web analytics
April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Bais Yaakov’

Now She’s Speaking… Now She’s Not: Examining The Mystery Of Selective Mutism

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

(Name has been changed)

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.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let me describe what selective mutism is, by telling you about Chava, a 7-year-old child I am currently working with. Charming and bright, Chava seemed to be a confident and happy child as she was growing up. Her mother describes her as a “chatterbox” at home, and frankly relates that she is the “loudest” of all her six siblings. The problem began when Chava started school. That’s when Chava suddenly stopped talking. In class, she remained silent. During recess, she did not utter a word. Yet, strangely enough, when she came home at the end of the day, she was her old vivacious self all over again.

Selective mutism, therefore, refers to children who have normal verbal skills but do not talk in certain social settings. Most commonly, but not always, this means in school. In a 2002 study, Lendsey, Piacentini, and McCracken estimated that about seven of 1,000 children are experiencing selective mutism. Another study by Steinhausen and Juzi (1996) found that that the disorder generally begins in preschool and is more common in girls than boys.

What’s confusing about selective mutism is the fact that these children are fully capable of speaking and they understand language just as well as other kids do. Yet somehow they fail to speak in certain situations where it is expected of them. It’s as if they’ve suddenly become “frozen” into being unresponsive. Or, as Chava once described it to me, “It’s like the words got stuck in my toes.”

Since these children do speak up when they’re in a more relaxed environment, we have a tendency to think that they are just acting out or putting on a show. As if this was their way of making a statement. I assure you this isn’t true. I know Chava well and I’ve worked with her for quite some time now. She’s not being stubborn or chutzpadik or rude. She honestly is too frightened to speak.

Even the experts originally thought that these children were actually “choosing” to be silent in certain situations; hence they named the disorder “elective” mutism. The truth, however, is that they are forced by their extreme anxiety to remain silent and, despite their will to speak, just cannot come up with a voice. It was as recently as in 1994 that the name was changed to “selective mutism.”

How do you know if your child has this disorder or if she is just shy or withdrawn? The experts have presented us with these guidelines :

1. Does the child consistently fail to speak in specific social situations despite speaking in other situations?

2. Does the disturbance interfere with educational achievement or with social communication?

3. Has the situation lasted for at least one month or longer?

4. Are we sure that the failure to speak is not due to a lack of knowledge or comfort with the spoken language? (For example, is the child possibly silent because she has suddenly been placed in a Yiddish-speaking preschool environment while at home she speaks only English?)

5. Have we ruled out the possibility that the child is not suffering from any other language or communication disorder such as stuttering, which would naturally embarrass her enough to keep her silent?

If you’ve answered “yes” to all of these, then it might be a good idea to discuss the situation with a special educator or a child development expert. Be advised that this condition is often misdiagnosed and confused with other disorders such as autism or Asperger’s syndrome. So make sure you see someone who is familiar with selective mutism and has seen it often enough to recognize it.

Once selective mutism has been diagnosed, what next? Frankly, treatment approaches vary. They depend on the child, her age, her personality, her intelligence, and the specific nature of the disorder. Parents should be patient and tolerant, because progress is usually a slow process. But it can and does happen. Eventually, the child can learn to find her voice.

=======

Getting back to Chava, if I may, I’ll tell you what worked for her. First, I took Chava into my office and allowed her to play to her heart’s content. It was important to build up a sense of trust in order to advance to the next level. Once I felt Chava was really comfortable, I started chatting with her. It was more like a monologue, but I persisted, never stopping to ask her direct questions or to seek some kind of verbal response. I wanted it to come naturally. Apparently, Chava felt comfortable enough after a few weeks to begin speaking on her own. But I never challenged her or demanded cooperation. Chava couldn’t be coaxed. She had to “let go” on her own.

Chava’s sessions lasted most of the summer. In September, it was decided that it would be best if she would begin to attend a new school. All of us felt that she was ready for a fresh start. We were fearful that plunging her back in to her old anxiety-provoking environment would be like taking two steps backward. We had come too far for that.

We all held our collective breaths the day that Chava bravely boarded the school bus to her new Bais Yaakov, but Baruch Hashem she did well. Of course, we alerted her teachers about the situation ahead of time, cautioning them not to demand too much communication from Chava and to handle her gently. After the first day of school, Chava’s teacher called us to say that – while she was definitely silent during the first part of the day (after all, she was entering a new school ) – by the time lunch came around she was hungry and made it quite clear to her Morah that she wanted tuna rather than peanut butter sandwiches. She did this by telling her.

Chava’s success is heartening but not every child responds as well as she did. There are other techniques that have been effectively used to encourage these children. In some cases, encouraging the child to sing or to whisper instead of speaking may be helpful.

Using hand puppets where it appears that the puppet is speaking and not the child, has also been proven to be effective. Any sort of verbal response, no matter how slight, should be warmly praised.

