Minute #627: Forbidden Fruit

“How did you get him to do it so quickly?” Asher asked Mrs. Naftali. “I’ve been cajoling and threatening for quite a while, yet he stubbornly refuses to cooperate.”

“Reverse psychology,” Mrs. Naftali explained. “When something is forbidden, a child’s inclination is to desire that very thing. He will brazenly do whatever is prohibited. I wanted him to eat it, so I told him he could not.”

This well-known technique has been utilized by parents and teachers to get children to do their bidding at times when their instructions confront resistance. There are, however, many situations in which parents need to protect their offspring from negative behavior. How can the adult achieve compliance when the natural inclination is to oppose?

The Talmud says (Chullin, 109b) that every item in Creation which the Torah forbids has a counterpart that gives the same taste and is permitted. We are forbidden to eat blood but allowed to eat liver, which satisfies the same desire. There are other examples which the Gemara lists to support this principle.

While limiting exposure of our offspring to the outside world, we can use this technique by permitting something similar so as to deflect their desire for the forbidden. For everything we forbid, we must come up with a viable substitute. When supplied with an alternative, even a child may see that the forbidden is not so good after all. It will also prevent prohibited behavior on the part of a child when not under the watchful eyes of parents or other adults.

This doesn’t mean that everything must be either allowed or replaced. One must use good sense when transmitting Torah values to one’s children. A wise parent will take heed and act wisely.

One More Second: Another Thought for the Day

The realization that our own strength may be inadequate must never cause us to sink back into inertia. Never refrain from a good endeavor because the difficulties involved seem insurmountable. Keep in mind that we have a mighty Helper in the Alm-ghty in all our good endeavors. Let us do our share; the L-rd will do the rest. (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch; The Psalms, 37:5)