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October 21, 2014 / 27 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Dear Dr’

Ignoring The Hurtful Comments Of Others

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael:

I am, Baruch Hashem a happily married woman of 10 years with two children. As I am trying to expand my family, it seems that Hashem has other plans for me (my husband and I have not been able to conceive another child). Of course we want more children, but we can only do our hishtadlus and leave the rest up to Hashem.

Many painful questions and comments are often said to me about my situation. Well-meaning family members say, “Nu, what are you waiting for? You’re not getting any younger.” Do people seriously think that we are choosing to wait? Even if that were the case, why is it anyone’s business what we do with our life?

I try to put on a brave smile and say something like,” B’ezras Hashem, we will have more children soon” – but inside I am falling apart. Why don’t people understand that just because a couple has two children does not mean that they are not experiencing fertility issues? Baruch Hashem, my husband and I are lucky to have two children without any outside interventions, but now even with outside interventions, we are having a hard time conceiving. I know that I should be grateful for the children we have and that I should focus on life’s positive aspects, but these comments by family and strangers are really starting to get to me.

What am I supposed to say to nosy people who make inappropriate comments? My parents and in-laws know what is going on, but we do not feel comfortable sharing our intimate details with extended family, friends and neighbors. Our siblings and close friends understand that we are going through a difficult time, but other “well-meaning” individuals do not seem to be as quick to catch on. How do I politely tell these people that my private life is none of their business? I cannot take the stares at my belly or the not-so-subtle comments any longer!

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous:

It is very difficult for couples struggling with infertility; especially frum couples who are expected to have many children within a short amount of time. Unfortunately, well-meaning people often say very inappropriate things. Some simply do not know the right thing to say, while others are nosy and tactless.

It may be helpful to be upfront and say, “I appreciate your concern, but I would rather not talk about it.” If someone continues to press you for information, you can say something like, “I will be sure to let you know when the time is appropriate.” Then you can smile and walk away as quickly as possible. It is unfair that you have to bear these questions and remain polite, but maintaining your composure will generally be more productive for you in the long run. If the inquiring person is someone you see often or is someone with whom you are close, you may want to be more direct in order to avoid having to deal with constant questions and comments. Perhaps you can say something like, “I know that you are trying to be helpful, but it is very painful for me to talk about this subject. Please just continue to daven for me and do not ask me any questions. I will be sure to let you know if I have any good news.” If that person continues to ask questions and make comments, it may be better to lessen your contact with him or her so that you do not have to experience continuous anguish.

To those asking these questions and staring at women’s stomachs, please be more sensitive and think before you talk. I have many clients who struggle with infertility, and describe in therapy how hurtful it is for them to endure these inappropriate stares and comments. Try your hardest to not look anywhere near a woman’s stomach and to just treat infertile couples like you would everyone else. You should not be forcing anyone to deal with the elephant in the room; they know its there and your bringing it up is only hurtful. There are so many other topics to talk about, and most couples struggling with infertility would appreciate not being singled out and victimized with thoughtless comments and questions.

Criticizing While Respecting

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

Dear Dr. Respler:

My parents, who I love dearly, constantly contradict what I say to my children. They constantly interfere with the way my wife and I raise our children. For her part, my wife is very frustrated with this situation. What makes it harder for her, her parents live out of town while my parents live close by and are thus more involved with our children.

My mother is forever criticizing my wife, who is a wonderful mother and very caring and compassionate with our five beautiful children. My mother has a different view of how to raise children, and honestly, that makes we wish I had a mother more like my wife.

I struggle with low self-esteem, which my wife tries to bolster with her enormous love and sensitivity. I believe that my low self-confidence emanates from having critical parents who never complimented me.

My children are, Baruch Hashem, doing well in school. They have derech eretz, clearly showing that my wife’s childrearing techniques are working. My parents, conversely, are nervous people, and believe that children should be seen and not heard. They believe that we are wrong in not hitting our children. They are so critical that it drives us both crazy. I have spoken to them numerous times about not interfering in the way we raise our children and he last things I want to do is keep the children away from them.

We have spoken to our rav who has made it clear that while we do not have to accept their child-raising suggestions, we are obligated to respect them. Please help us with this challenging situation.