It’s important not to create a scene by applauding any signs of progress. Making a major announcement like, “Look kinderlach, Chava is asking a question for the first time by exclaiming “Yaaayy, Chava,” will only draw attention to the original problem and may prove to be counterproductive.

Contrary to popular expectations, children suffering from selective mutism don’t necessarily grow out of it or improve as they get older. That’s why diagnosing and treating this condition early on is so important. Also, as time goes on, the selective mutism tends to become self-reinforcing. Meaning that after a while, most people come to expect the child not to speak. They get used to it. Eventually, they stop initiating conversations and refrain from verbal contact. This makes the prospect of change even more difficult.

As parents, here’s how you can help. First of all, get help – the sooner the better. Also, never try to force a child with selective mutism to talk. This will result in greater levels of anxiety, which means it will only be harder to treat the condition. On the other hand, you don’t have to stand on the sidelines like helpless bystanders. There are certain things you can do to speed the recovery process.

Number one, establish a safe and secure home environment for your child. Express warmth, support, and encouragement whenever possible. This will help lower the anxiety and allows your child to build confidence and trust.

Also, do some detective work. Search for clues on which settings and situations are the most difficult and which are easier. For example, maybe your daughter feels more at ease when sitting on a certain favorite chair in school or when a specific adult (perhaps a parent) is present in the room. Does she seem more relaxed when there is soft music playing or when she has a beloved doll in her arms? These are clues that, together with therapy, can help your child achieve her goals.

We’ve come a long way from the days when we thought that children who were silent in school were just being obstinate or annoying. We don’t blame them or accuse them of being uncooperative, any more than we would blame a child for having any type of medical or psychological condition. Instead, we deal with it.

The good news is that we are living in a time when extensive research on children’s social and academic behavior constantly offers us new and significant insights into their development. With Siyata D’Shmaya, and the right shliach to guide you, your child can learn to talk no matter where she is and where she goes.

Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld founded, and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. She is a well known and highly regarded educator, having served the community for close to 30 years. As a kriyah and reading specialist, she has successfully set up reading labs in many schools and yeshivas. In addition to her diversified teaching career, she offers teacher training and educational consulting services and evaluations. She has extensive expertise in the field of social skills training and focuses on working with the whole child. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 (KIDS).

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 11/14/08

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

Dear Rachel,

I have a very serious question I would like to ask you. I am a 21-year-old single girl going through the so called “shidduch crisis.” Although I know that my bashert is on his way, I have a hard time not knowing when it will be.

I am a typical Bais Yaakov type, am from a frum, solid home and never got into trouble. My shidduch dates are only with boys who are learning. I am interested in getting married to someone who appreciates Torah and has yiras shamayim.

About two months ago I came in contact with someone from my neighborhood, via the web. He is 17 and would be classified a “bum.” I can’t reveal more about him for confidential reasons. Anyhow, we became chatting buddies on the web and I didn’t think anything was wrong with helping someone out.

To make a long story short, we fell in love. This love is a unique relationship only known to him and me. It started out with us meeting occasionally but has unfortunately led to a relationship where shomer negiah (for the first time in my life, not his) is not kept. WHAT SHOULD I DO?!

I am completely head over heels for a guy who is obviously not for me. He is obsessed with me and I never experienced such love in my lifetime. I know that this has got to end because I am 100% definitely not marrying him.

My parents would never allow such a husband for me. He has some maturing to do, and yiras shamyayim is quite slim in his books. But how can I break his heart (though I’ve told him a million times that this is going to end eventually because of technicalities). My heart cannot handle such a blow, and I know that his can’t either.

We both have been working on becoming closer to Hashem because of this. He has started to go to minyan three times a day and learns more. He calls me every day to remind me to daven minchah and we talk about G-d very often. We both are from very frum solid homes so we know that by touching each other we are doing a horrible sin, but we cannot control ourselves.

I have read your columns in the past and have found them very inspiring. Please, Rachel, help me begin the long journey of heartbreak after finding what feels like a soul mate. I await your response as I continue to meet with him (even during the days of repentance).

Hopelessly entangled…

Dear Hopeless,

It may not be easy to do the right thing, but by no means is your situation a hopeless one. In order to sort out your muddle of emotions and to differentiate between reality and fantasy, you must first come back down from the clouds. For lack of column space, let’s cut to the quick.

When you state at the outset that you are “interested in marrying someone who appreciates Torah and has yiras shamayim” and that you are “100% definitely not marrying him,” your mind prevails over your heart. You are furthermore cognizant of his lack of maturity and express your belief that your bashert is on the way, even while admitting to being somewhat frustrated in not knowing when exactly he will show.

Then, with a sudden about-face, your heart gains the upper hand. “We both have been working on becoming closer to Hashem…. He has started to go to minyan three times a day and learns more. He calls me every day to remind me to daven minchah and we talk about G-d very often.”

