I recently received a phone call from a friend. She began by saying “this is a nachas call.”
Since all of my children and grandchildren live in New York and my friend lives in Israel I was puzzled. How could she be calling me with a nachas call when she hasn’t seen any of my family in over a year?
She proceeded to explain the nachas. It was about me and my book.
My friend said she had given a copy of my book to her daughter who also lives in Israel, and has young children. Her daughter decided to try writing Nachas Notes as I suggested in the book. She collected a week’s worth of Nachas Notes about her 8 year old daughter. Then she revealed to her daughter that she had set up a Nachas Notebook™ and had been observing her and writing down nachas. She then read the Nachas Notes to her daughter.
My friend did not describe her granddaughter’s reaction, but she did tell me that her daughter said that it was “transformational.”
Many years ago, one of the Parent Mentors whom I trained and supervised described the Nachas Notebook as a “secret weapon” in building trust and closeness between parent and child.
In my work as a therapist I seldom prescribe specific tasks to my clients. There are, however, two things that I feel very strongly about and I urge parents to begin doing them even if it feels strange to them: Bentching their children on Friday night and keeping a Nachas Notebook.
I do not give specific advice on how to bentch your children, use both hands, one hand, include Birchas Kohanim or not. I do emphasize the importance of making eye contact with each child.
When it comes to the Nachas Notebook I give extensive and specific instructions in order to maximize the benefits for both parent and child. The benefits for parents are quite significant, as I will describe later.
How do you set up a Nachas Notebook? You begin by buying a blank 8½ by 11 inch lined notebook. It could be a spiral, composition, or loose leaf notebook. You buy a notebook for each of your children who is old enough to appreciate it. If you enjoy colors, buy some colored pens or pencils to make the notebook cheerful. A colorful cover sheet with your child’s name on it is a nice touch. Those are all the supplies you need.
Who writes entries into the Nachas Notebook? Ideally, both parents write entries. They can share one notebook per child or each parent can have their own notebooks.
Do you tell your children that are you writing Nachas Notebooks about them? If yes, do you tell them before you’ve written in them or only after you have Nachas Notes to share with them? That’s up to you. In a rare exception to al pi darko, (customizing things for each child), you should tell all of your children at the same time. Don’t worry if some children, tweens, or teens roll their eyes or express their skepticism in some other way. And do not be deterred! If your Nachas Notebook doesn’t seem to help, stick with it. I don’t think a Nachas Notebook can cause any harm.
Whether you’ve told your children about their Nachas Notebooks in advance or not, at the end of a week, sit down with each child and either read the entries aloud or hand the book to your child to read. That choice should be made by each child.
The first thing my friend’s eight year old daughter said after hearing the first Nachas Note was, “I can’t believe you noticed that!” Unfortunately, many parents’ radar is far more sensitive to mistakes and misdeeds than it is to successes and compliance. I know of no more effective way to adjust the sensitivity of that radar than to make it a practice keep and share Nachas Notebooks.
What exactly do you write for each entry in each child’s Nachas Notebook?
Each entry has two components: what you observed the child doing that you considered a success, and what you said to the child at that time.
The first component is for your child. You want her to know that you were machsiv, you valued, something she did well.
The second component is for you. You get to see how well you did in acknowledging your child’s success in a way that was meaningful to her.
The content of the first component should be specific, exactly what you saw or heard your child do or say that you appreciated as a success for that child.
The content of the second component should also be specific. Write down the words you said to your child, e.g. you cleared your place after breakfast, you put your jacket in the closet.
I chose those examples because if you would criticize your child’s failure to do those types of things, be sure to acknowledge your child’s success at those type of things. Don’t take success for granted. You lose nachas that way.
I urge you to work hard to discern success in the partial completion of a task rather than discounting it, negating it because of the partial failure. Let me give you an example:
You asked Breindy to set the table for dinner. She came upstairs from the playroom and set the table very neatly. She forgot the forks.
What do you think about that?
A: Breindy set the table BUT she forgot the forks, therefore her failure negates her success. The word BUT negates what came before it so only failure remains.
B: Breindy set the table AND she forgot the forks, therefore her success stands despite her failure and she isn’t finished yet. The word AND leaves the preceding success intact and implies that you want more.
Here’s how you sound when you speak to Breindy based on thought A:
Breindy, you forgot the forks! You call that setting the table?
Here’s how you sound when you speak to Breindy based on thought B:
Thank you for setting the table so neatly Breindy. You forgot the forks. Please make sure to put the forks out before it’s time for dinner.
How do these two thoughts play out in terms of Nachas Notes?
With thought A there is no chance for a Nachas Note. Breindy has failed, case closed.
With thought B, there is still a chance for a Nachas Note if Breindy remembers to put the forks out before dinner time.
When you see partial failure as failure, you cost yourself some potential nachas.
When you see partial failure as an opportunity to help your child to continue to success, you open the door to potential nachas.
Sometimes the amount of nachas you enjoy is up to you.