Frustrated

Dear Frustrated:

It appears that your parents need to control you in some manner and choose to do so through criticizing the way you raise your children. Critical people are often insecure and need to control others in order to bolster their own self-esteem. Is it possible for you to change the subject when your parents begin to criticize you? If their criticism persists, you can respectfully disagree by saying, “Mom, Dad, is it possible that even if you don’t agree with our childrearing techniques, you can respect our methods and not criticize us? We feel hurt when you constantly criticize the way we raise our children. It is also not healthy for the children to see this disagreement.”

In my professional practice, I see grandparents who were very strict with their own children and then undermine them when they are disciplining the grandchildren. This is incredibly in appropriate. It is only in situations where grandparents witness their children damaging their grandchildren in some way or, chas v’shalom, acting abusively or neglectfully toward them do they have the right to intervene. Even then, they should tread lightly to ensure that their interventions are taken the right way.

I support your efforts to respect and love your parents by not severing the important bond between them and their grandchildren. However, you must demonstrate derech eretz toward your parents when discussing with them their inappropriate, meddling behavior and when telling them that you do not want to ever be faced with the possibility of having to sever that very important bond. If your parents realize how serious you are, they will hopefully back off. Continue to be supportive of your wife by working with her in continuing the successful chinuch that you are giving your children.

As for hitting your children, I too do not generally believe in that technique. Sometimes, though, hitting young children gently in order to explain a point may be appropriate. A rav I once spoke to about hitting shared this perspective. The rav felt that American parents who generally hit their children do so in order to pacify their own frustrations, i.e., they hit to rid themselves of their self-anger.

Al pi halacha, we are not allowed to hit children when we are angry. Some tzaddikim were known to hit their children gently when they were not angry in order to teach them. Since we are not on their madreigah and we generally hit our children to alleviate our own frustrations, it is forbidden for us to do so.

Here is a beautiful story that I learned from Project Derech: The eight sons of Rav Shlomo Carlebach, a rav in Germany, all grew up to be rabbanim. Whenever one of his sons was late to minyan, his punishment was to not get jam on his toast. But Rav Carlebach also did not put jam on his own toast, to show the child that he felt his pain and would thus deny himself that eating pleasure as well. This level of childrearing is one that we should aspire to. If we deny ourselves of a small privilege and therefore share the pain with our children, they will be less likely to have punitive feelings toward us and will ultimately have a very deep regard for us, their parents.

Interacting With Coworkers

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael:

I am very happy and successful in my line of work. However, I am having trouble with a coworker and hope you can help me.

A few months ago, a new woman began working at my office. We share a workspace and often have to work together on projects. This woman seemed nice, but there have been several awkward situations between us that are really bothering me. First, she often acts like I am cutting her off during a conversation. Whenever I talk she makes a loud comment or sigh, indicating that I have done something wrong. Thus, I am always feeling like I hurt her or upset her in some way. I try to be very sensitive, but inevitably there is that sigh telling me I must have done something “wrong.”

She also tells other coworkers that I can’t make early morning meetings because I have a hard time getting to the office early. This is true, as I am married with several young children. But it’s the manner in which she says it – as if to make me look unprofessional. She could just say that since we are not required to be at work until 9 a.m., it does not make sense to schedule an 8:30 meeting – just in case anyone has outside obligations. Why must I look like the one who “cannot get here early” when we aren’t expected to be in then anyway?

I know it may seem as if these are not major issues, but I am having a hard time working with this woman and do not know how to improve the situation. She tries to be nice and there are times that we work very well together. But then there are other times.

Another coworker recently asked me why I am always apologizing to this woman. I replied that I might have said something to hurt her and feel badly because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. This coworker urged me to stop worrying about it, because it was clear this woman was not treating me well. I know that my co-worker is right, but I am the type of person who wants to get along with everyone. Additionally, I have a hard time hurting anyone, even inadvertently.

In short, here’s my dilemma: I don’t want to be consistently taken advantage of, nor do I want to hurt anyone’s feelings. How do I walk this fine line?

An Exasperated Coworker

Dear Exasperated Coworker:

It appears that your new coworker may be somewhat jealous of you. Perhaps she is envious of your success at work or the fact that you have a family. With her behavior seemingly inappropriate, something else may be going on that is causing her to act this way. Is she going through a difficult time personally? Is she an insecure person? Perhaps the answer to both questions is yes, as insecure people generally need to put down others in order to feel good about themselves. Maybe your new coworker tells others that you cannot make early morning meetings as a subtle putdown.