My dear young lady, you have fallen under the spell of a guileful 17-year- old – even as you set out to help him, he has liberally helped himself to you. If you don’t put an immediate stop to the fooling around, you may find yourselves in real trouble.

You revel in his adulation and attentiveness and are captivated by his sweet talk. (If not for human nature being what it is, there would be no shomer negiah to abide by.) Your friend is playing the strings of your heart and arousing all your senses. The high you are experiencing (which you interpret as “love”) becomes harder and harder to resist.

In your current circumstance, you are unable to think clearly and rationally. However, one aspect cannot possibly escape your awareness: A boy at 17 is way too young to make a lifetime commitment.

If you have a decent relationship with your mother, take her into your confidence. No need to divulge intimate details – she will get the drift and advise you with candor and wisdom. In any case, your best course is to get out of town for a while, to stay perhaps with long-distance relatives. If your “guy” is truly serious about his feelings for you, he will understand the need for a timeout. Should he fail to understand, there is even greater urgency for you to pack your bags.

Your letter contains a glimmer of light: “We both are from very frum solid homes…” His background can work to your advantage down the line. For now, you have but one option: to give each other time and space. This will allow him to prove his sincerity about you and about his religious observance. If your “love” for one another survives the test of time, all may not be lost. A four-year gap in age – despite his being the younger – is not unheard of.

At present, however, his very young age and the conditions you found him and find yourself in make this association a risky one, to say the least. A note of caution: Feeling sorry for somebody is a lousy reason for hanging on and can only lead to regret and unhappiness.

“If you love it, set it free. If it comes back, it is yours. If it doesn’t, it never was.”

Mrs. Tzertel Kenner: Yeshiva Principal, Author, Family Historian

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

All of us today benefit from the sacrifices and struggles of those who came before us, and we continue to battle so that our children should gain from our own triumphs. So it has been throughout history. For this reason, it is important for us to learn about and appreciate those who lived in different times and paved the way for us. As Rav Shimon Schwab says, quoted in Memories and Miracles, a new book by Mrs. Tzertel Kenner about the lives of her parents, Rav Yissocher Dov Berish and Etya Chaya Teichner, “One benefits from the merits of his forebears according to how much he appreciates them.”


 

Mrs. Kenner has a deep awareness of and reverence for zechus avos, and this comes through both in her book and in speaking to her in person. She grew up in the Bronx in the ’40s and ’50s. Her father, an old-world tzaddik whom she admired immensely, was the rabbi of a small, close-knit shul, Congregation Shearis Yisroel, located at 1060 Morris Avenue. Mrs. Kenner attended the first Bais Yaakov in America, headed by Rebbetzin Vichna Kaplan, a student of Sarah Schneirer, who came to the United States with the express purpose of starting Bais Yaakov on the American shores.

 

Mrs. Kenner went on to devote her life to Jewish education, as a teacher in Breuer’s Bais Yaakov division of Yeshiva S.R. Hirsch in Washington Heights, where she lives, as a principal in the Klausenberg School for girls, and, currently, as the principal of the girls’ division of the Passaic-Clifton Cheder in Passaic, New Jersey. She is also a noted kallah teacher. She has six children, all married, with two living in Passaic and the rest in Monsey, Brooklyn and Riverdale, New York.

 

I recently spoke with Mrs. Kenner about what it was like growing up in an era and a neighborhood in which religious Jews were not the norm. “I grew up without any friends in the Bronx. There were just a few children on the block to play with, none of them Jewish. All my school friends lived on the West Side (of Manhattan). There were some boys in my father’s shul, but no girls.”

 

I asked if she resented being so different, (imagining how I would feel if I were told I couldn’t dress like or play with all the children I saw around me). “It was lonely,” she concedes, “but I was always very proud of my parents and what they did. I never resented it. I knew and appreciated that I was different. I used to take long walks with my father for exercise. I was very proud to walk with him, even clothed as he was in his Chassidic garb.

 

“My parents didn’t actively instill this pride in us, but we admired them very much. Our parents were always very warm and loving. I was born later in their life, when they were middle-aged, and they showered me with warmth and affection. I always felt my parents were special. We lived in the middle of the block, and I remember coming home from school, as I would turn the corner to my street, I used to feel a real sense of excitement when I knew I was about to see the house.

 

“When my mother saw me off in the morning, she would stand in the window waving towards the corner until I couldn’t see her anymore. Even though she was very busy, she never missed that. She was never too busy to give me love and attention. That was her nature. When there was a simcha in the shul, my mother would cook and bake for it. My parents treated everyone like brothers and sisters – maybe that’s why they were so beloved.”

 

Mrs. Kenner started her schooling in public school, but switched to the newly opened Jewish Community School on Manhattan’s West Side when she was in the fourth grade. She remembers being ecstatic about the move, even though it meant a half-hour subway commute. She was even happier when she started high school and began attending the Bais Yaakov High School in Williamsburg.

