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Improving A Child’s Derech Eretz


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Don’t be surprised if there are setbacks; they are bound to happen. You may be tired and snap at one of your children, which may cause him or her to react disrespectfully. Your children may be tired or hungry and may speak to you disrespectfully. The key is not to let these kinds of situations snowball and become the norm. If you snap at one of the kids, you can apologize and then remind your children that even though adults make mistakes, they are still required to speak with you respectfully – no matter what you say. Explain to them that when they are in a bad mood, you will try to remain calm so that you can help them feel better. Also tell them that they should try to do the same for you. And if they make the effort to listen to you and subsequently speak respectfully, make sure to praise them generously and tell your husband – in their presence – how proud you are of them. Be descriptive in your praise, expanding on what took place. This will help the child in question feel that you really paid attention, and that you are truly proud of him or her. While general praise is nice, specific praise is much more meaningful.

Lastly, do not personalize your children’s actions. Too often we do that, causing us to get very upset and thus react badly. If you take a step back when your child is disrespectful and see it as a teaching moment instead of a personal affront, you will be much better equipped to respond calmly and successfully. Your children are likely reacting to whatever internal feelings they are experiencing and are not acting disrespectfully because they do not respect you. If you are able to internalize this, you will have accomplished a lot.

Most children want to please their parents, but they do not listen because they want to be independent or they are feeling hungry, tired, insecure, etc. If you think their behavior is due to the desire to be independent, give your child two choices pertaining to a matter that interests them. (Make sure that you are comfortable with the choices you’re offering.) This will help them feel as if they are in control of the situation.

I hope these ideas are helpful. If my suggestions go beyond the depth of the problem, please seek professional help before the problem becomes more significant. Hatzlachah!

Dr. Yael Respler

About the Author: Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to deardryael@aol.com. To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at www.jewishpress.com and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at www.dryaelrespler.com.


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