Writing about your quandary demonstrates that you are obviously a caring person who wants to do the right thing. If you feel that your new coworker would be receptive to discussing this issue with you, initiate a meeting with her. You can say something like, “Am I doing something to hurt you? I feel like you are often upset with me and this confuses me because I always try to do nice things for you and treat you with respect.” Ideally, your coworker will realize what she is doing and will begin to change her ways.

However, be prepared that this may not happen, as jealousy is a powerful emotion. Even if your coworker has no idea why she is subtly disparaging you or making you uncomfortable, jealousy is probably one of the main reasons.

If you must continue to work with this woman, it would be a good idea to “kill her with kindness.” You need not continuously apologize to her, but you can try to be extra nice to her, even buying her a small gift on occasion. I know this might sound odd, but when you give to someone, you begin to like that person more. For their part, most people who receive preferential treatment and presents from others tend to have a hard time criticizing the givers.

Improving One’s Mood

Friday, July 6th, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael:

For the most part, my husband is a very good husband and father. He loves our children and will often go out of his way to make sure their needs are met. He is also loving and good to me. However, he often comes home with a very negative attitude. When he arrives home from work, he sees nothing good. He criticizes the children for not being in pajamas or for not finishing their homework. Even if he is right on both counts, he does not convey his criticism appropriately or at the right time.

When my husband comes home, he should be excited and happy to see the children and me. I want him to be positive and loving and to notice all the good things the children have done. I want my children to be excited when my husband comes home, and not want to go to their rooms as soon as possible. While I don’t blame the children for not wanting to be around when my husband is acting negatively, I wish my husband would be more positive so that the children would look forward to his return home. I do not think that they dread his coming home from work; however, they are definitely learning to stay away from him.

I know my husband works hard and wants time to relax after a long day. But the children miss him and want his attention. What can I do to help my husband come home with a happier attitude?

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous:

It is difficult to ascertain why your husband is coming home in such a bad mood. Perhaps he is hungry and tired from a long day at work and wants to relax a little when he gets home. Maybe he is experiencing a lot of stress at work and is bringing it home with him. Or it’s possible that he just grew up in this kind of home and is recreating what he went through. If your husband is simply tired or hungry, or just wants some time to relax when he comes home, you will be able to easily remedy your situation.

When he is calm and not hungry, you can explain to him, in a gentle and loving manner, that he seems to be coming home in a very bad mood. It may be something he doesn’t even realize is happening. Ask him why he thinks this is. If he says that he does not know, ask him if he is having a hard time at work or if he is extremely hungry or tired when he returns home. If he says that he is hungry, one solution may be to send an extra snack with him to work, so he does not come home with an empty stomach.

Making your husband aware of this – in a non-accusatory way – is a step in the right direction. If your husband becomes defensive, make sure to remain calm and tell him that you know that he is a great husband and father. Assure him that you want to help him feel better when he comes home.

Devising a plan that works for both of you is key. It would be ideal if your husband could think of a solution, as people are generally more invested in something when it is their idea. So, even if you originate the jointly accepted idea, try to make it seem as if he came up with it. If he expresses a liking to your suggestion, say to him, “What a great idea. I like how you thought of it.” And if your husband is not on board with your idea, then make every effort to jointly create a plan of positive action.

Attempt to explain to your husband how hard you try to have things organized during the hectic period before he gets home, and that you get nervous when he comes home feeling unhappy. Using an “I feel” message generally helps people not to become defensive, as it puts the “blame” on you and not on the other person. Thus, saying things like “I feel bad when you come home upset. I want you to be happy to come home and I want the children to feel good about the time they spend with you. What can I do to help make this time easier for you?” would be helpful. This will likely make it easier for your husband to explain to you what is going on with him at the present time, and it will help you arrive at a solution together. Also, this is generally more effective than saying something like, “Why do you always have to be in a bad mood when you come home? It is extremely annoying and obnoxious, and I want you to stop it!” These ineffective comments will probably lead to a fight, and although you may release your frustration you will likely feel worse afterward.

Improving A Child’s Derech Eretz

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael:

I have five children, and am struggling with my oldest son. He can be so good at times, but then he will talk to me with such chutzpah. I want to have a good relationship with him, but I worry when he speaks to me this way – and therefore, I end up reacting badly. This creates a vicious cycle, as he speaks back to me with even more chutzpah. I know I should react differently, but how can I respond kindly when he is speaking to me in such a disrespectful way? Wouldn’t that set a bad precedent?