 

“We had daily contact with Rebbetzin Kaplan. She was very holy, soft-spoken, and brilliant – we were in awe of her. She was unusually dedicated. This was the first Bais Yaakov in America. She planted the seeds. There were about 20 girls in my class. They are still among my closest friends.”

 

Does she see a difference between Bais Yaakov when she was growing up and Bais Yaakov now?

 

“When we went to school, our building was primitive and inconvenient. We all lived simple lives – that’s how people lived then. The spiritual aims are still the same, but now they have beautiful buildings. We didn’t have uniforms – we didn’t need them – everyone dressed very simply, without making others feel uncomfortable. Today we need the uniforms. We lived simply then. We made our own fun; nothing we did was hard for our parents to afford. Now, all the trips and activities cost a lot of money. But the spiritual aims are still the same, Am Yisrael Kodesh, as they should always be.”

 

“A lot of our teachers were students of Sarah Schneirer. They inspired us to want spiritual goals. No one cared that our building was dumpy – we loved it. Our pleasure came from learning, from reading. Most of us became teachers – not a very materialistic profession! Few of us had cars or houses.”

 

So no one had financial requirements for shidduchim in those days? I ask.

 

She laughs. “No.”

 

So, what inspired her to write a book about her parents? In the preface she explains movingly. “In every generation, there are tzaddikim who could have fit in very well in the generations of old. However, they were placed in their own particular times in order to teach those around them and to serve as inspirations to them I shall attempt to restore to life these rare individuals who remain everlasting models of osai chessed viyirei Hashem all the days of their lives. I was privileged to be their daughter, to be raised by them, and to learn, on a day-to-day basis, what the real purpose of life on Earth is all about.”

 

Memories and Miracles is about Mrs. Kenner’s family history, spanning generations, but it also gives a glimpse into pre-war Europe, and various personalities who lived in that time. As I was reading it, two thoughts kept crossing my mind: how does she have such encyclopedic knowledge of family trees and ancestors who lived before she was born? And, I wish someone could write such a book about my family. In truth, every family should have a family historian, so that future generations should know and take pride in their roots. Her family is certainly lucky to have such special ancestors (among their yichus they count such well-known figures as the Kli Yakar, Rav Shlomo Ephraim Lenchitz; and the Bach, Rav Yoel Sirkis) and such a knowledgeable historian.

 

She describes to me how much she enjoyed writing the book. “As I wrote, more and more memories surfaced. It was a very exciting time in my life. I originally intended the book for my family, but others expressed interest and I thought it would be nice to share with others. I sent a copy to an orphaned cousin of mine, and she was so excited to read stories that she had never heard about her mother. I actually gained a number of relatives from as far as England, and also from New York City that I never knew existed through the book. They bought the book, realized we were related, and wrote to me. Now we are in touch.”


 

A fitting reward indeed for such an ardent perpetuator of family legacy.

Memories and Miracles is available for purchase at Z. Berman Books in Brooklyn and Passaic, and at Judaica Plaza in Lakewood.

Negotiating With Our Teenager: Understanding The Dynamics Of ‘The Deal’ (Part II)

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

Dear Rabbi Horowitz:

Our eldest child is in 10th grade at a local Bais Yaakov. She is doing well in school and is generally well-behaved at home. However, over the past year or so, everything we tell or ask her becomes a full-scale negotiating session. It doesn’t make a difference what the issue is – curfew, when to do her homework, when to clean her room, etc. It is draining our energy and eroding our relationship with her.

Here are our questions:

1. Is this normal?

2. Isn’t it disrespectful for children to challenge their parents like this? Neither of us thinks we did this to our parents.

3. Do you have any practical suggestions for us?

Names Withheld

Rabbi Horowitz Responds (Continued)

Two weeks ago we discussed the notion of your need as parents to nourish your self-esteem and realize that when your daughter negotiates with you she is, in a roundabout manner, acknowledging your authority. We also noted that you would be in the best position to effectively parent your child when you are confident, comfortable, and in control. That means speaking calmly and not lashing out verbally, and developing an aura of tranquility.

As for the practical tips you asked for, here are some techniques that you may wish to share with your teenage daughter – explaining to her that she is far more likely to achieve a satisfactory response when doing so. Another way to pose this would be to establish these factors as “ground rules for negotiation” in your home. (These two approaches are different. The first is more progressive, the second more authoritative. Both are okay, so choose the one that suits you better.)

Negotiating 1.0:

1. A respectful tone must be maintained (no negotiation under fire).

2. Your daughter should share with you the reason that she finds it difficult to fulfill your request.

3. She should make a “counteroffer.”

4. Assign a “value” for how important this is to her.

Here are some details for each of these:

1. A respectful tone must be maintained (no negotiation under fire).

This simply means that in order for your daughter to have her request listened to, she must present it in a way that is respectful to you. Please remember to keep calm if she is hostile or emotional. Yelling back shows you are not in control.

