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September 16, 2014 / 21 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘behavior’

Stopping A Child’s Tantrum

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael:

I am married and have a two and a half year old son. He is a wonderful child, but when he does not get his way, he often has a tantrum. Sometimes, I just give him what he wants because we are in public and his behavior is embarrassing. But I cannot always give in, especially when what he wants is dangerous or unhealthy. It is then that I do not know what to do.

I try to ignore his behavior, but he just gets louder and louder. Then I get very frustrated and, I am embarrassed to say, yell at him or give him a potsch. While I feel terrible afterwards and try to make it up to him, the situation has becomes a vicious cycle.

What can I do to stop my son’s tantrums? I don’t want to yell at him, but I don’t know what else to do.

A Frustrated Mother

Dear Frustrated Mother:

Tantrums are hard to deal with, but there are some true and tried techniques that can help lessen them.

It is important to first understand why your son is having tantrums. Often children act out because they are seeking attention, are tired, hungry or are uncomfortable with or about something. Children also tantrum because they are frustrated, generally due to not being able to get something they want, e.g. an object or a parent’s attention. Frustration is an inevitable part of children’s lives as they learn how people, objects and their own bodies work.

This type of behavior is very common in children ages 2-3 as they are acquiring language skills and generally understand more than they can verbally express. It is this inability to communicate their needs that causes the frustration, which may trigger a tantrum. As children acquire more language and better communication skills, their tantrums usually decrease. However, it is important to not make it seem as if they are getting what they want because of the tantrum, as that does nothing more than cause it to be habit-forming and more difficult to control.

The most effective way to deal with tantrums is to, whenever possible, avoid them in the first place. Here are some strategies that can help:

1) Distraction is a very effective technique when it comes to tantrums. Children have short attention spans and can be distracted fairly easily. Give your son a replacement item for whatever he wants or begin a new activity to replace one that does not meet your approval.

Changing the environment can also be helpful. Consider using an excited voice and saying, for example, “Let’s go for a walk!” Even if your child is still screaming, chances are good that he will stop when you get outside. You can even begin to walk outside alone, knowing that most children will want to follow their parent – even when they’re upset. If you are unable to go outside, go to a different room and use a distracting activity to divert your son’s attention.

2) Children often tantrum because they want attention. This is because they prefer negative attention to no attention at all. This includes a parent’s reaction to a tantrum. Many studies show that when a parent gives a child attention, including the negative kind, the child will increase the level of his or her current behavior.

It is important to reward your son when he behaves well. Any positive reinforcement for non-tantrum behavior sends your son the message that he will get attention when he does not throw a tantrum. This will increase his positive behavior.

3) It is important to give your son a feeling of control. Giving your son choices is a great way to help him feel autonomous while still doing what you want him to do. For example, instead of asking him what he wants to drink, ask him if he would like a drink of water or orange juice (or something else that you find acceptable). This way, you are giving him the freedom to choose without the opportunity to ask for something you will not allow. So instead of asking your son whether he wishes to take a bath, an offer he is likely to refuse, use choice questions such as, “Do you want to brush your teeth before your bath or after your bath?” By giving your son as many acceptable to you choices as possible, you will avoid having arguing over his decision.

Is This Man a Charedi Hater?

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

In its most recent edition, Ami Magazine has accused Professor Samuel Heilman – a distinguished Professor of Sociology at Queens College of hating Charedim. I am all too familiar with accusations like this as I am often accused of being a Charedi hater myself. But the truth is that neither I nor Professor Heilman are such a thing.

Professor Heilman was interviewed for the article by Yossi Krausz and despite a fairly peasant encounter where no animus was shown towards anyone Charedi the conclusion was that Professor Heilman nonetheless still hates Charedim.

Mr. Krausz bases that accusation on the fact in his many books and articles on the subject Professor Heilman makes note of the problems in the Charedi world and attempts to explain them from a sociological perspective that is unflattering to them.

But as an expert in the field he certainly has a right to analyze them in ways that he believes to be accurate. Does that make him a Charedi hater – as the blurb on the front page of the magazine would have you believe?

