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September 30, 2014 / 6 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Executive Director’

Responding To Problems With Prayer, School, Secular Music *

Friday, April 1st, 2011

The principles of Relationship Theory (where the greater the relationship, the greater the ability parents have to connect to their teenager) can help address some of the key issues facing teenagers today including: problems concentrating during prayers, difficulty in school, listening to secular music, smoking, rude behavior and alcohol and drug abuse.

It is important to note, however, that the suggested solutions do not offer black and white answers for these problems; rather, they provide an overall strategy for parenting that focuses on some of the inner issues that often hide below the surface and may be the underlying cause of a teenager’s at-risk behavior.

 

Problems with Prayer

Scenario: Your teenager doesn’t like to pray and won’t go to synagogue.

Possible inner issues: Control, meaning, learning disabilities, individuality

Difficulty in prayer may be rooted in several underlying issues. One common cause is that praying in synagogue can become an issue of control, especially when teenagers feel forced to go pray with their parents and siblings. Prayer can be viewed by teenagers as another obligation or chore they have to perform to make their parents happy.

When teenagers find it difficult to pray, it may also point to an underlying attention disorder. Some teenagers simply have trouble concentrating for long periods and may say, “I hate shul.” or “It’s boring!” What they really mean is “I can’t sit for a long time” or “I’m crawling out of my skin because I don’t like being in group settings for a long time.”

Some teenagers stop praying because they don’t find prayer meaningful. And this may not be their fault. Unfortunately our schools often neglect to teach the “whys” of prayer. Many teenagers have grown up learning only about the obligations of communal prayer and have not developed an appreciation for the beauty, structure and meaning behind the words.

As alternatives to confronting teenagers on the issue of prayer, possible relationship-based strategies include:

· Having your teenager assessed for attention difficulties. · Studying with your teenager the meaning and symbolism behind prayer. · Empowering your teenager by offering him or her choices about where and when to pray. For instance, a different minyan may be more enjoyable. · Spending quality time alone with your teenager instead of relating to one another only during synagogue services and at family meals.

 

Difficulty In School

Scenario: A teenager is having trouble in school and is failing in one or more subjects.

Possible inner issues: Learning disabilities, control, individuality.

Few challenges are as frustrating and difficult to deal with as a teenager who is having trouble in school. Often parents become agitated when they receive a disheartening report card or a call from their teenager’s principal to discuss the teen’s behavior. The most important strategy parents can try to adopt in this situation is to resist the temptation to blame teachers, the school or their teenager but rather seek out the cause of their teenager’s difficulties in learning.

One possible cause for failure in school is an undetected learning disability. Teenagers who struggle with learning are especially vulnerable to feelings of depression and despair. Many experience the embarrassment, confusion and humiliation that go hand in hand with falling behind their peers in school. Behavioral and adjustment difficulties – from isolation or withdrawal to clowning or acting out – can mask less visible signs of learning difficulties. The following signs may also be clues that an individual is experiencing difficulties with learning:

· Having difficulty paying attention · Hiding, losing or avoiding schoolwork or homework · Being especially sensitive to criticism, mistakes or poor grades · Giving up easily or appearing poorly motivated · Showing anger and frustration when engaged in schoolwork, homework or similar settings · Having attendance problems or developing school-induced sickness · Avoiding schoolwork through over involvement in other activities

Parents, however, can become catalysts for change when they begin to address the key issues that are affecting their teenager’s performance. Relationship-based strategies include:

· Having your teenager evaluated for possible learning disabilities · Hiring tutors to supplement your teenager’s learning · Highlighting your teenager’s positive qualities · Working with your teenager’s teachers to utilize his or her unique interests and abilities · Empowering your teenager with healthy levels of control

 

Listening To Secular Music

Scenario: Your teenager likes listening to popular music on an mp3 player.

Possible inner issues: Control, individuality, lack of satisfying relationships.

Music is one of the most inspirational forms of fine art. In its rhythm, melody and its variety of sounds, music transmits many exciting feelings and sensations. Its power is in its ability to penetrate straight into a person’s soul and to manipulate a person’s feelings. Depending on its content, music can evoke the most elevated and noble feelings or produce quite the opposite by arousing self-destructive or impulsive feelings.

Celebrating Jen

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

What a beautiful woman.  Really – in every sense of the word.  She was beautiful in appearance, beautiful in conduct, beautiful in spirits and wow, what a beautiful mother, wife and daughter.

There are so many people these days who ask the question “why do bad things happen to good people?”  This will not be the focus of this article.  Rather, I would like to share with my readers the essence of a remarkable person.

Jennifer was niftar (passed away) at the age of 39 after a thirteen-year battle with cancer.  According to her doctors, she should not have lived those thirteen years, but Jen had other ideas.  Jen was my niece, my wife’s brother’s youngest daughter.  It was almost thirty years ago, though it seems like yesterday, when our families got together in Niagara Falls.  In my mind’s eye, I can see Jen jumping up and down on the bed.  In fact, I believe we even have a picture of her doing so, somewhere in one of our many albums.