Keep replaying this mantra in your mind:

· I am the adult in this discussion.

· I am in charge.

· I need to demonstrate leadership and not yell back.

If this doesn’t work for you, tell your daughter that you are upset and need a few minutes to think clearly. You will get valuable time to reflect, and will also be exhibiting good habits to your daughter.

The best way to stop your daughter from yelling is to calmly say that you cannot respond to her when she is that upset. Suggest that she take a timeout and try again later in a more respectful manner.

When she does come back, do not begin the conversation by discussing her previous outburst. Leave that for the end of your talk or, better yet, for later that day. You should suggest that she apologize, without serious discussions about the temper tantrum – as that will then become the main event and distract from the conversation at hand.

2. Your daughter should share with you the reason that she finds it difficult to fulfill your request.

Explain to her that this will help you take her request more seriously. “Can I stay out until 11 p.m., since all my friends are leaving at that time?” is far more explanatory and reasonable than “Can I stay out until 11 p.m.?” As a parent, it is important to understand how important peer pressure is at this stage in your teenager’s life. Please don’t tell her not to care what her friends think of her. That is one surefire way to create a chasm between you and her.

3. She should make a “counteroffer.”

If your daughter is unhappy with your 10 p.m. curfew, she should say, “I’d like my curfew to be 11 p.m., please.” She should not say, “I can’t do that” or “No way.”

This value, that she should take the position of a reasonable adult and make you a counteroffer, is important to teach her.

4. Assign a “value” for how important this is to her.

In my recent column, “Is Everything A 10?” (http://www.rabbihorowitz.com/PYes/ArticleDetails.cfm?Book_ID=895&ThisGroup_ID=238&ID=Newest&Type=Article), I wrote a paragraph about the concept of having children express the (relative) importance of things to them by assigning them values. Here is that text:

One of the techniques I have found most helpful when mediating disputes between rebellious adolescents and their parents is to give the teenager six or eight index cards and ask him or her to jot down a request or concession that he or she would like his or her parents to grant on each of the cards. Then I ask the teen to stack the index cards in priority order, with the most important request on top. Finally, I have the teen assign a value from 1-10 for each of those requests, with 10 denoting something that he or she would consider of paramount significance and 1 representing a matter that is not terribly important.

I then hand a similar number of index cards to the parents of the adolescent and ask them to do likewise. And while this exercise is certainly not a miraculous cure for friction between teens and their parents, it is often helpful in establishing healthy dialogue and effective problem solving in a strained relationship.

In a similar vein, it may be helpful for your daughter to inform you how important this request is to her on a scale of 1-10.

One final point:

There are three possible outcomes. You may agree with her, meet her halfway, or you may need to stick to your guns and deny her request outright. If and when you are flat-out sticking to your guns, be sure to validate her feelings and let her know that you took her request seriously. Explain to her that you, too, have things that are a “10″ to you.

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is the founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey, and the founder and director of Agudath Israel’s Project Y.E.S. To purchase Rabbi Horowitz’s D’var Torah sefer, Growing With the Parsha, or his popular parenting tapes and CDs (including his 2-CD set on “Raising your Adolescent Children”), please visit www.rabbihorowitz.com, e-mail udi528@aol.com or call 845-352-7100 x 133.

Negotiating With Our Teenager: Understanding The Dynamics Of ‘The Deal’ (Part I)

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

Dear Rabbi Horowitz:

Our eldest child is in 10th grade at a local Bais Yaakov. She is doing well in school and is generally well behaved at home. However, over the past year or so, everything we tell her or ask her becomes a full-scale negotiating session. It doesn’t make a difference what the issue is – curfew, when to do her homework, when to clean her room, etc. It is draining our energy and eroding our relationship with her.

Here are our questions:

1. Is this normal?

2. Isn’t it disrespectful for children to challenge their parents like this? Neither of us thinks we did this to our parents.

3. Do you have any practical suggestions for us?

Names Withheld

Rabbi Horowitz Responds

Nowadays, we keep hearing (appropriately so, I might add) that kids need healthy self-esteem. I think that with the incredibly complex and challenging job we face, parents need to nourish their self-esteem as well.

With that in mind, I will share with you a short phrase I tell people whenever the issue of negotiating with kids comes up in the Q&A segment of a parenting lecture: “only the boss negotiates.”

Think about it. When you are attempting to secure a pay raise at work, the only one that you approach is your boss or supervisor. Why? Because no one else in the hierarchy of the business has the authority to grant you additional compensation for your work aside from him (or her).

Thus in a roundabout manner, whenever your teenage daughter negotiates with you, she is acknowledging your authority in a very profound, albeit indirect, way. It’s almost as if she approached you and said the following things in sequence (all things in parentheses are unspoken sentiments):

1. (I know that I need to listen to you because you are my parent)

2. (If you refuse my request, I will have no choice but to accept your decision)

3. (Now that we got that out of the way), “Can I please stay out until 11 p.m. instead of 10:30?”