I don’t think so. In fact it is completely unfair to characterize him that way. Professor Heilman is an Orthodox Jew. He is observant of the Mitzvos and is even Koveah Itim – setting aside time daily to learn Torah. What he has done is study the behavior of certain segments of Jewry and drawn conclusions as to why they behave in a certain way and sometimes cause a Chilul HaShem.

The fact is that there are such Jews among Charedim – as there are among all segments of Jewry. There are bad Jews everywhere that make us all look bad. Charedim cannot be left out of the equation just because they claim to be more religious than any other segment. The fact is that the more religious they claim to be the greater the stain of sin is seen upon them.

Whether that stain is in cheating on your taxes, or laundering money, or protecting sex abusers or any other evil – when a Charedi Jew does it, the negative statement made by them is magnified. So indeed they deserve more scrutiny and greater criticism. The damage to the reputation of the Jewish people by the most visibly religious among us is much greater and so too is the Chilul HaShem.

Professor Heilman has suggested sociological explanations for such behavior based on his studies and analyses – using his professional expertise in doing so. That does not make him a Charedi hater. It makes him an honest evaluator of the people he studies.

Even if he errs occasionally in his perceptions and assessments, that too does not make him a hater. Everybody is entitled to be wrong once in a while. That does not mean he hates anyone.

Does he have biases when he makes these evaluations? I’m sure he does. We all bring our biases into anything we say and do, including in the case of Professor Heilman – a sociological analyses of a group of people. But as an acknowledged expert in the field, his views should be valued far more than any lay person’s evaluation. And he should certainly not be accused of being a hater… even if it can be pointed out that he erred in some of those evaluations.

This is what Ami did. They took some of his statements and showed where he was wrong. A mistranslation here – a misreading there. Over reliance on others who weren’t as qualified as he is in studying and evaluating the group. But you can’t dismiss the totality of his work and claim an anti Charedi bias when the facts often speak for themselves. One need not go any further than this blog to see multiple instances of the kinds of problems cited by Professor Heilman in his books… and explanations that run the same way in many cases.

Just to cite one example the article makes mention of the dual way that the Chasidic community relates to their own people and outsiders. They point to a misreading of an ad that promises a 3 million dollar distribution of funds from a Pesach campaign to the poor of Williamsburg while the English translation says it is less than half that amount. Ami points out an error in interpreting the Yiddish and when examined closely the sign reads exactly the same way in both languages.

While that may have been a particular error in that case, I have personally experienced such duality in that neighborhood. One may recall my mentioning in a previous post about reading a sign on the door of a clothing shop in Wiliamsburg’s shopping district on Lee street that said “Closed” in English and “Open” in Yiddish! The duality is there –even if the particular example used by Professor Heilman was mistaken.

I understand the umbrage taken by Charedim at Professor Heilman’s statements. No one likes to be criticized, especially when some of the criticisms are seen as inaccurate. But if they would look in the mirror they might just see a bit of what Professor Heilman saw. These are things which are obvious to everyone but themselves. There is a lot of good about the Charedi world of places like Williamsburg. But it is not all good.

I’m not saying that Professor Heilman is always right. But he isn’t always wrong either. When someone his stature of points out some problems, instead of being so defensive they ought to take note of them and try to fix them. Certainly calling him a Charedi hater solves nothing.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

How To Make Resolutions Into A Habit

Friday, September 28th, 2012

There is a long laundry list of personal goals running through my head that I want to work on. I love taking advantage of a celebratory date to select one of these pressing items and promise myself that this time, I really will begin to do whatever it is that will make my life better. Yet, somehow, after the birthday or New Year passes, my fervent declarations are quickly forgotten and I lapse into my old behavior.

Somehow, though, when I meet someone who laments their lack of organization, I know all the right things say. I am quick to blurt out helpful tips and beneficial chores to achieve a smoothly run household, even as my audience is tuning me out. It’s hard for me to empathize, because organization is just something that comes naturally to me. The lists in my head are already segmented and in chronological order. This is not something I taught to myself; it’s a gift Hashem gave me. But perhaps, I can use the same process that gives me the quality of organization to achieve other worthwhile virtues, like the middah of shmiras haloshon, careful talk.

