thrive someday without us.”                 --Michele Borba, EdD, author of Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-about-Me World

"Highly recommended for community and academic library Parenting instructional reference collections in general, and Family Relationships supplemental studies reading lists in particular"                                --The Midwest Book Review


  • Foreword and Introduction
  • The Peaceful Home--Listen skillfully and carefully; Communicate respectfully; Express anger constructively; Minimize sibling rivalry
  • Establish Routines--Create predictability; Sanctify the passage of time through Shabbat; Establish memorable traditions
  • Foster Resilience--Set limits; Let children experience disappointments; Be positive; Know how to laugh
  • Promote Responsibility--Nurture respobnsibility at home; Contribute locally and globally, Promote accountability; Practice problem solving
  • Spark Motivation--Let go; Build competence and confidence; Create connections, Encourage effort and accomplishment
  • Nurture Kindness--Be welcoming; Visit the sick; Help the needy; Perform deliberate acts of kindness
  • Cultivate Gratitude--Appreciate people; Appreciate time; Appreciate and respect the gifts of nature; Appreciate and celebrate freedom
  • Conclusion--Inspire our children to live with integrity
  • Discussion Guide--Creating and suporting an ongoing parenting group; how to create a safe spce for discussion; how to structure your group; planning your sessions; chapter by chapter discussion guides; a memorable final meetign activity
  • Handout--Live your life with integrity everyday

About the authors:

Maurice J. Elias, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Psychology at Rutgers University in New Jersey, a contributing faculty member in the Department of Jewish Studies at Rutgers, and director of the Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab ( Dr Elias lectures nationally and internationally, and devotes his research and writing to social-emotional and character development in children, schools, and families, as well as Jewish adolescent identity development and Jewish education. He is a licensed psychologist in New Jersey and writes a blog on social-emotional and character development for the George Lucas Educational Foundation at He is co-author of Emotional Intelligent Parenting: How to Raise a Self-disciplined, Responsible, Socially Skilled Child.

Marilyn E. Gootman, Ed.D., is an educational consultant who has advised parents, teachers, and administrators throughout the United States on successful strategies for raising and educating children. She has over thirty-five years of teaching experience from early childhood to graduate school, in both Jewish and general studies. She is the author of When a Friend Dies: A Book for Teens about Grieving and Healing. Based in Athens, Georgia, she founded a group for Jewish families there under the auspices of the PJ Library program which has blossomed into a powerful community for parents seeking authentic ways to weave Judaism into their family lives.

Heather L. Schwartz, MA, is committed to the education of students from primary school through the university level and is currently working academically with student athletes at the University of Georgia. She has worked on social and economic initiatives promoting the education of girls and children’s health issues in developing countries. Heather has held leadership positions in the PJ Library program in Athens, Georgia; the Athens Jewish Film Festival, and parenting groups in other parts of the United States.