Jewish United Fund Interviews Wendy Mogel

April 29th, 2011

Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago

The blessing of Wendy Mogel
By Cindy Sher
Posted: 4/29/2011 11:30:24 AM
Read Full Article Here

The JUF Trades, Industries & Professions Division (TIP) dinner season began in March and runs through June 1.

The dinners feature the following sequence of speakers: Bruce Feiler, best-selling author who has written the new book “The Council of Dads” (dinner was held in March); Wendy Mogel, psychologist and author of the famed guide to child rearing called “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee”(dinner was held in April); Mike Krzyzewski, (A.K.A. Coach K), head coach of Men’s Basketball at Duke University and Team USA; Mike Ditka, former NFL player, television commentator, and coach of the 1985 Super Bowl Champion Chicago Bears; Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner, authors of best-selling books, “Freakonomics” and “SuperFreakonomics;”and Dan Gillerman, former Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. and Col. Miri Eisen (ret.), former assistant to the director of Military Intelligence and former spokesperson of the Israeli government in a discussion moderated by Joe Scarborough, host of “Morning Joe” on MSNBC.

These dinners are generously underwritten by many individuals and businesses including a grant from the Manfred & Fern Steinfeld Campaign Events Fund. A personally meaningful gift to the 2011 JUF Annual Campaign is required to attend. For more information, contact TIP at

Dr. Wendy Mogel has helped raise millions of children—in addition to two of her own. The renowned Jewish clinical psychologist, author, and speaker wrote the best-selling parenting book The Blessing of a Skinned Knee (Scribner) more than a decade ago to guide parents on using Jewish teachings to raise self-reliant children. The mother of two grown daughters, Mogel recently released her follow-up book The Blessing of a B Minus (Scribner), using Jewish teachings to raise resilient teenagers. The new book addresses questions like “How can I be an effective parent in a culture that breeds anxiety and entitlement in children?” In April, Mogel offered her wisdom and humor in raising menschlich Jewish children at JUF’s Inaugural Jewish Day School Night For Parents, Educators, & Board Members. Recently, Mogel talked to JUF News from her Los Angeles home.

JUF News: Could you ever have imagined the success of The Blessing of a Skinned Knee?
Dr. Wendy Mogel: It’s incredibly gratifying. I get beautiful emails from people who want nothing except to tell me that they appreciate the help that the book gave them. I travel all the time to speak about the message in the book…and it’s so fun to gather stories from around the country.

Why did you write the new book?
I wanted to write it because parents who had read The Blessing of a Skinned Knee had children who were growing older and they were asking me to write it. My children were finally leaving adolescence as well so it was [appropriate] timing.

How can Jewish parents do better raising their children these days?
At this particular moment in history, there is a tendency on the part of good-intentioned, loving, devoted parents to over-protect their children and over-indulge them and over-schedule them and expect them to be good at everything, even things for which they have no talent or interest. We also don’t expect them to be respectful to adults or to pitch in and help and be good family citizens. We’re unwittingly creating handicapped royalty, kids who are a combination of anxious and entitled. That’s what I hear from school administrators and faculty all the time.

What are we doing right and wrong in planning bar and bat mitzvahs?
There is a lot that’s wonderful about bar and bat mitzvahs. It’s so wonderful to have a community of friends separate from school. The community service projects are wonderful. Having a person at their most awkward stage of life stand up and teach a room full of adults from an ancient tradition is shockingly thrilling. What had become a problem were families showing off and the bribery aspect of it—“you do this,” over-scheduling your already very busy child, “and we’ll give you whatever kind of party you want”…We’re kind of lucky about the recession because I’ve seen some change. Parents are saying things to their kids that they never have said before like “We can’t afford that.”

What is the “blessing” you refer to in the title of your books?
The blessing means that the things that are harder in our life or more painful or a bigger struggle or a challenge are often the things that yield the greatest long-term satisfaction, sense of community, maturity, and delight. The principle is you prepare your child for the road but not the road for your child. I want them to be able to do activities where they might skin a knee because then they learn how to walk on an uneven surface or climb a rock and they have fun and they are outdoors and playing in three dimensions using all five senses.