Using some research material I had available, I broke down a step-by-step plan to help someone become more organized, and tried to utilize those same techniques to help me achieve my own personal goals.

The first step in changing any behavior is to make the decision that you want to change. That would mean committing to the ideal of a smoothly functional household or in my case, only saying pleasant things. Rav Noach Weinberg zt”l, in his series of classes, 48 Ways of Wisdom, talked about making daily choices between what you want and what you feel like doing. What you want to do is, obviously, what you want to be doing, and what you feel like doing is the immediate gratification that you will regret come tomorrow, when you are reconsidering your decision to finish that great book instead of tackling the burgeoning laundry pile or indulging in that juicy piece of gossip instead of taking the higher road and protecting that friend’s feelings.

The familiar concept of the yetzer hara vs. the yetzer tov has within it the notion that although we may be of two minds, we are fully capable of listening only to the yetzer tov regardless of how enticing the yetzer hara may be. We only need to look at our past actions and how they have affected our life. How has the desire to procrastinate helped in the long run?

The second step is to pre-commit. In Daniel Akst’s phenomenal new book, We Have Met the Enemy, he talks about this concept. Pre-committing is when you limit choices in advance to deter temptation: don’t turn on the computer until your allotted chores for the evening are done or put Facebook on the blocked list if it’s causing negative middos. This has to be a binding commitment, one that you will be forced to carry out even if you lose your initial enthusiasm for the idea. Tell your spouse or children about your plan so that you will be held accountable.

Set goals for yourself on a daily basis, for example: wash and fold one load of laundry every day, or no lashon hara during the morning commute. It’s important to break a big project into small manageable parts, otherwise, it gets overwhelming and you’ll just push it off. This is why I wouldn’t recommend washing five loads on laundry in one day or no lashon hara during the lunch break when you are just starting. It would be too hard to maintain, making it tempting to just drop the whole project.

Of course, if you don’t meet your goals, there must be consequences. This is the last but most vital step. Set up a chart in a public place, and chart your habits. If you meet your goal for the night and week, you get a reward, but if not…

For example, unplug the phone if there’s a lashon hara slip-up. Or, if you don’t clean up after breakfast, there won’t be any sugar in your coffee at lunch time. Promising money to charity is popular, but an even better choice is to promise money to an anti-charity, which is donating money to an organization you hate. Rav Weinberg’s method is to hire a friendly “nudnik” to keep you honest. This person will check up on you to see if you have met your commitment, and if not, you have to give them money or do something for them. If you’re really committed to changing your behavior, check out this great website, StickK.com. You can set up a legally binding contract to change any bad habit. This had been proven to be especially effective at getting people to lose weight.

Road to Recovery

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Dear Brocha,

I am married for 5 years and am unsure how to proceed with my husband and his behavior. Our religion incorporates alcohol throughout the year and during life cycle events. Purim, Pesach, bar mitzvahs, weddings and every Shabbos kiddush (not to mention the kiddush club) all seemingly require alcohol as an integral and necessary ingredient. For my husband, it seems like there is always a “good reason” to make a l’chayim.

My husband is truly a wonderful and caring man. He is a faithful husband and an amazing father to our two children. However, when he drinks all of the positive qualities seem to disappear and the children and I are left with an irritable, moody, and at times, a very angry person. Whenever I broach the subject of his drinking, he tells me that I am being foolish. After all, he is a good provider, helps with the children, and is sensitive to our needs. “So, what’s your issue?” he always asks. He also keeps saying that he needs “an outlet.” He doesn’t tell me how to dress, and I shouldn’t be telling him what or how to drink. He gets defensive at the mere mention of his drinking – at times even becoming enraged.

Usually, after an outburst – meaning after he sleeps it off – he becomes very apologetic, regretful and promises to stop. However, every time he picks up that schnapps bottle he once again loses all self-respect, control and willpower.