Now, doesn’t that sound better?

While we are in the parental “self-esteem-building mode,” please consider the fact that it is also a compliment to the two of you that the lines of communication are open between you and your teen. Trust me, that’s not always the case. In fact, when parents tell me that their teens are completely ignoring their house rules, I almost always send them for professional counseling – as that is a clear sign that there is a complete breakdown in the “chain of authority” at home. Reclaiming that takes wisdom, time and patience – and the willingness to change.

This “self-esteem-for-parents thing” is very important since you will be in the best position to effectively parent your child when you are confident, comfortable and in control. That means speaking calmly, not lashing out verbally, and developing an aura of tranquility.

Getting back to the analogy of your boss at work, think of how your respect for your boss would diminish if he yelled at or refused to listen to subordinates when they discuss things with him. You would correctly feel that he is not in control of things. So having the self-confidence to feel in charge and in control of your household will position you to effectively parent your teenage daughter when she “negotiates” with you.

Now, to your first two questions:

1. Is this normal?

This is most certainly normal. Kids have been doing this forever. The tone may have changed over the years, due to a number of societal changes (explaining the reasons for this is beyond the scope of this column), but kids have always tried to negotiate with their parents.

2. Isn’t it disrespectful for children to challenge their parents like this? Neither of us thinks we did this to our parents.

That depends on how the negotiating is done. It is not disrespectful for your child to “negotiate” with you, provided it is done in an atmosphere of ne’imus and derech eretz. Your task as a parent is to train your child to act this way. (Next week, I will share some practical tips to help you accomplish that goal.)

As for whether you did this to your parents, why don’t you ask them? Their answer may surprise you.

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is the founder and menahel of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey, and the founder and director of Agudath Israel’s Project Y.E.S.

To purchase Rabbi Horowitz’s D’var Torah Sefer, Growing With the Parshah, or his popular parenting tapes and CDs (including his 2-CD set on “Raising your Adolescent Children”), please visit www.rabbihorowitz.com, e-mail udi528@aol.com or call 845-352-7100 x 133.

On Davening (Part I)

Friday, June 15th, 2007

Dear Rabbi Horowitz:

My 12-year-old daughter is, B”H, a well-rounded, hardworking Bais Yaakov girl. She takes her schoolwork seriously and has a nice circle of friends.

Recently, I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend. On Shabbos and Sunday morning, when she does not have school, she has begun to sleep in unusually late and often does not daven Shacharis. Even when she wakes up with enough time to daven, she seems to be procrastinating and looking for excuses to avoid having time to daven. This is particularly disturbing to me as her mother, due to the fact that I’ve always made a great effort to daven every day – despite the challenges it entails.

How do I get my daughter to appreciate the chashivus and beauty of tefillah without making her feel that yiddishkeit is a burden?

Yocheved

* * *

Dear Rabbi Horowitz:

My eight-year-old son comes to shul with me Shabbos mornings. I enjoy walking to shul with him, and we both like spending the time together. However, he quickly gets bored after about 15 minutes of davening. What can I do to motivate him to daven better?

My wife keeps telling me to “lighten up” with him, and not subject him to such a long davening in shul. I keep telling her that I went to shul when I was his age.

We would appreciate your hadrachah (guidance) with this issue.

Nachum

Rabbi Horowitz Responds

Yocheved, Nachum:

I guess that an effective method for addressing your questions would be to analyze the factors and conditions that are conducive to creating the environment for sincere tefillah – in adults! If you are a regular reader of this column, you know that it is my strong feeling that many of the issues that we deal with in raising children are, in fact, issues that we as adults are struggling with.

Once we have a better understanding of these factors and conditions, it will be easier to reflect on your child’s unique situation as it pertains to his/her davening. You will then be in a better position to develop an action plan to help with that process.

I would suggest that among the many possible prerequisites for inspired tefillah, four important ones would be:

1) A rudimentary understanding of the Hebrew text of the davening and, preferably, an appreciation for the context and deeper meaning in these tefillos.

2) A feeling of vulnerability or a void/need in our lives that we hope tefillos will fill.

3) A feeling of connection to Hashem, and the faith that our tefillos are answered.

4) In the case of children, age-appropriate settings and expectations for tefillos are in order.

A careful reading of these factors will reveal that if any of these are lacking, it is entirely possible that the result will be rote, uninspired tefillos or, worse yet, a complete lack of participation in tefillah. Please permit me to expand on each of these items – with some suggestions for remediation in areas that may be lacking.

Understanding Our Tefillos

When parents would solicit Reb Yaakov Kaminetsky, zt”l, for advice on how to inspire their children to daven properly, he was known to ask them if their children understood what they were reading. When you think about it, it is a rather logical question. After all, imagine if we were asked to recite Latin poetry (lehavdil) with emotion and passion – while not understanding what we were reading!

