Of all the various disorders and syndromes that affect children in our community, I wonder if any is as misunderstood or puzzling as "selective mutism." Until very recently, professionals and educators just assumed that children with selective mutism were actually being silent "on purpose." It is only within the last year or two that we have discovered that it's really not under the child's control.
I often share with my clients a simple yet powerful analogy: to think about their relationship as they do about their bank account. That's because investing in your relationship is similar to saving money; the more you put into your bank account or relationship, the more you can take out when necessary.
Mordechai, 36, and Chani, 35, were married for six years and came to ask me for advice on how to save their relationship. They seemed to have everything going for them. They were working professionals, successful and upwardly mobile; they shared many common factors including similar religious beliefs, intelligence levels, and were both pleasantly extroverted.
Dear Rabbi Horowitz: We find ourselves faced with an increasingly challenging experience each year when midwinter break comes around. Some of our children's friends go on expensive vacations with their families, and our kids are asking us to send them on similar trips. Our children are respectful whenever they discuss this with us, but there is a clear sense that they feel "left out" because they don't go to the exotic location like some of their friends.
In Part I, a distinction was made between two relationship methodologies, both of which are discussed in Dr. William Glasser's book, Choice Theory: A New Psychology of Personal Freedom. Glasser compares the use of External Control Psychology (i.e., manipulate, punish, criticize, blame, nag, and even reward) to Choice Theory, an empowering model based on an internal system of values, upgrading one's character traits and allowing natural consequences to "police" behaviors.
It's PTA time again. That means lots of studying for kids, test grading for teachers, and standing in line for parents. It also means lots of opportunities, as the adults in a child's life get together on his or her behalf. There's much more than sore feet on the line at the three-minute conference. PTA can be a catalyst for tremendous growth, if parents and teachers work together.
Thinking back to my childhood years, I recall a "dare" expression one child would bark to another: "Make me; bet'ya can't make me!" I didn't think much about the term back then, other than my associating it with bullying. Today, though, I view it on a more profound level, especially in regard to the parent populace.
Chaim Schwartz* is the recognized genius of the class. He gets 100% on every test, understands the most difficult Gemaras and makes complicated math computations in his head in seconds. But for all his genius he can't seem to make a single friend.
I often see my neighbor driving by, puffing on a cigarette, with the car windows closed and all seven stony-faced children and wife inhaling the poisonous air. His young wife has undergone open-heart surgery twice and two children have asthma. When I asked him once how he could endanger their lives, he blithely answered, "I put on the air conditioner, so the smoke doesn't affect them.