It saddens me that my children are seeing this erratic and sometimes abusive behavior. They are young, ages 4 and 6, but as soon as my husband starts yelling they run to their rooms. I myself try to stay out of his way when he drinks hoping to prevent a major confrontation. I feel as if I live my life walking on eggshells. I am at my wits end, but I still love my husband and don’t want to get divorced over this. However, I feel that I might have to give him an ultimatum: the bottle or me?

Am I being too harsh, or do I need to let him have his “outlet?”

Seeking direction

Dear Seeking direction,

I feel for your situation and the traumatic events to which you and your children are subjected. You are not alone. However, I wish to laud you for your desire to salvage your marriage and wish you much hatzlacha in seeing this through!

Unfortunately, abuse of alcohol is one of the diseases that is swept under the rug in many homes. It is the cause of financial distress, emotional issues amongst children, continued cycle of abuse, break up of marriages, and is one of the major contributing factors to the ongoing youth at-risk epidemic.

The following is a list of symptoms of alcoholism, issued by the Mayo clinic:

Being unable to limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Feeling a strong need or compulsion to drink. Developing tolerance to alcohol so that you need an increasing amounts to feel its effects. Having legal problems or problems with relationships, employment or finances due to drinking. Drinking alone or in secret. Experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms — such as nausea, sweating and shaking — when you don’t drink. Not remembering conversations or commitments, sometimes referred to as “blacking out.” Making a ritual of having drinks at certain times and becoming annoyed when this ritual is disturbed or questioned. Losing interest in activities and hobbies that used to bring you pleasure. Irritability when your usual drinking time nears, especially if alcohol isn’t available. Keeping alcohol in unlikely places at home, at work or in your car. Gulping drinks, ordering doubles, becoming intoxicated intentionally to feel good or drinking to feel “normal.”

Alcoholism is a disease. One of the difficulties in recognizing alcoholism as such is that it simply doesn’t appear like one. At the onset, it doesn’t have recognizable physical manifestations, can occur unannounced and “under wraps”, and it certainly doesn’t act like a disease. To make matters worse, the abuser generally denies its existence and resists treatment.

Alcoholism has been recognized for many years by professional medical organizations as a primary, chronic, progressive and sometimes fatal disease. While the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence offers a detailed and complete definition of alcoholism, the simplest way to describe it would be as “a mental obsession that triggers a physical compulsion to use.” The rage, and what ensues when one uses, is a result of the compulsion to drink. In order to curb the rage and alleviate the mental anguish you are dealing with, the disease itself must be treated.

Judgment And Reckoning

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Question: A basic Jewish belief is that everyone ultimately will be judged. This final judgment is called din v’cheshbon, judgment and reckoning – see Avot 3:1. What is the difference between these two terms? What is din and what is cheshbon?

Answer: The Gaon of Vilna is reputed to have defined din and cheshbon as follows: Din is the judgment for the sin committed. Cheshbon is the reckoning for the time lost while the sin was being committed – time that could have been used to perform mitzvot. Thus, cheshbon deals with loss of potential. The person who complains about the lack of sufficient time for performing mitzvot is reminded about the time he wasted while sinning.

Rav Shlomo Kluger (Magen Avot) maintains that din refers to judgment regarding mitzvot and aveirot while cheshbon is the reckoning for excess in matters that are permitted in principle, such as food and drink. The Torah does not provide maximum limits for permitted items. Yet, a person may be judged to be gross or crude for indulging too much.

Some note that the sequence in Avot 3:1 seems backwards. Presumably, a cheshbon, a reckoning of the merits and sins of a person, comes before a din, a judgment based on that assessment. Why, then, does the tanna in Avot place din before cheshbon?

The Baal Shem Tov is said to have contended that reckoning actually takes place second. It takes place in Heaven after a person is shown someone who committed a sin similar to his own and passes judgment on that person.

How so? The most notable example is that of King David and the prophet Nathan. After David sinned by taking Batsheba as a wife, Nathan told him the following story: There were two neighbors. One was very wealthy and owned thousands of sheep. The other was quite poor; his sole joy was a pet calf. He played with it, slept near it, and shared his meals with it. One day, a guest came to the wealthy neighbor. Instead of slaughtering one of his numerous sheep, the wealthy man stealthily entered the poor man’s home, took the pet calf, and slaughtered it.