My other children are beginning to follow his behavior, and I feel like the situation is spiraling out of control. What can I do to stop my other children from speaking to me in the same wrongful manner as their brother? And how can I get my son to speak to me more respectfully?

A Frustrated Mother

Dear Frustrated Mother:

Thank you for your letter. I do not know your son’s age, but if he’s age-appropriate he should view my DVD, “Chutzpah is Muktzah2” (available in Judaica sefarim stores). If he’s past the age of eight, making him too old to get much out of this DVD, perhaps you should purchase it for your toddlers and younger children. The DVD teaches them how to behave with derech eretz (e.g. saying please, thank you, don’t wake Mommy, I’ll do it with pleasure, I am sorry, etc.) and features great musical interludes with famous Jewish singers.

The issue you raise is, unfortunately, very widespread. But you are already one step ahead of the game, as you recognize that your son’s behavior is inappropriate and are properly taking steps to rectify the situation. It is important to speak to your son when he is calm, explain to him that you love him, but it is hurtful when he speaks to you disrespectfully. Tell him of your desire to have a good relationship with him, and that you want his input into how this can happen. Try to come up with a joint plan focusing on how each of you treats the other. Explain to your son that as his mother, he must speak to you with derech eretz – but that you will change your tone with him as well, speaking towards him with greater derech eretz.

To give the plan an improved chance of success, devise ways to ask each other to do things while explaining the reasons why at times those things cannot be done immediately. A good way for your son to speak to you (and for faster results for you to speak to him) is to say “I’ll do it with pleasure” when you ask him to do something. Another thing to say if he can’t fulfill your request right away: “Is it possible for me to do it in one minute?” If he does not seem amenable to these scripts, develop your own verbal thoughts that work for both of you. (Remember that a prepared script is likely to make it easier for your son to speak more appropriately to you, as he will have a better idea of what you are looking for.)

Make sure to heap praise on him when he speaks with derech eretz. Similarly, if he reverts back to speaking disrespectfully, calmly say, “Can you please say that again with derech eretz?”

It is not a good time to attempt to change your son’s behavior if he is extremely tired or hungry. In those situations, it would be better to have him get some rest or eat something. Then you can quietly and calmly tell him that although you know he was tired and/or hungry, you still expect more from your special son than to speak with you in an unsuitable way. By staying calm, you are telling your son – without engendering more disrespect – that his actions are unacceptable.

Once the tone with your oldest son improves, your other children will likely follow suit in the way they speak with you. But you should speak with each of them as well. You and your husband should also converse in the same mode, setting a good example for your children to emulate. Children generally learn and act through the examples set by their parents. Additionally, it’s a good idea to role-play with them on ways to speak more respectfully, as this will ready them when the real situations arise.

Craving A Wife’s Emotions

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael:

My wife, who takes good, loving care of our children and is very generous with her time, has a closed nature. It is not in her character to pay compliments or show appreciation. While she tries valiantly to never raise her voice to the children or me and works hard to always speak with derech eretz, I yearn to hear her tell me that she loves me – although I know that she does. I keep trying to be giving and warm her, exhibiting what I want in return, but I am usually disappointed. After seven years of marriage, I see some changes – but they are very slight. I crave more openness and warmth from my wife.

Her family is less expressive than mine. My family is emotionally open and we often express how much we care for one another. My in-laws never really say, “I love you,” and so I know that is what she grew up with, but I want my wife to be more like my family and me. I want our children to be warm and expressive, and although they definitely bring out my wife’s limited warmth I still feel that she has a long way to go in this area. I am not trying to be critical because I love my wife and am very happily married, Baruch Hashem. However, her lack of openness sometimes frustrates me. I don’t always want to be the one who starts loving conversations, I want her to learn to trust me with her vulnerabilities by telling me more often how she feels. How can I help her overcome this closed nature?

A Loving Husband

Dear Loving Husband:

Family nature is significant and often contagious. Thus if your wife grew up in a family that was not expressive with their feelings, sharing her feelings with others will likely make her uncomfortable. Over the years it has become clear to me that people tend to subconsciously emulate the way they were raised. I applaud your continuous giving and warmth, but although modeling the behavior is very helpful, it would also be valuable for you to have an honest conversation with your wife about your feelings. In a warm and loving manner, consider saying the following to her:

“I really love you and treasure our relationship. I appreciate all the time and effort that you put into bringing up our children and caring our home, and the way you support and take care of me – as well as the derech eretz you have always shown me. I know that in your own way you try to be there for me. But you cannot imagine how much I crave your warmth and loving words. I know it is hard for you, but maybe you can try to initiate speaking to me in a loving and warm manner. It would mean so much to me.”