If you find that your child is lacking an understanding of the basic tefillos (and perhaps this is an area where you are also in need of assistance), perhaps consider exploring the meaning of davening during your Shabbos meals. You may also think about approaching the rav or president of your shul to discuss the possibility of introducing shiurim on tefillah in your shul.

Another way to go would be to purchase some of the superb English-translation siddurim – including the recently released “trans-linear” ones. They are powerful tools in our efforts to increase appreciation for our tefillos. And please do not get hung up about what “others” or your children will think about your need for assistance in gaining a better understanding of davening at this stage in your life. It is a wonderful and powerful statement that you take davening seriously when you invest time, money and effort in personal and spiritual growth. Our children watch us very carefully, and they will be picking up an invaluable chinuch lesson from you when they see that you are willing to face your shortcomings and have the courage to self-assess and shteig (grow spiritually) – even years or decades after you left yeshiva or Bais Yaakov.

The Shidduch Battlefield (Conclusion)

Wednesday, July 5th, 2006

       In my previous column I wrote how apprehension has replaced anticipation when a son or daughter enters the shidduch parsha. What used to be a time of excitement a generation ago, when young frum men and women of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, etc. dated and eventually married – has today become one of worry, as girls wonder if they are deemed worthy enough to get on a boy’s ” list” – let alone be asked out on a date – and boys seem to be on a dating merry-go-round – going in circles and not getting anywhere.

 

      Why has the natural process of finding a mate and getting married become an ordeal in the heimishe community?

 

      Before I express my thoughts on the matter I want to emphasize that I am not a social scientist or a psychologist. I’m someone who had children in the parsha as well as having friends whose children currently are in the shidduch scene. My comments are based on their collective experiences.

 

      This sorry state of affairs as I see it, is the inevitable outcome of an unfortunate mind-set that has imploded in our frum community- that of “kimt mir” literally translated as “it’s coming to me” but meaning “I deserve” Young people and/or their families are saturated with a sense of entitlement, the by-product of gayva - preening inflated pride.

 

      People seem to think that they are way above average – that there is something special and superior about them and consequently they have to be very selective over who they are m’chidduch with – who they can let their children marry.

 

      Money, looks, and yichus (status) are on the top of the list, which is understandable to an extent. Why not want this for your child? Unfortunately those who feel this is coming to them reject wonderful shidduchim, young men and women who have great midos and are true avdei Hashem, just because they fall a little short in the looks, money or status department. So these amazing young people are overlooked and ignored and getting older. Meanwhile the fussy parents often end up with their own “gems” tarnishing with age – because often their kids are rejected by those who consider themselves to be on an even higher level. Ironically, most of these families have a skewed view of their own “importance.” They are not the “big deals” they like to gloat that they are.

 

      There is also too much focus on the superficial and not enough on what really counts – midos, maturity and flexibility.

 

      Instead people accept a shidduch based on ever increasingly ridiculous criteria, such as the quality of the robe the mother wears on Shabbat, the brand of the frozen gefilte fish she serves, whether the bubbie lugs her groceries in a cart or instead takes a car service after shopping. I recently came across a new one in The Jewish Press in which a woman writes that a pre-teen boy from a heimishe family who spends his summer at home as opposed to his school’s summer camp in the mountains will damage his ability to make a “good” shidduch.

 

      Intelligence agencies probably do not scrutinize job applicants as thoroughly as our community does when considering a shidduch. I won’t be surprised if things will get to such a state that the dating candidate will be checked for the kind of diapers he/she wore – whether they were brand name shtatie (fancy) or just generic.

 

      In my day – if a family was shomer Shabbat and kosher, if the boy/girl went to a yeshiva or had a Bais Yaakov or day school education that was good enough for most Orthodox families. We’ve become so stuck on labeling people and evaluating them accordingly based on nonsense – like the kind of hat the boy wears – instead of focusing on what’s in his head. There is so much micro-labeling that it’s a wonder that any two families match. I sincerely believe that if it were halachically allowed, brothers and sisters would marry because no one else would be good enough for their parents. (As it is, in some circles, cousins marry each other for generations.)

 

      And of course kids from divorced families are “treif.” Never mind that there are so many organizations for off-the-derech kids – kids who are on the street, or still home but who secretly are alcoholics, drug users or who have eating disorders – who come from two-parent “heimish” families. And what about those young people who grew up in one-parent homes who are now leading lights in the community?

 

      Those who had a parent who died of a disease like cancer are also on the “not for my kid” list. Many of them have elderly grandparents. I had friends who sadly died of breast cancer years ago and yet their mothers are well into their eighties. Obviously, the Angel of Death has his own timetable.