When David heard this story, he became enraged at the immoral behavior of the wealthy man and declared that he deserved a very harsh punishment. Nathan then asked the king how his behavior differed from the wealthy sheep owner’s. David had, after all, taken Batsheba away from her husband Uriah even though he had thousands of women available to him.

The Baal Shem Tov said that all men, like David, are shown people who performed their own sin in different form. They are then asked to pass judgment on them. Whatever judgment they pronounce on their fellow man another is assigned to them.

And this is why din precedes cheshbon. First a man passes judgment on another person in this world. Later, in the world of true judgment, there is a cheshbon, a reckoning based on the very judgment that he issued. (See Iyyunim BePirkei Avot by Rabbi Heshel Ryzman.)

Rosh Hashanah Guide for the Perplexed

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

1.  Rosh Hashanah and the Shofar (ritual ram’s horn) symbolize and commemorate:

*The annual reaffirmation of faith in God;
*The first human-being, Adam, was created on Rosh Hashanah, the sixth day of Creation, the first day of the Jewish month of Tishrey;
*The opening of Noah’s Ark following the flood;
*The almost-sacrifice of Isaac (thou shall not sacrifice human beings!) and the covenant of the Jewish People with God;
*The three Jewish Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and Prophet Samuel (the latter inspired Thomas Paine, the author of “Common Sense,” the cement of the American Revolution), were conceived/born during the month of Tishrey, which is called “The Month of the Strong Ones”;
*The release of Joseph from Egyptian jail;
*Mt. Sinai and receiving the Ten Commandment and the Torah;
*The commitment to liberty. The blowing of the Shofar also announces the beginning of the Jubilee (“Yovel” in Hebrew), which is a synonym of Shofar. The blowing of the Shofar represents deliverance from spiritual and physical slavery. It inspired the American anti-slavery Abolitionist movement;
*The reconstruction of the 2nd Temple and the destruction of both Temples;
*The ingathering (Aliya) to the Jewish Homeland, the land of Israel;
*The cycle of nature - seed planting season and the equality of day and night;
*Optimism in the face of daily adversity – genuine repentance and mending behavior warrants forgiveness;
*The fallibility of all human-beings, starting with Adam and including the most pious persons, such as Moses;
*Humility as an effective means to minimize wrong-doing;
*Restraint. Patience and long-term commitment – “Hashanah” in Hebrew (השנה) means “the year,” “change” and “repeat.”  No quick fixes!
*The “Ten Days of Awe” are initiated on Rosh Hashanah and sealed on Yom Kippur.

2.  Rosh Hashanah – unlike all other Jewish holidays – is a universal (stock-taking, renewal and hopeful) holiday. “Rosh” (Hashanah) means in Hebrew “beginning,” “first,” “head,” “chief.” The Hebrew letters of Rosh (ראש) constitute the root of the Hebrew word for Genesis, “Bereshit” (בראשית), which is the first word in the Bible. Just like the Creation, so should the New Year and our own actions, be a thoughtful, long-term – not a hasty – process. Rosh Hashanah is celebrated at the beginning of the Jewish month of Tishrey, which means beginning/Genesis in ancient Acadian. The Hebrew spelling of Tishrey (תשרי) is included in the spelling of Genesis (בראשית).

Rosh Hashanah is referred to as “Ha’rat Olam” (the pregnancy of the world), and its prayers highlight motherhoodoptimism and the pregnancies of Sarah and Rachel, the Jewish Matriarchs, and Hanna, who gave birth to Isaac, Joseph & Benjamin and Samuel the Prophet respectively. Sarah, שרה (the root of the Hebrew word, Israel, ישראל) and Hanna, חנה (the root of the Hebrew words Pardon, Amnesty and Merciful, חנינה) were two of the seven Jewish Prophetesses: Sarah, Miriam, Hanna, Deborah, Huldah, Abigail, Esther.  Hanna’s prayer has become a role-model for God-heeded prayers. Noah – who led the rebirth of humanity/world – also features in Rosh Hashanah prayers.

3.  The three pillars of Rosh HashanahRepentance (returning to good deeds – תשובה – in Hebrew), Prayer and Charity (doing justice – צדקה – in Hebrew).

4.  The Hebrew word for atonement/repentance is Te’shuvah (תשובה), which also means“return” to core morality and values and to the Land of Israel. On Rosh Hashanah, one is expected to plan a “spiritual/behavioral budget” for the entire year. The three Hebrew words, Teshuvah (Repentance/Atonement, תשובה), Shivah (Spiritual and Physical Return, שיבה) and Shabbat (Creation concluded, שבת) emerge from the same Hebrew root.  They constitute a triangular foundation, whose strength depends on the depth of education and commemoration. According to King Solomon, “The triangular cord cannot be broken.”

5.  Rosh Hashanah is mentioned in the Book of Numbers (29:1) as “the day of the Shofar blast” (Yom Te’roo’ah in Hebrew). The Shofar (ritual ram’s horn) is blown on Rosh Hashanah as a wake-up call, a break away from the professional, social and political mundane, in order to recommit oneself to roots and basic valuesrepair our order of priorities andmend human behavior.  Shofar (שופר) is a derivative of the Hebrew word forenhancement/improvement (שפור).  Blowing the Shofar symbolizes a new beginning – replaying the birth of the Jewish People – and the receipt of the Torah – at Mount Sinai, which was accompanied by sounding the Shofar.

6.  The Shofar should be humble (bent and not decorated), natural and unassuming, just like the foundation of a positive character in general and leadership in particular.

7.  The Shofar is the epitome of peace-through-strength.  It is made from the horn of a ram, which is a peaceful animal equipped with strong horns, fending off predators. The numerical value of the Hebrew word, “ram” (איל), is 41, equal to the value of “mother” (אם), who strongly protects her children.

8.  While the blowing of the Shofar is a major virtue, listening to the Shofar is at least as important a virtue. The Hebrew root of “listening,” האזנה, is Ozen, ear (אוזן), which contains thebalancing mechanism in our body (אזון).  Ozen is also the root for “Scale” (מאזניים) and “Balance,” which is the zodiac sign of the month of Tishrey.  Both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (when people balance their good deeds vs. bad deeds) are observed during the month of Tishrey.

9.  The three ways of blowing the Shofar express the inner constant values (Te’kiyah), the tenacious human marathon through success and failure (She’va’rim), and the determined pursuit of faith-driven long-term vision (Troo’ah).

10.  The three series of blowing the Shofar represent the faith of mankind in God (Malkhooyot), the centrality of history/memory/roots and God’s Covenant with the Jewish People (Zichronot) and repentance/enhancement (Shofarot).

11.  The three different soundings of the Shofar represent the three Patriarchs (Abraham – tenacity, fighting capabilities and mercy, Isaac – benevolence, Jacob – truth), the three parts of the Bible and the three types of human beings (pious, evil and mediocre), all of whom are worthy of renewal.

12.  Rosh Hashanah services include 101 blows of the Shofar. It is the numerical value of the Hebrew spelling of Michael, a Guardian Angel, which was one of the names of Moses.

13.  The pomegranate - one of the seven species that bless the Land of Israel – is featured during Rosh Hashanah: “May you be credited with as many rewards as the seeds of the pomegranate.” The pomegranate becomes ripe in time for Rosh Hashanah and contains – genetically - 613 seeds, which is the number of Jewish statues. The pomegranate was employed as an ornament of the Holy Arc, the holy Menorah (candelabrum), the coat of the High Priest and the Torah Scrolls. The first two letters of the Hebrew word for pomegranate (רמון), Rimon – which is known for its crown - mean sublime (Ram, רמ). The pomegranate (skin and seeds) is one of the healthiest fruit: high in iron, anti-oxidants, anti-cancer, decreases blood pressure, enhances the quality of blood and the cardiac and digestion systems. Rimon is a metaphor for a wise person: wholesome like a pomegranate.

