Rabbi Horowitz, As parents, we often see that our children have talents that are outside the classic Mitzvah realm. This could be in the area of art, gymnastics, musical instruments, etc. Often times, development of these talents require time, money and sometimes exposure that we would generally not encourage. How does one decide when this is a good idea (or at least necessary) and when these activities are a distraction from spiritual pursuits?
Seven-year-old Naomi* has her teacher stumped. Her reading level is far above second-grade level and her precocious vocabulary often leaves her teacher astounded. She surpasses her peers in almost all language art subjects. Full of zest to learn, she takes an active part in class discussions and is focused and alert in her studies.
The pictures had been removed from the wall a while back. Carefully and methodically, they had been placed in the back of her desk drawer, a spot that could be reached only if one were looking for something intentionally. Other pictures were inconspicuously hanging in the corner, situated on a wall blocked by a large, mismatched piece of furniture. There were also loose photographs, neatly stacked in their original envelope, discreetly placed in an unmarked folder located in the back of her filing cabinet.
With the economy heading south, we are all looking for ways to cut back on our expenses. I guess that's good news for Motel 6, pawnshops and "Dollar Stores," but it's a pretty lousy development for anyone running a nonprofit organization (like me) because practically everyone except bankruptcy attorneys earns less money in times like these. Less money means less charity giving. Gulp!
"What do you mean, 'controlling'? This is called parenting! I'm doing what I'm supposed to do. I'm being responsible. I'm parenting my children the same way my parents parented me. If it worked then, there's nothing to question; it'll work now. Besides, look at me; I turned out okay!"
There is something to be said about hearing a story with a yiddishe ta'am (taste). However, when the context changes, and the cultural inflection and accent are omitted, the panache wanes. Such was my recent experience after having heard a well-known tale modified to suit the eclectic assemblage of the audience. For you, my dear readership, though, I offer the original version as I heard it many years ago (for a deeper experience, as you read the text imagine how these characters would sound and look).
Dear Rabbi Horowitz: Our family is recovering from the terrible, unexpected loss of a loved one who passed away far too young. My husband and I have differing views on seeking professional help to help our children cope with the tragedy. (Thankfully, at least on the surface, they all seem to be doing well.) I am strongly in favor of seeking this help, while my husband, who is an amazing father and has been our bedrock throughout this ordeal, thinks that we should leave well enough alone and not subject our children to the agony of pouring their hearts out to a stranger. We are regular readers of your columns and recently re-read your "Open Letter to Teens Who Lost a Parent," where you very clearly encourage them to seek help if they are having difficulty dealing with their grief. But what if they don't seem to be exhibiting any such signs? We would greatly appreciate your thoughts on this matter. Respectfully, Susan
I recently saw a sign that read: "There are a million reasons for abuse, but not a single excuse." Sharon* (name has been changed) came into my office last week after being a client for almost a year. Over the past few weeks, she has been working towards disclosing a "secret." Finally, through an established trusting relationship, Sharon was ready to tell me her "secret." She is 16 years old and has had a 19-year-old boyfriend for almost a year. She was finally able to disclose to me how abusive this young man has been to her. Having told me of various forms of abuse, she also stated how angry she is at him, while at the same time she says that she cares for him.
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.
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.
The brothers of Yosef referred to him as the "The Dreamer" (Bereishis 37:19). And, while the brothers seemed to have used the title in a disparaging manner, Yosef's life was, in fact, inextricably tied to dreams.
As Yaakov makes his way back to the land of Canaan, several events - spanning the full range of emotions - transpire in rapid succession.
Four years ago, when I began writing about the topic of child molestation, our community had not yet been slammed by the high-profile abuse cases that drew the attention of the local and national media.
Imagine a child on a bicycle speeding downhill. The world is whizzing by. The road takes a sudden curve. The wind whips his face and his eyes blur with tears. Suddenly, he spots a ditch up ahead. He tries to brake − but the brakes don't work! As the bike's momentum increases, it is all he can do to keep from flying off. Obstacles in his path cry out for his attention. Everything seems out of control. What chance does he have to avert the tractor-trailer heading right toward him?
Sometimes our sight is blurred by the magnitude of our surroundings. As the old saying goes, "you can't see the forest for the trees." Nevertheless, this is very true. Sometimes we don't see the obvious because of other distractions. In our tefillah, we ask G-d to "enlighten our eyes". We often miss the treasures that Hashem has given us; we take them for granted.