Jen was a fighter who would not take “no” for an answer.  She knew what she wanted and went after it.  She fought the fight of life, against all odds.  In doing so she leaves behind a remarkable legacy.  She met her husband when she was 31.  Because of her cancer treatment, it was suggested that the only way they could have children was by harvesting her eggs and using a surrogate mother.  Jen’s life reflects challenges with rewards.  When the harvested eggs did not take and the surrogate mother could not become pregnant, they decided to apply for adoption.  The adoption agency was overwhelmed with the wonderful traits of Jen and her husband and they soon became the proud parents of a little girl.  Shortly thereafter the surrogate mother became pregnant with the last harvested egg and they became the proud parents of a little boy.  Now they had two infants five months apart.  The children were her life and for her everything revolved around them.  In fact, when Jen went into the hospital for the last time, though she was already critically ill, she insisted on being able to leave in order to take her daughter to school for the her first day of kindergarten.  That was the kind of parent she was.

Why am I sharing this story with my readers?  Because Jen deserved the tribute and you deserve to gain from Jen’s story.  Her loss is our loss and her attributes should become our attributes – that of living a better life as a better spouse, child and parent.

Jen loved music.  At her funeral, her sister, a doctor, remembered her through Bette Midler’s song “Wind Beneath My Wings”.  How appropriate these words are as they reflect Jen’s love of others and of life.

 

“So I was the one with all the glory,
while you were the one with all the strength.
A beautiful face without a name for so long.
A beautiful smile to hide the pain.

Did you ever know that you’re my hero,
and everything I would like to be?
I can fly higher than an eagle,
’cause you are the wind beneath my wings.”

 

One of my favorite old songs is “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkle.  I can’t help thinking of this song as I remember Jen.  Hers were the attributes of love, being there for your friends when times get tough, relationships and caring.

 

“When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you “

In her death, Jen’s attributes can be a lesson for each of us.  Here are some of the descriptions of Jen given at her funeral.  She should be a mentor for each of us:

 

  • “UNSTOPPABLE.  And this, of course was the theme of HER life.”
  • “She came to my side and got me out of trouble on a regular basis….and this was the theme of OUR relationship”
  • “No hurdle too big for her”
  • “Gives you the shirt off her back”
  •  “Love and pride of her family”
  • “Thinking of others”
    • “Fun”
    • “Determination, tenacity, and her will to slay the dragon”
    • “Conviction, drive, determination, and inner strength”
    • “Persuasive in getting what she wanted”
    • “Message of love and a physical representation of hope, beauty, and pride”
    • “Confidante”
    • “Tenacity”
    • “Great mother”
    • “Didn’t question the wonderfulness of being here on earth”
    • “Celebrated life and fought for it like nothing you’ve ever seen”
    • “We all learned to live each day to the max and celebrate EVERY occasion”
    • “To know, know, know you is to love you”
    • “Fought a valiant fight”
    • “It is what it is.”
    • “Knew how to live life to its fullest and taught everyone else around her how to do just that”
    • “Her kids were her number one priority. Family was number 2. After that she had a long list”
    • “The key lesson that Jen taught us was to always try and not dwell on what is wrong with your life, but what is right with it. To plan your life and live it to the fullest, just like she did.”

 

“Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.” –Henry Van Dyke.

My hope for my family, and you, my readers, is that you will be inspired by Jen.  Learn to love like Jen did. Love your children, your spouse, but equally, and maybe more so, love yourself.

 

Mr. Schild is the Executive Director of Regesh Family and Child Services in Toronto, Ontario Canada.  He is certified as an Anger Management trainer and conducts many therapeutic workshops.  Regesh runs many programs helping families and youth dealing with personal and family issues in their lives.  He is currently open to speaking engagements.  He can be reached at 416-495-8832 extension 222 or eschild@regesh.com.  Visit www.regesh.com.  See our second website specific to our enhanced anger management clinic at www.regeshangerclinic.com.

There Is Nothing New Under The Sun – Or Is There?

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

(Ecclesiastes 1:9-14) What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.

From Ecclesiastes we learn the expression “there is nothing new under the sun” and when you read history you see how true this is. From cults to politics it seems as if nothing is really ever new. That also includes technology. While a certain invention or discovery can be classified as new, we often find it in nature much earlier. Arctic fish used anti-freeze in their bloodstreams long before people put it in their cars. There are airplanes, but birds flew much earlier; there are satellites, but the moon was there earlier. Whales are better than submarines and as for nuclear fusion; the sun and stars had that worked out long before we did.

This theme of “nothing new under the sun” came up on Tisha B’Av. It’s not a new theme and has shown itself from biblical sources to popular songs. However, in spite of the above, I question if this is really true. I don’t question that many modern innovations are often taken from the ancient, but is it possible that “there is nothing new under the sun?”