14.  Honey is included in Rosh Hashanah meals in order to sweeten the coming year. The beeis the only insect which produces essential food.  It is a community-oriented, constructive and a diligent creature.  The Hebrew spelling of bee (דבורה) is identical to “the word of God” (דבור-ה).

15.  Shofar Blowing Commemoration Day (Leviticus 23) is one of the names of Rosh Hashanah. One can avoid – rather than repeat – past mistakes by learning from history. The more one remembers, the deeper are the roots and the greater is one’s stability and one’s capability to withstand storms of pressure and temptation. The more stable/calculated/moral is the beginning of the year (Rosh Hashanah), the more constructive will be the rest of the year.

May the New Year (5773 according to the Jewish calendar) be top heavy with truth, realism and tenacity and low on distortion, wishful-thinking and vacillation.

Visit Yoram Ettinger’s website The Ettinger Report.

The Benefits Of Countermoves: A Follow-Up

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Dear Dr. Respler:

Having enjoyed your column, The Benefits of Countermoves (Dear Dr. Yael, 8-17), I am now seeking your suggestions regarding my problem in this area.

My husband practices the “silent treatment,” whereby if I tell him something not to his liking or if I do something that does not meet his approval (these acts are not meant to hurt him) he can stop talking to me for hours or even for one or two days. After awhile, he returns to his normal behavior and we never discuss the issue again.

I am almost afraid to raise this issue since he may return to the silent treatment. By nature I am a bubbly, gregarious person while he is quieter and more subdued. When we get along he loves my personality. However, if I become too bubbly or gregarious when we are among Shabbos guests or extended family and he disapproves of something that I said, he will stop talking to me. He can become this way with little provocation.

My husband’s behavior can be triggered if I tell someone something about myself that he thinks I should keep private. I will beg him to stop, tell him that I love him and even cry – but he won’t relent. He becomes cold and silent and I am at his mercy. I will try to do nice things for him and act lovingly toward him, but nothing works. When he gets like this I cannot reach him and he totally controls me. As a result, I become very tense and upset. He can ruin a Shabbos and destroy hours of happiness – all for nothing. Sometimes, I am not even sure what it was that I said that set him off.

We are in our first year of marriage and spend a lot of Shabbasos and Yamim Tovim by our parents. We are both from large families and both sets of parents have lots of guests on Shabbos and Yom Tov.

Do you have any countermoves for my husband’s silent treatment? Other than the times I’ve described, we get along. But I am tired of crying and want my husband to stop with the silent treatment!

A Frustrated Newlywed

Dear Frustrated:

I have a great countermove for the silent treatment. To begin, you must stop giving your husband so much power over you. Thus, stop crying! It only feeds his power trip. Then tell him something like, “I understand that you need your space and I did not mean to upset you. When you are ready, I would love to talk to you.”

Then get busy with other things. Please do not feed into his need to control and upset you. If he persists in his no-talking mode, go out with friends. This will show him that you are busy and not upset. If you are close to your mother or sister, spend time with one or both of them – out of the house. When he sees that you are not begging him to be with you and that you are happy and content doing other things, you will see how quickly things will turn around.

What use will he have in playing the silent treatment game if you are not there to receive it? What pleasure will he derive if you are not upset and simply understand that he needs his space? Trust me that the silent treatment will disappear. You will be surprised at how quickly he will realize that it is no longer challenging or exciting to upset someone, namely you, who is so busy with her own life and is allowing him to sulk.

I have worked with many patients using this tactic. Sometimes it is the wife who practices the silent treatment. I had one patient, a husband, who would buy his wife expensive jewelry every time she went into her silent mode. When he tried my approach, she ended her shtick since it stopped getting her more jewelry or attention. He began learning more and spending more time in shul when she went silent. This caused her to quickly realize that she was losing all of his attention with her behavior. Believe it or not, she stopped using the silent treatment.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/marriage-relationships/the-benefits-of-countermoves-a-follow-up/2012/08/30/

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