Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing
Wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating
There is no such thing as bad weather
Only different kinds of good weather

JOHN RUSKIN (1819-1900)

A parent wrote to me recently that his son is a major complainer. "He always complains and is not happy with any situation - always finding the negative in it. What can I do about this?"

I explained that in Jewish tradition, before Rosh Hashanah (the New Year), we wish each other "a good and sweet year." Why the double expression? We believe everything that G‑d gives to us is good. But there are two forms of "good" — sweet and bitter.

Some situations are both "good" and "sweet", which means we can sense their goodness. Other situations are "good" but not "sweet", i.e. it doesn’t feel good. Perhaps, many years in the future, we will discover how it was actually good, and perhaps we will never find out. Before Rosh Hashanah, we pray to G‑d that whatever happens this coming year should not only be "good" but should also be "sweet". We ask G‑d to give us good that we can see, feel and experience as such straight away.

The Talmud teaches us that whenever something we perceive to be bad happens to us we should say right away "Gam zu letova" — "This, too, is for the good"; there must be some good in it, even if we can’t see it right now.

You can choose this saying, or you can say "Fantastic!" or "Great!" or any other positive message that you feel comfortable with, as long as it is practiced over and over again. Get your children involved in practicing this positive habit until it becomes second nature. And so, before you know it, when something bitter happens (G‑d forbid), instead of cursing or complaining how painful it is, our instant reaction will be to immediately say that "this, too, is for the good."

A father and son were once running to the airport gate to catch a plane going to an important family celebration in another city. They arrived at the gate to be told that the flight was cancelled. The son started saying "This is terrible, I can’t believe it..." The father said, "Why are you upset? This is great! I'm glad that the flight was cancelled". The son, somewhat puzzled, asked, "What do you mean, it’s great?" The father explained: "I can think of three possible reasons why this flight was cancelled. It was either because of engine problems, or the pilot wasn't feeling well, or the weather is bad. If either of these is indeed the case, I prefer not to be on that plane, and it’s great that they cancelled the flight."

As with everything else in life, "practice makes perfect", or at least close to it, and the best way of learning is through constant repetition and positive reinforcement. So, every time we catch ourselves or our children using this positive attitude, we stop a moment and take notice how we are changing and becoming more positive people.

This positive attitude held by a parent is very contagious and spreads quickly. Sooner or later, whenever bitter news is heard you can hear kids screaming at the top of their lungs "It’s great!". While this will not change the situation, it will definitely change the way we feel about it and makes it much easier to cope with.

Try it - you’ll like it!

By Rabbi Yaakov Lieder