In fact, when one analyzes life today, it is relatively easy to say that there is nothing new. Politicians still do whatever they want, wars continue to be fought throughout the globe, people continue to cheat others and have meaningless hatred for one another. Children still test their parents and couples still cheat on one another. Look through the annals of history. People have always behaved that way. Homosexuality isn’t new; it’s in the Bible. Cheating on measurements; it’s in the Bible. Land grabs; it’s in the Bible. Power grabbing from the small people; it’s in the Bible. In fact, I think we could find current events in the Bible. So, perhaps it’s true, “nothing new under the sun.”

I remember learning from one of my professors that in psychology it’s not necessarily the behavior one needs to concentrate on; it’s the extent of the behavior. In other words, we all have tendencies towards all behaviors and pathologies. It’s the extent of those behaviors that crosses the line to pathology. Many doctors believe that we all carry the potential for certain serious illnesses. However, there’s something within our society or even chemical makeup that causes one person to develop the disease and not the next person.

Could this also be true when it comes to how our children develop? Does child development, and even parenting, fall under the same mantra of “nothing new under the sun?” Is what we did in the “olden days” still relevant and can be used as guidelines for today? Should Dr. Spock’s parenting book be required reading for all parents? (A different question for another time is whether parenting courses should be required in all high schools). Is what we knew before as relevant today to what we need to know now when it comes to parent child rearing and child development?

I would like to argue that there are new things all around us. True, we learn that the Bible incorporates everything from the past to the future. However, that doesn’t mean that we have experienced everything that is in store for us. Even if everything we experience today has a basis in history, we cannot rely on past experiences to get us through the world we live in today. There is a Toronto classical music station that has as its motto “Beautiful music for a crazy world.” Does this suggest that it’s culturally acceptable to see the world as different, even crazy? If it is “crazy,” perhaps we should not accept it-maybe we can find ways to change it. Nevertheless one could argue that “craziness” is in the eyes of the beholder.

We should not just accept that nothing is new and merely accept what is. In fact, society makes it very hard to accept everything around us. Regarding our children, just because they are testing us, should we give up and write off their behavior or do we fight back with increasing rigidity and control? It is obvious that every situation needs to be approached on its own merits. Children are certainly being more challenged in their lifestyle than years past. Yes, nothing might be new but it certainly isn’t all the same. For example, drugs have been around “forever,” but the drugs our teens (and sometimes pre-teens) are experimenting with today are without question more potent and laced with more serious chemicals. Sexuality in the media has reached new proportions from even a mere few years ago. The amount and degree of violence accessible to our youth today is at a dangerous level for their own well being, much less their relationship with others in society. Technological advancements have only begun, but even at the level it is accessible to youth today is mind-boggling. Kids today can communicate faster, further and without restrictions with a mere push of a button. Their availability to good and dangerously bad is at their finger tips.

We could spend an entire article on the changes in child-parent relationships over recent years. The concept is certainly not new, but it seems that the problems between parents and children and the level of disrespect and challenges are at an all time high. I have met with families for over thirty-seven years and I continue to be amazed at many of the stories and situations I hear. True, the stories are not new, but the contents and specifics are often of a more challenging nature.

So, if “there is nothing new under the sun,” does that mean that everything is meaningless? Of course not! Every challenge of today is a new challenge. History is to be learned from. What we did, saw and experienced yesterday are lessons for the present and the future. Every situation should be seen as a learning experience. No matter how challenging and difficult the situation is we can look to the past to learn how to address the current problem. In everything old there remains some new. With this in mind, hopefully, we will meet the many increasing challenges of our time and ensure a successful future.

Mr. Schild is the Executive Director of Regesh Family and Child Services in Toronto, Ontario Canada. Regesh runs many programs helping families and youth dealing with personal and family issues in their lives. He is currently open to speaking engagements. He can be reached at 416-495-8832 extension 222 or eschild@regesh.com. Visit www.regesh.com. See our second website specific to our enhanced anger management clinic at www.regeshangerclinic.com

Spending and Investing

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Francine has been coming to therapy for about a month. Her parents brought her due to problems and conflicts she was experiencing boat home, school and in the community. Like many teens, Francine did not see the value of therapy and felt the problems were only her parents’ issues. Besides, if she needed to talk to anyone, she would speak with her friends.

I asked Francine why she was coming to therapy. She said because her parents wanted her to. I found this very telling because many disenfranchised and at-risk or defiant youth would just not come – often using all kinds of expletives to tell the parents why they refuse to come. Francine was different. Thought she didn’t want to be here, she still came “for her parents.” This was certainly a “door” to further open in her therapy.

Many clients coming for therapy are self-referrals. That is, they recognize a problem and seek help for what is causing them difficulties in their daily functioning. However, many of my referrals are from third parties. That is, referred by a school, employer, the courts, lawyers or parents.

So, what should you do if the client really doesn’t want to be in therapy or is unable or refuses to see the merits of counseling? I know colleagues who refuse to accept these referrals. Either the client “buys” into the therapy by taking responsibility or they will not see them. Personally, I have a problem with this approach. There is a residential treatment program here in Toronto which will not accept a youth unless he or she is willing to voluntarily go into the program. However, for many of these young people, if they were capable of making that decision for their own best interest, they would not need the program.

So, what should a therapist do with clients like Francine? Most of us, if not all of us, have built in resistance to that which we find uncomfortable. If I don’t like doing something, I will either procrastinate or avoid the situation entirely. Let’s be honest – most of us do not want to talk about things that are confronting us, bothering us or painful for us. It’s only if we really trust or know that it will help, that we are willing to go down that road.

This reminds me of two stories: The first story is of a little boy about eight or nine who has a terrible sore throat. You know, one of those where you can’t even swallow without feeling like you’re swallowing razor blades. He went crying to his mother, who rushed him to an emergency walk-in clinic. When the doctor looked into his throat, he said it was infected and needed immediate treatment. That meant an injection, as oral medication would take took long exclaimed that the infection needed immediate treatment. He felt oral medication wouldn’t be effective quickly enough. As the doctor injected him, the little boy cried out in pain. As the mother and son were leaving, the son was heard crying, “I came in with my throat hurting so much and now my throat and arm are hurting so much”. We’ll return to this story.

The second story is of a little girl with a terrible toothache at the back of the upper left side of her mouth. She goes crying to her mother, who immediately takes her to an emergency dental clinic. The dentist seats her in the chair and begins his examination on the lower right side, proceeds to the upper right and carefully moves to the lower left side. So far the scared little girl is thinking that this isn’t too bad. Finally the dentist proceeds to the upper left side and touches the infected tooth. The child screams in pain.

What is the moral of these two stories? There is a common theme to them and I would like for you to stop reading for a minute to think this through. What is the moral of the stories and what does this moral have to do with going to therapy?

Sometimes in order to feel better what we do may cause more pain at the beginning. The extra pain is not done out of malice, but as part of the treatment. Also, if we go into therapy and touch on the non-effective issues (sports scores, weather, etc) it won’t hurt, but we also will not be dealing with the problem areas. In therapy, sometimes it might initially hurt more to talk about the problems and analyze what’s happening, but in the end the pain will be much less and we will function better.

I asked Francine the following questions: What is the difference between spending and investing? At first, she had no idea what this question had to do with her therapy. However, the discussion that followed really helped her to gain perspective about her therapy sessions.

What is spending? When we spend money it is to purchase something that we will have for a limited amount of time. For example, when I buy pizza it’s with the knowledge that once I eat it, its gone. I have spent my money and am left with nothing but the fond memories of the taste. I can buy a new suit knowing that after some period of time I will either be too small or not to my taste anymore. The same is true for whatever we buy. Most purchases have a time limitation. I know this going into the purchase and that is what I want and expect.

What is an investment? When I invest in something, say a stock or bond, I do so for one primary reason. I hope, and plan, to end up with more than I put in. This does not always materialize, but my attitude, my intent, is to leave with more than I put in. The probability is that the more I put into the planning and research, the better my investment and the more I will walk away with.

So, have you figured out the relationship in spending and investing with therapy? Did you figure out what Francine discovered in our therapy sessions?

What you get out of therapy depends on your intent or attitude going in. If I go into therapy, or even an individual session, with the plan that I will spend time with my therapist or I am spending time in the session, the probability is that you will walk out with very little, if anything, to gain from it. I spent my time, the time is up and now I leave (probably forgetting all or much of any discoveries I made). That’s because when I spend I don’t expect a long-term benefit or return on my time. On the other hand, if I invest in the time I am with my therapist, I expect to leave with more than I came in with. I expect my knowledge to grow and pay dividends. Speaking of dividends, I tell my clients that I don’t want to pay dividends once or twice a year, but rather I try to pay dividends every session. Those dividends are insights, good feelings, knowledge and a sense that we are one step closer to the big pay off.

I share this with you hoping that if you are looking to improve your life, to get more our of it and to function on a higher level, you will remember the importance of investing your time and energy as you search for the meanings of your life in whatever means you chose.

Mr. Schild is the Executive Director of Regesh Family and Child Services in Toronto, Ontario Canada. Regesh runs many programs helping families and youth dealing with personal and family issues in their lives. He is currently open to speaking engagements. He can be reached at 416-495-8832 extension 222 or eschild@regesh.com. Visit www.regesh.com. See our second website specific to our enhanced anger management clinic at www.regeshangerclinic.com.

De-escalating Crises at Home

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Mr. and Mrs. S. came into the office with their ten-year-old daughter, Sharon. They were very distraught and had numerous complaints about Sharon’s behaviors. Not only was she having problems academically and behaviorally in school, but they also complained that every time they asked Sharon to do something at home it became a major altercation. They felt they were living from one crisis to the next. It seemed the more problems she was having in school, the more the problems she had at home. They had identified a direct relationship between the two. Their question to me was how to avoid such crises.

Family disruptions and its associated anger issues due to a child’s behaviors is a common cause for referrals to Regesh Family and Child Services. Likewise, I find myself giving more and more presentations to parent groups on how to de-escalate crises in the home. I could never understand why parenting is not a mandatory course in every high school. Also, why don’t we find more support groups for parents, even for those not experiencing problems, but more for preventative measures? I have the questions, but not the answers.

For conflict resolution in the home, let’s first agree that conflicts in families are inevitable. Second, parents who come to talk about their children’s behavior often talk in generalities and surprisingly have difficulties being specific about the disruptive behaviors they would like to correct. It seems when we are emotionally involved and stressed, the problem behaviors congeal into one big “headache.” For example, we often use a general term that may mean a different thing to different people. By “stealing,” do we mean taking pennies off the dresser or taking merchandise from a store without paying for it? By being late for curfew, do we mean consistently or randomly? Is it fifteen minutes late or hours late? By saying the child is irresponsible, what are we referring to? Is he or she not admitting to their transgressions or not being on time? Without clearly identifying and understanding the problem, one cannot work on a resolution. Rather, the issue remains an emotional problem which is difficult to resolve.

Once we realize that we need to be specific in identifying problem behaviors, it helps to analyze the situation. For example, is the particular behavior typical of a certain developmental stage? When does the behavior occur? Why might children in general behave this way or why might this particular child behave this way? Is this a new behavior or one we have seen before?

One common question I ask myself is whether the behavior of the child (or even adults) is one of an emotionally disturbed person or is the behavior emotionally disturbing? The first is that of a person where a mental health problem is influencing the behavior, while the later is where the person is causing mental stress to another person. Often in school or home the child is causing emotional stress to the parent or teacher and is thus emotionally disturbing the other person. The child is causing havoc for reasons other than having mental health issues. On the other hand, it might be stressful to the parent or teacher because the child is not in their control.

Often we describe a child as “out of control.” Another question to ask is whether the child is really out of control or just misbehaving and not following directions. That is, whose control is the child out of? Is he out of control of the adult who is asking him to do something, meaning he’s not following their direction, or is the child out of his own control and perhaps having a temper tantrum? If it’s the latter, and he’s having a temper tantrum, he cannot stop himself at that moment. In determining what to do, we must understand this behavior very clearly.

When analyzing a situation with respect to your own children, ask yourself the following questions:

Is the child able or capable of processing the situation with either a parent or third party?
Is the problem behavior dangerous? What is the danger? To whom is the danger? Does this behavior, when it occurs, need an immediate response or can we process the situation with the child?

What are the long-term consequences of this behavior or our reactions/responses to the behavior?
Why does this behavior bother me? Is it disturbed or disturbing? Is the problem my problem or the child’s? This is a much more difficult question than it appears. Does the behavior push only my buttons? In other words, would others agree that the behavior is disturbing to them also?
Is it part of normal development?

So the question remains, how do we engage our children for better cooperation? Here are some helpful means of achieving this goal:

Describe what you see as the problem

When parents describe the problem, it gives the children a chance to tell themselves what to do. This also assures that both of you are identifying the same problem. This is an important first step. Continue attempting to agree on exactly what the problem is, as there might be differences in the way the two of you perceive things. For example, is the problem the teen came in late from curfew or “my parents are just in a bad mood?” One is breaking a rule while the other is a problem with a person. The key is to keep a calm voice and demeanor when doing this exercise.

Give information

Information is a lot easier to take then accusations. When given information, kids can usually figure out for themselves what to do. Ask the child what he/she thinks should be the resolution and praise them for their effort. Sometimes information quickly turns to accusations and name-calling. Of course, this becomes provocative and leads to more conflict. We soon forget the original disagreement and now concentrate on the new problem.

Say it with a word

Less is more effective. Kids dislike hearing lectures. The old parenting program called 1-2-3- Magic is so successful because it reduces the amount of words and lecturing to a minimum. The more words, the more there is to fight about. Keep it simple!

Talk about your feelings

Kids need to hear that their parents’ have feelings. We don’t have to protect them from this. In fact, it encourages them to use their words and to talk about how they are feeling and what’s bothering them. On the other hand, when parents get overly emotional with their feelings, it often frightens the child who feels they have to protect themselves or the parent. It’s important to be genuine, but not hurtful.

Write a note

Sometimes it’s easier to read a note than to be told something. Compliments can also be shared in notes. Note writing avoids heavy emotional reactions. I’ve seen this strategy work over and over again. It’s amazing what a “thank you” note will do for relationship building between a parent and child. I once worked with a family where, after tremendous strife one day between a father and his daughter, the father bought a rose and just placed it on his daughter’s pillow without any card or lecture. She got the message that he still loved her and the relationship was on its way.

Of course, this is only the beginning of building better relationships in a family, by developing good conflict resolution strategies. Many books and articles have been written on the topic. What are YOU doing to de-escalate crises in your family when they arise? You can e-mail me at eschild@regesh.com to share your strategies and thoughts on this topic. I will share your ideas and strategies with our readers.

Mr. Schild is the Executive Director of Regesh Family and Child Services in Toronto, Ontario Canada. Regesh runs many programs helping families and youth dealing with personal and family issues in their lives. He is currently open to speaking engagements. He can be reached at 416-495-8832 extension 222 or eschild@regesh.com. Visit www.regesh.com. See our second website specific to our enhanced anger management clinic at www.regeshangerclinic.com

Moti’s Street Clothes

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

I once received a call from a forty-seven year old distraught mother whose seventeen-year-old son Moti had changed his style of dress, wearing jeans and refusing to wear a hat.  She explained that he had gone through a difficult time in school and was now hanging around the house instead of studying in yeshiva.  He was also mixed up with the wrong crowd and was associating with at-risk teenagers late at night on the street.  She was very concerned as she had an older son who had gone “off the path” and was worried that Moti was going in the same direction.  She believed that Moti could be helped if he would be willing to talk with someone.

 

We set up an appointment and Moti came on time and seemed receptive to speaking with me in a friendly and open manner.  What follows is a transcript of our meeting.

 

Daniel Schonbuch (DS): Moti, I know that your parents are concerned about you and wanted you to speak with me.  I just want you to know that I’m very interested in what you have to so say. Tell me what’s going on in your life?

 

Moti: Well, I guess my mother told you that I hate school and I’m looking for a job.

 

DS: What kind of job?

Moti: It doesn’t really matter.   Perhaps something in business or high tech.

 

DS: High tech.  Do you have any computer skills that would help you?

Moti: Yes, I love computers and I know how to create Web sites.

 

DS:  That’s a great skill.  Did you take a class in HTML or figure it out by yourself?

Moti: I just figured it out by myself.

 

DS: Wow.  I wish I could do that.  Well, if you are so talented in working with computers, why are you having so much trouble in school?

Moti: I hate my school.  I can’t stand the teachers and the principal.

DS: You hate your teachers?

Moti: Yes. I can’t stand them. They are boring and mean and my rebbe doesn’t know what he is talking about.

 

DS: You don’t like your rebbe.  Let me ask you a question.  If you did like your rebbe, would school be any better for you?

Moti: I guess so.  But there is no way he can change.  Everybody knows he’s the worst rebbe in the grade.  He doesn’t care about me. In fact he kicked me out of class twice this year.

 

DS: So that’s why you’re at home right now?

Moti: That’s right.

 

DS: Tell me about your home.  I know you have a big family.  What is your relationship like with your parents?

Moti: It’s pretty bad.

 

DS: What do you mean, bad?

Moti: My parents make me crazy.

 

DS: Anyone in particular?

Moti: Yes, my mother; she is always trying to control me.

 

DS: In what way?

Moti: She can’t stand my music or the way I dress. She also hates my friends and recently made my curfew at eleven o’clock.  It’s unbearable to be around her.

 

DS: So dress is a big issue in the family?

Moti: Yes.  They want to tell us what to do all the time.  I feel like I’m living in a cage.

 

At this point we had brought to the forefront several key issues.  One was that Moti didn’t like his rebbe and another was that he felt that his parents wanted to control everything he did.  At the same time, it seemed that Moti also had a very high desire for control. When he was unhappy with a situation, he would try to control his environment by making choices that elicited a negative response from his parents or teachers.

 

I felt that Moti was able to become aware of the dynamics of his own inner world.  In his case, I believed that more self-awareness would help him understand why he behaved the way he did.

 

DS: Moti, tell me about some of the things that your parents and you argue about, like your friends and your clothes.

 

Moti: I don’t see what’s wrong with my clothes.  I’m just more comfortable wearing jeans and these shirts.  I mean, I don’t know what the problem is, but my mother is always telling me how to dress.

 

DS: Did you always dress like this?  When did you start?

Moti: Just after my bar mitzvah.

 

DS: So when you became a “man,” you started dressing the way you wanted to.

Moti: That’s right.

 

DS: Tell me what you think your clothing represents.  Do your clothes say something about you when you wear them?

Moti: I think so.  They are all about doing what you want.  When I wear jeans, I feel comfortable, more chilled out. I know it drives my parents crazy, but I love the feeling.

 

DS: Do your friends wear the same type of clothes?

Moti: Yes, we all do.

 

DS: Let me guess about something and tell me if I’m right.  Your clothing represents your being independent from your parents.  What I mean by that is that they can’t tell you how to dress and of course you can’t stand how they try to control you.  Does this make sense?

Moti: Yes, very much so.

 

DS: So what you are really saying is that this is an area that you can control and it probably makes your parents crazy.

Moti: That’s right.  I really dress this way because it makes them crazy.  I know the weirder I dress the more it makes my mother nuts.

 

DS: So your dress is a way to control her.

Moti: I guess so.

 

DS: If you can see what I’m saying, then I want to share with you the idea that what seems to be an area of control is really an area where you are out of control.  What I mean by that is that although you think you control your mother through your dress, what you are really saying is that she controls you.  If you are just reacting to her and getting her angrier with you then you are not really in control.

 

I knew that this idea would be hard to swallow – especially for a boy who initially saw his jeans as something “cool” and modern.  What I wanted to do was to have him understand that this alternative way of dressing was actually based on a deeper emotional need to control and confront his mother.  Once I introduced this idea, I could spend more time helping him to improve his relationship with her instead of becoming more reactionary.  I decided to introduce Moti to his mother’s inner world.  I wanted to explore with him any possible reason why she was so controlling.

 

DS: Tell me a little more about your mother.  Does she come from a big family?  What are her parents like?

Moti: Well, that’s a pretty bad story.  She has a terrible relationship with her parents.

 

DS: What do you mean?

Moti: Her parents are originally from France.  They moved to Israel when she was a young girl and got divorced and my mother moved here with my grandmother when she was a teenager.

 

DS: What about her brothers and sisters?

Moti: Two of them moved here with her and the others stayed with my grandfather in Israel.

 

DS: How did your grandmother survive here?

Moti: Well, she had a sister who moved here many years ago who helped her out a lot when she arrived.

 

DS: So your mother grew up without her father. That must have been pretty hard.

Moti: Yes but it was probably easier than living with my grandfather.  I heard he was pretty tough with his kids.  You know, very old school.  He used to hit his kids a lot.

 

DS: He used to hit them?

Moti: He was a tough man who had a hard life.  He didn’t have patience for my mother or her brothers and sisters.

 

DS: So your mother moved around a lot and had a hard childhood.

Moti: I think so.

 

DS: And what about your father.  Did he also have a difficult childhood?

Moti: I don’t think so.  He grew up in the neighborhood, went to yeshiva, went into business, and has an okay relationship with his parents.

 

DS: So it seems that your mother had a harder time growing up.

Moti: Yes I think so.

 

DS: Would you say that your mother is a tense person?

Moti: Yes, she always walks around nervous, like something bad is going to happen.

 

DS: I see. So how does that make you feel?

Moti: I can’t stand being around her!

 

DS: Are you angry that she doesn’t give you enough attention?

Moti: It makes me crazy.  She doesn’t pay any attention to me except when she doesn’t like something.

 

DS: Like the way you dress?

Moti: Yes.

 

I wanted Moti to make the connection that somehow his mother was affected by her unresolved feelings that existed in her inner world. Also, without too much information from Moti, I saw that his mother was obviously someone who had trouble relating to her children and found it difficult to nurture them in a loving way.

 

Throughout this first session, I had begun to uncover a deep association between Moti’s behavior and his mother’s emotions.  In future sessions we would deal more with trying to understand why his mother was tense and nagging.   I believed that it was time for him to explore the connection with his mother and for us to see if we could work out a way to improve their relationship.

 

I explained to Moti that since his mother had come from a broken home and had moved several times during her childhood, she was compensating for her feelings of rejection and lack of security.  This was understandable considering her past, and it was something that I felt was central to Moti’s situation.  I believed that his mother was so scared of the possibility that her children’s lives would be disrupted – as hers had been during her childhood – that her fears controlled her life. Moti’s older brother had already decided to go on his own path.  She saw this as a sign that the whole family may fall apart and the fact that Moti was having trouble in school and dressing in jeans began to cause her considerable stress and anxiety.

 

I wanted Moti to understand these underlying issues and to realize why he was unhappy with their relationship. Her desire that “life should be perfect” had caused her to act overly harsh with her children, which made them feel that somehow they were not living up to her expectations.  After all, Moti was a teenager trying something that his friends thought was cool.  He wanted to be accepted by his crowd and wasn’t thinking about how his behavior affected his parents.

 

Having explored other emotional issues in his family, I suggested that Moti try to reduce the conflict regarding his alternative dress by toning down what he wore.  I knew that his parents wouldn’t easily change their expectations, but Moti could benefit from an improved relationship and a small gesture on his part may make his life at home more pleasant.

 

I also spoke several times on the phone with Moti’s parents and suggested that they were not yet equipped to discipline Moti about his jeans.  Rather, they should work to improve the relationship and allow a new sense of closeness to eventually enable Moti to feel more comfortable with himself and his identity.  They could accomplish this by

reducing their criticism of Moti; finding ways to give Moti healthy levels of control; exploring ways of nurturing Moti’s latent talents.

 

To start the process, I suggested that Moti’s parents take him away for a weekend in the country and have a fun time sightseeing, hiking or maybe even going to a batting cage or playing miniature golf. I wanted Moti to feel comfortable with his parents.  They should give Moti the feeling that he was the most important person in their lives.

 

During the outing, Moti’s parents should avoid talking about his jeans. Rather, they should focus on his positive qualities and what areas he could potentially excel in like music, art, computers, or even some type of community service. With an increased sense of relationship, Moti may be willing to adjust his behavior and take steps to reconnect to his family’s traditions.

 

Trying to force the dress issue would only push their son further away. Instead of pushing him away, they could gently pull him in the right direction. In the end, we were able to change the focus from direct control and conflict to mutual understanding and an improved relationship.

 

Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch, M.A., is the Executive Director of Shalom Task Force and author of “At Risk – Never Beyond Reach” and “First Aid for Jewish Marriages.” He maintains a private practice in marriage and family counseling in Brooklyn and can be reached at 646-428-4723 or rabbischonbuch@yahoo.com. For more info about his books, visit www.JewishMarriageSupport.com.

Control Issue

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

In our rapidly changing world, the idea of control has begun to change quicker than anyone can imagine. A metamorphosis of unparalleled proportion is taking place and many parents feel that they are unequipped to deal with the challenges that it will demand.

Not too long ago, parents could maintain a fair amount of control by limiting their children’s access to the outside world. For example, when I was young, a teenager had to watch TV or go to a movie theater to see the latest show.  However, with the advent of home videos, teens could choose their own movies and watch them when their parents were out or asleep.  Then the Internet came along.  For the first time, children of all ages could choose anything they wanted to see or hear.  Some parents chose to fight back by purchasing Internet blockers that filtered out inappropriate content.  But what happened when their child was visiting someone else’s home and wasn’t being supervised?

The story doesn’t end there. Suppose parents can control what their children watch at home and with whom and where they play until they’re adults.  Until recently, that might have worked.  But now with the latest wireless technology that enables rapid transfer of sound, pictures, and movies, the power of control has been taken away from parents and given to teenagers who can watch whatever they want, wherever they want.  As communications become faster and more portable, parents can find themselves losing more and more control every day.

Parents wanting control will have to change their strategy. In order to maintain equilibrium (and their sanity), parents need to shift into a new mode  – a mode beyond the traditional understanding of control and enter the world of Relationship Theory.

The second C of Relationship Theory reminds us that in order to have more emotional impact, parents need to moderate the way they control their teenagers.  This necessitates a shift from using direct control to influencing behavior through indirect control.

Direct control, or what Dr. William Glasser in Unhappy Teenagers: A Way For Parents And Teachers To Reach Them, calls “external control,” is an attempt by parents to impose their will.  For example, if a child refuses to do homework, a parent who uses direct control will say, “If you don’t do your homework, you will not go out with friends, receive an allowance or be allowed any more treats on Shabbos.” Direct control is a powerful mechanism used by parents to get what they want regardless of the emotional effects of their actions.

Indirect control, or influence, however, can be achieved by parents looking into why their teenager isn’t doing homework and trying to address the cause and not merely the symptom.  It’s all about addressing inner needs and being less focused on a teenager’s accomplishments.

As Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D, explains in his book Successful Relationships At Home At Work And With Friends: Bringing Control Issues Under Control, “Everyone may have the need to wield control, and there are many relationships which may indeed require control.  Exceeding an acceptable amount of control invites trouble.”

Parents who aim to wield too much direct control are often viewed by their teenager in a negative light.  Most teenagers would say that a controlling parent is manipulative, destructive and unable to relate to them in a meaningful way.

People, including teenagers, suffering from a controlling relationship are likely to hold one or more of the following illusions:

  • They are stuck with another person’s definition of them.
  • They do not have the right to their own opinions.
  • They can earn love and acceptance by abdicating control to another person.
  • They are “successful” if they fulfill another person’s vision, even when it does not in any way support their own.
  • They must obtain permission to act in matters that are, in fact, their own business.

 

Controllers struggle to shape the lives of others and often destroy the relationships that they want most to preserve. They usually don’t realize the senselessness of their own behavior.

Most parents don’t believe that they are controlling.  This is because they are used to wielding a considerable amount of control over what their children do, so it seems normal.  Control to that degree was appropriate from birth to around age nine or ten, when children need healthy borders and to be pointed in the right direction.  But troubled teens need something different.  They feel that they have grown beyond their parent’s control and that their controlling parents are living in the past.

When direct control is released, parents may experience a different kind of relationship – one that seemed to have been lost a long time ago. Some parents even report that giving up direct control was like giving birth to their child for a second time.  When you give up control, you are actually giving life to a more mature and meaningful relationship.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/control-issue/2010/04/28/

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