It is important that you try to be patient, as this is not something that can be changed easily. You may have to bring this up a number of times, always in a gentle and caring way – and never in a manner that is accusatory or nagging. It may even be a good idea to give your wife some examples of things she could say that would make you feel good.

You both may feel uncomfortable the first few times she says what you suggested, but it will become more ingrained in you both as time goes on. Think of the famous lesson, mitoch she’lo lishma, ba lishma – from doing something habitually, you may come to do it for Hashem’s sake. Even if your wife initially speaks more lovingly to you because you requested that she do so, she will become more comfortable speaking in this manner over time. And in due course it will become like second nature to her – as well as more meaningful.

Focus on the positive qualities that you acknowledge your wife displays. Be patient with her while continuing to be loving and warm, even if she is not initiating the types of conversations you are craving. You mentioned that there your wife has already demonstrated some change, so what you are doing is working, and she is really trying.

The Truth Always Wins Out

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Dear Dr. Respler:

When I read your May 25 column, Making Peace With Your Mother-In-Law, I started to cry, as I knew that the letter signer (Heartbroken Daughter-in-Law) was my daughter-in-law. We always discuss your column, and I guess it was her way of delivering a message to me.

Now here’s my side of the story. Other than acknowledging that I am the mother-in-law in that column, I will not supply any other details, so that no one will be able to identify me. Before the ballgame my daughter-in-law referred to, I was diagnosed with cancer. My situation has the doctors in a quandary. Some want to operate; others are opting for radiation/chemotherapy. They all agree that since it is early-stage cancer, surgery is preferable; however, due to my other health problems, they are uncertain that I would survive the surgery. Therefore, they are leaving the decision to me.

The diagnosis came shortly before the situation concerning the ball game. My husband got another ticket since I said that I had never been to a ballgame and wanted to experience one before I died. As death is on my mind all the time, I was so upset that I forgot to tell my daughter-in-law not to come with the kids (as she usually does when our husbands go to ballgames) – assuming that she would be understanding of my request. She was shocked when she arrived with the kids. For my part, I was so upset with my entire situation that I probably did not handle her reaction too well. You’ll remember that my son was upset and went home with his wife and kids, missing the game. When he came over the next evening we invited him to dinner, since we wanted to discuss my medical condition with him alone. He invited his wife to join us, but I was not yet ready to tell my daughter-in-law. So we informed our son about my situation over dinner, begging him to keep this secret.

When reading the column, I realized how much pain I had caused my daughter-in-law, who I truly love. Only then did I understand how confused she was by my behavior. When I immediately called her and told her what was going on, she began to cry. Then she invited us to come for Shavuos.

I’m writing this letter after an amazing Yom Tov. My daughter-in-law prepared an incredible amount of food (she made all of my favorites), with all kinds of surprises. She tried so hard to make me feel special, and is saying extra Tehillim on my behalf. Many rabbanim to whom we’ve spoken have given us brachos and have told us not to go public, since a nes nistar (hidden miracle) is preferable to hoping for a nes galui (open miracle). Thus we’re being urged to keep my health situation a private matter.

I know that when you often write about onas devarim (hurtful speech), you always mention the book, Positive Word Power, by the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation. I realized that I engaged in onas devarim in the way I treated my daughter-in-law.

Thank you for running my daughter-in-law’s letter. I hope you run mine as well so people will know that there was another side to this story. (It will also help to improve our level of communication.) I wish to reiterate that I really love my daughter-in-law and have apologized for any pain I caused her. She is very upset about my circumstance, and with the love she has shown me I don’t know why I did not tell my son and daughter-in-law – together – about my plight.

I hope Hashem helps me overcome my situation.

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous:

Your letter was truly heart wrenching.

When I ran your daughter-in-law’s letter it did not fully make sense to me, as I knew that I was missing part of the picture. So I asked her to speak to you in order to better understand the full picture.

Your painful story has taught me the importance of knowing the other side of a story. Yehudis Samet wrote one of my favorite books, The Other Side Of The Story, in which she attempts to help people find a way to dan chavercha lekaf zechus (judge others favorably) in cases of miscommunication. I often recommend that book to others. Your story, in fact, highlights how we often don’t completely understand a given situation.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/marriage-relationships/the-truth-always-wins-out/2012/06/15/

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