 

      When our community judges each person as an individual – not as a statistic; when people get off their “high horses” and see in the mirror that they are actually “riding on mules”; when we lose our collective sense of “I deserve only the best” – but use superficial criteria in assessing what the “best” means, then I truly believe the shidduch crisis will resolve itself and the trip to the chuppah will be once again one of welcome excitement.

Responses To Chronicle Of 12-30 (One-Sided Love) – 2/10/06

Wednesday, February 8th, 2006

Dear One Sided Love,

Your frustration was palpable, as was your bewilderment, at your wife’s attitude. Your letter was teeming with pivotal issues deserving whole columns of their own. Please allow me to address just a few.

Firstly, it is an absolute tragedy for a woman to be in a marriage for 19 years where she dislikes intimacy. It bespeaks a repressed suffering that inevitably leaves its ugly mark on her and her family. For women, physical and emotional fulfillment are often inexorably bound. Clearly, your wife is not being satisfied in either domain. She says she does not care if you look elsewhere… hard to believe. I would speculate that the intimate relationship between you two is so wounded that she may just be saying it to hurt you … or can intimacy be so torturous for her that she prefers that you leave her alone at any cost? Her statement sounds like a cry for help, and is not to be construed by her man as an excuse for disloyalty. Would you be as understanding if she were to cheat because her needs are not being met?

You mentioned more than once that you love your wife and think she is beautiful. You however omitted any description of her heart, her mind, her soul. All women want their husbands to think they are beautiful, but they do not want their husbands to love them because of that.

Lastly, you wrote that your wife even thought kissing was “dirty.” This unfortunate mindset is a real problem that needs to be tackled. There is a delicate balance in conveying the Torah’s perspective of the beauty of intimacy without compromising on the tzniut of the topic. I read a book that does an excellent job balancing these ideas, called Marital Intimacy: A Traditional Jewish Approach, by Rabbi C. Friedman. Perhaps this book, serious marital counseling, and an earnest desire to give to your wife will jumpstart the road to a more fulfilling marriage for both of you.

Feeling for you both

Dear Rachel,

I want you to know that your column is the first (and sometimes the only one) I check out each week in our weekly Jewish publications that arrive in our home.

Rachel, I must say you were way too harsh on this young man who wrote to you regarding his love not being reciprocated by his wife. That man clearly described what he does for his wife by working hard and providing her with all her needs, including a cleaning woman three times a week, weekly manicures and pedicures – and of course the rest of the letter was about him. Who else would it be about?

In my humble opinion, man’s need for physical fulfillment is stronger than (most) woman’s. Our urges are more easily controllable, while men need women for “halachically” acceptable physical release.

Once a month is not enough for a man to be satisfied. You were 100 percent right in stating that the laws of niddah are a wonderful aphrodisiac. If this woman cannot get together with her husband during this two-week period on a more frequent basis, what exactly is the husband to do?

I am a Bais Yaakov girl, 43-years old and have a large family. What that man wrote about Bais Yaakov girls being taught that anything relating to sex is dirty is correct. Actually, we are taught NOTHING about physical human relations and have to figure most of it out on our own. How are girls supposed to be knowledgeable in these matters? I still have a hard time coming to terms with the physical aspect of my marriage, yet one gets used to it. Do we have a choice?

It is definitely a commitment to incorporate the physical facet of one’s marriage into a hectic lifestyle. My husband frequently arranges for brief getaways to make it a little more convenient. The children are always around. What does one say to a 21, 18, 16, 14, and 12-year old child when going to the mikvah? Exercise? Shopping? It’s plain and simply not easy.

The bottom line is, this man’s wife sounds like a pampered princess who cannot be bothered with offering a little love and affection. And it’s not fair to her husband!

I know this is the complete opposite of what you responded, but please be brave and print at least part of my letter.

Finally Getting Acclimated

Dear Rachel,

As a therapist, I can tell you that confusing sex with love is a common male problem. The benefit of consulting a professional counselor (as you suggest) is that this would obligate the couple to listen to each other’s responses – while at home they could easily ignore one another.

Dear Rachel,

You omitted an obvious point: It is never okay to say to a spouse that one will find fulfillment outside of the relationship … aside from the fact that it is not an effective strategy.

Dear Rachel,

Thank you for printing the letter from the man who complains about his unresponsive wife. It’s about time someone brought the topic into the open and addressed it so precisely from every angle.

In a world where “the Hollywood couple” seems like the ideal picture for all to emulate, we must be cognizant that “the grass only seems greener on the other side.” Every couple has their marital issues, some more problematic than others. The point to remember is that G-d created man and woman with different levels of desires/needs, and therefore we must remain patient with our spouses in regard to this delicate issue. Of course during times when the matter needs to be addressed, it does help to have a tolerant husband – one who knows when to say and do the right thing.

For better or worse, we’re in it together

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/chronicles-of-crises/responses-to-chronicle-of-12-30-one-sided-love/2006/02/08/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: