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November 28, 2014 / 6 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

An American Tragedy in Steubenville

Monday, March 18th, 2013

A significant number of American values failures came together to create the tragedy in Stuebenville, where two teenage High School football stars, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, were found guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl.

Foremost among them is the American tragedy of sexualizing teen girls at an age where they are not yet women. Madonna sexualized herself in her mid twenties. Brittney Spears brought the age down to about eighteen. Not young enough for you? Miley Cyrus reduced it further to sixteen. One wonders when our culture will feel that even sixteen is not a young enough age to sexually exploit girls.

Then there is the issue of sports as an emerging religion where those gifted to be athletes feel a sense of entitlement that often has them crossing lines to their own detriment. The idea that two High School football stars would think it acceptable to post pictures of a nude sixteen year old to their friends on social media shows how they thought the normal rules did not apply them. And this would be true even if there weren’t the far more serious conviction on rape. How sad that two young men have ruined their lives and done so much damage to a defenseless victim.

Next is the growing culture of alcohol abuse by minors. Alcohol played a central role in this unfolding tragedy with the essential argument on the part of the prosecution that the girl in question was so drunk there was no possible way she could give consent. One wonders why our youth are so inclined to heavy drink. Is it mere experimentation or is something deeper at work? Are they already, at so young an age, as unhappy as adults who have been battered by life and are therefore drinking negative emotions away? After all, no one in America really portrays the teen years as a bowl of cherries.

I passed my later teen years in an all-male environment in Yeshiva where the focus of my life was study. I certainly was a lot happier than the co-ed environment in which I was immersed in my early teen years where peer pressure, popularity among the girls, and a general self-consciousness made my life less enjoyable than it should have been.

Then there is the general tragedy of the absence of responsible parenting in America. The biggest question for me in this heartrending story was where were the parents? Where were they when the three teens left one party at 12:30 am to go to another? Where were they to monitor extreme drunkenness on the part of people not old enough to vote?

Many African-American young men are not raised with a father’s guiding hand. I was astonished, therefore, at the honesty displayed by Malik Richmond’s father, Nathaniel, when he said in a CNN interview that he had walked over to his son right after the guilty verdict and told him he loved him, essentially for the very first time. “I haven’t been involved in Malik’s life like I should have been at those early years. And I want to stress that parents should be more involved in their child’s life… be a parent and not a friend.”

No one is better qualified to address this issue than President Obama who also grew up without his father and is by all accounts a very loving and involved parent himself. The President has addressed the subject only lightly, but it’s time that he make this an all-out campaign.

But the greatest tragedy made manifest in Steubenville is the attitude of teenage men toward girls. Immanuel Kant wrote that the definition of immorality is treating a fellow human being as a means rather than an end. The abomination of American slavery was that a white child was taught to see a black child as a walking bale of cotton. Slavery trained a white man to see a black woman as lacking the same spark of the divine that lent him his humanity. When he looked upon the woman, she was stripped of her own dreams, her own opinions, her own aspirations. She was nothing but an extension of the white slave owner’s drives and ambitions. Like a third arm she existed to simply to do his chores.

The Whole-Brain Child: An Effective Approach To Parenting

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Your toddler throws a tantrum in the middle of a store. Your preschooler refuses to get dressed. Your fifth-grader sulks on the bench instead of playing on the field. Do children conspire to make their parents’ lives endlessly challenging? No – it’s just their developing brain calling the shots!

(The Whole Brain Child, Daniel J. Seigel, MD and Tina Payne Bryson, PhD)

I have often been talking about parenting the “explosive child” or a child who struggles with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). In that context, I often mention Dr. Ross Greene’s groundbreaking work on using “Plan B.” However, recently, another approach has been gaining popularity. It is from Daniel J. Siegel, MD and is often used to promote “the whole-brain child.”

The strategies Seigel suggests are not just for explosive children, but everyday parenting struggles. Seigel explains that parents are often experts about their children’s bodies. They know how much temperature is considered a fever, the correct dosage of Tylenol, how to clean a cut and bandage it, and which foods they are allergic to. Interestingly, he points out that even educated and concerned parents know very little about how the mechanics of the brain work. Yet, the biology of the brain is responsible for so much of what parents care about: discipline, decision-making, self-awareness, school, relationships and self-esteem.

The more we know about how our children’s brains work, the better we will be able nurture stronger, more resilient children. Not only that, but it can make parenting easier and more meaningful. The goal of this article is to give you a taste of how Seigel’s “whole brain perspective” can be applied to everyday parenting moments. This is not a manual that will eliminate all the stress involved in parenting, however, it should help explain and tackle some often-inexplicable occurrences.

Integration

The main concept behind the whole-brain child is integration – creating connections between different parts of the brain. When the different parts of the brain collaborate, they create more robust connections. The better and more powerfully connected, or integrated, the different parts of the brain, the more harmoniously those parts can work together.

So, how can you recognize when your child’s brain (or your brain) is in a state of integration? Seigel explains that integration is like floating in the middle of a river – and avoiding the river’s two banks. One side, he explains is the bank of chaos, where you feel out of control. “Instead of floating in the peaceful river, you are caught up in the pull of the tumultuous rapids, and confusion and turmoil rule the day.” On the other bank of the river lies rigidity. As opposed to being out of control, you are “imposing control on everything and everyone around you.” You are unwilling to compromise or adapt.

We all move back and forth between chaos and rigidity throughout the day. When we are farthest from the middle of the river, we are also farthest from mental and emotional health. The better we are at avoiding the extremes, the more time we spend in “the river of well-being.”

Our children float along their own “rivers” and when we are in situations in which they lose their tempers or throw tantrums, framing their behavior through this lens can help us understand how well-integrated the different parts of their brains are at that moment. With this knowledge, you can help guide your child back to the middle ground.

Right and Left Brain

Your right and left brain not only are anatomically separate, they function differently as well. Your left brain craves order as it is logical, literal, and linear. On the other hand, your right brain is creative and nonverbal, focusing on the big picture rather than the minutiae of a situation.

How can you make sure your child’s left brain and right brain work together? Seigel suggests two strategies:

Connect and Redirect: If your eight-year-old is throwing a fit because he can’t believe his birthday isn’t for another 8 months, chances are that he is experiencing a lot of right brain (emotional or illogical activity). Rather than responding to your child with logical questions, which he will not be able to hear because he is in the midst of a wave of emotional thinking, react to him with emotions. Hold him tight and tell him that you understand how frustrating that might be. Once he is able to calm down, then you help him work through the problem logically. In this way, you are connecting to him through his left brain (emotions) and redirecting his emotions through his right brain (logic). This will help him become better integrated in the future as well.

Divorce and Its Real Life Challenges: A Community Call to Action

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

A mother and father living in accord and harmony is one of the best presents that can be granted to a child. Yet what happens when G-d’s natural design of child rearing becomes stripped away from a family? What happens when the notion of enjoying quality time with both parents together becomes non-existent? I am of course referring to the ramifications of divorce. Divorce eradicates the stability of a traditional family unit and invites the inherent difficulties of single parenting.

Single parenting is the divorcee’s proverbial Mount Everest. It is a harrowing peak through which one is expected to perspire and blunder. The obstacles of single parenthood manifest themselves in almost every parent-child interaction. These obstacles range from the significantly personal to the mundane. A “significantly personal” dilemma might be the single parent’s responsibility to address his/her child’s emotional state in wake of the divorce, while a “mundane” dilemma might include awkward situations such as a single father needing to take his young daughter to the restroom. In almost all regards, single parenthood can be distinctly challenging and lonesome.

Yet, not only is the divorcee confronted with the hardships of single parenthood, but also with the solitary road that divorce often paves. The divorcee is faced with a sense of isolation as his or her spouse becomes more of a memory than a reality. The Torah explicitly conveys the drawbacks of loneliness when it states: “It is not good for man to be alone.” Interestingly, the aforementioned pasuk is the only instance when the Torah states what is considered “not good” for man. Why is that so? Why does the Torah feel it is essential to specify that loneliness is a state of being that man should strongly resist? It is simply because loneliness breeds emotional fatigue and frigidity, and subsequently these negative sentiments can create a deep chasm of despair and hopelessness. When people are lonely, it is quite simple for them to slip into that chasm – yet very difficult for them to climb out. There is little else in the world that is worse than the pain of being alone.

In addition, when loneliness crawls into a person’s life, it can make daily vicissitudes and life-changing struggles seem even more unbearable. An individual who is fortunate to have a caring spouse has a greater chance of smoothing over life’s cracked edges. Having a dedicated and loving partner by one’s side can assuage the various frustrations of life. There are scientific studies that record a patient’s chance for survival (from cancer and other serious illnesses) based upon his or her relationship with a partner (or lack thereof). The results of these studies portray that those who had a strong spousal relationship had a greater chance of healing, while those who did not have a strong spousal bond had a lesser chance. The burden of a divorcee’s financial and parental responsibilities, as well as his or her emotional needs, can be particularly despondent paths to traverse alone.

Furthermore, Orthodox divorcees have the added test of maintaining a sense of stability and joy during Shabbat and the holidays. These are opportune times to rekindle familial unity and happiness, yet what does a divorcee do when he or she is faced with the prospect of solitude instead of companionship? Moreover, lack of family bonding does not only create desolation for divorcees, but also for their children. Children from an observant divorced home may become saddened by the break in traditional religious practices that were once associated with family connection. For example, when a son is by his mother for Shabbat, he may sorely miss his father’s Kiddush or walk to the synagogue, and when a daughter is by her father for Shabbat she may yearn for the special moment when she lights candles with her mother. Although Shabbat and the holidays can be potentially exciting, they are usually tinged with a distinct sense of loss for divorcees and their children.

Now that the Orthodox community is more cognizant of divorcees’ travails, what can it do to ease their transition between marriage and separation? How can the community ameliorate the divorcee’s adversities and console his or her pain? First and foremost, the Orthodox community should endeavor to embrace divorced members with warmth. Unfortunately, a divorcee’s solitude is only intensified when the community subtly castigates him or her by passing judgment (whether consciously or unconsciously). Once the community is able to develop a more accepting mindset, then it can fully open its hearts and homes to divorced individuals. A divorcee will truly appreciate it when a family willingly invites him or her to partake in Shabbat meals and holiday festivities. The loneliness will be diminished, and a sense of belonging can enter the picture once again.

Briefcases And Baby Bottles: The Working Mother’s Guide to Nurturing a Jewish Home

Friday, September 28th, 2012

Briefcases And Baby Bottles: The Working Mother’s Guide to Nurturing a Jewish Home
(Feldheim; April 2012)
By Tzivia Reiter

Work-life balance has been in the media a lot lately. Anne-Marie Slaughter, a Princeton professor who served as the first female Director of Policy Planning for the U.S. State Department, wrote a groundbreaking article in The Atlantic entitled “Women Can’t Have It All.” Slaughter writes about her struggle with balance—parenting and working, and the importance of being present, as well as the importance of absolute boundaries between work and parenting. As evidence—both of the compartmentalizing men are capable of and as an example of the type of behavior women should engage in more, Slaughter writes about Orthodox men she has worked with: “Come Friday at sundown, they were unavailable because of the Jewish Shabbat.” Slaughter contrasts the absolute boundaries between work and Shabbat for these men and women who, even when home, mothering their children, are supposed to be on call for work. What Slaughter doesn’t consider, what I and many of my cohorts immediately thought of, I’m guessing, is the Orthodox working mother – she who has absolute work and Shabbat boundaries but also functions in a constant negotiation between work and child-rearing pressures. That, as they say, is not all. The Orthodox mother, working or not, is expected to be involved in her community, to host elaborate Shabbat and Yom Tov meals and volunteer in her children’s schools. Of course, as she is Orthodox, her family is probably also substantially larger than Slaughter’s two-child household.

A book that addresses the enormous pressures and pulls the Orthodox working mother feels is long overdue. Thus, Briefcases and Baby Bottles: the Working Mother’s Guide to Nurturing a Jewish Home, by social worker Tzivia Reiter, is a welcome addition to any library. The book is thorough and the author reassures again and again that everyone does it differently and that is okay, reflecting, correctly, I think, that one of the biggest enemies of the working mother is guilt. Validation is no small gift to the constantly self-doubting mother—especially one who believes that a good mother does not work outside of the home. One of the best aspects of the book is how Reiter positions herself not as an authority who will guide you down the road that she traveled so successfully, but as a fellow traveler herself, noting: “I did not write this book because I think I have all the answers. Rather, I wrote it because I think I understand the questions.” The book succeeds because of Reiter’s curiosity, her determination that being a working mother can work as well as her conviction that it will all be okay.

Brief-cases and Baby Bottles is not all assurances. The book is divided into chapters that address different aspects of the unique challenges of the Jewish working mother and offers suggestions, resources and strategies throughout. In a chapter entitled “Accentuate the positive,” for example, Reiter points out that children are extremely tuned into their parent’s moods. A happier mother means a happier child and Reiter offers suggestions to help lift the mother’s attitude about working, such as reflecting on how “your job adds value to your life.” While some mothers choose to work for personal fulfillment, others work out of financial necessity and most out of some combination of the two. Thus, it is important to embrace the positive aspects, like providing for your family, a concept Reiter suggests sharing with your children by pointing out that school, food and books cost money.

Chapters such as The Good Jewish Mother, Goodbye to Guilt, Accentuate the Positive, Mommy and Me, Marriage Matters, Partners in Care and Home Fires address issues in a down to earth, accessible way with suggestions and examples from those who have been in the trenches.

With all the pressures of children and work, marriage can seem like an added burden. An actively nurtured marriage is a happier one and a happier marriage leads to happier parents and, inevitably, happier children. Though it seems indirect and farfetched, it is anything but. My husband and I make time for ourselves without the children and omit the guilt simply by reminding ourselves that the children benefit from our healthy relationship. Reiter doesn’t offer the simplistic, magazine-style advice of having a monthly date night with your spouse. It is a particular strength that the book is largely void of one-size fits all solutions. Reiter offers several strategies such as dividing tasks between the spouses, preparing simpler weekday and holiday meals and simply sharing the joys and trials of raising a family with your spouse. My favorite strategy comes from Mindy, an actuary who writes,

Degrees Of Rejection

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael:

I am a 20 years old and dating. While I know that people consider me to be an attractive young woman, I have been getting rejected – quite a lot. This might be happening because I am painfully shy. For the most part I clam up while on a date; I become very anxious and don’t know what to say.

Then there are the times when I do speak and end up saying something that makes me look stupid – all that does it make me feel insecure. On the other hand, I am comfortable speaking with my friends who are girls.

I’m confident that I will make someone a good wife, as I am a loving person and enjoy cooking, baking and cleaning – and I adore children. I am just not good at the dating game. What can I do about my dating problem?

B.T.

Dear B.T.:

It is unfortunate that in our dating “system,” people sometimes have a hard time getting married since they find it difficult to relate to someone from the opposite gender. At times we wonder to what extent being a “good date” relates to being a “good marriage partner.” An individual can have a hard time with dating, but still be an excellent marriage partner.

Clearly, chassidim have found a way to resolve some of the dating issues and are generally more successful in marrying off their children. This is because they do a lot more in-depth research about the prospective mate and his or her family. They certainly do not face the crises with older singles that those in the more litvish/yeshivish groups face. With that in mind, here are some social skills tips that will hopefully help you during your dating experience:

1) Don’t put yourself down! Self-deprecating remarks can be your own worst advertisement.

2) Accept compliments graciously. A simple thank you with a smile will suffice.

3) Compliment your date subtly and specifically. Comments like “that idea sounds very interesting,” or picking up on a comment by your date and building on it will make him feel that you were truly listening and that his idea helped you come up with another point.

4) Prepare interesting material for your dates – stories, jokes and interesting accounts of your life experiences that you can access when you feel as if you are freezing up. Spend some time practicing doing this; you will have an easier time relaying them when you are anxious. In all likelihood, you will feel calmer because you will not feel pressured to immediately come up with something.

5) Make your date feel like you care about his life by asking questions – then listen enthusiastically to his answers, commenting on them with interest. These questions can also be prepared and practiced in advance so as to enable you to feel calmer and more ready. Also, try some deep breathing techniques before a date in order to calm yourself.

If after implementing some of these ideas you still find it difficult to connect with your dates due to your shyness, you should seek professional help. Social-skills training, part of cognitive-behavioral therapy, can be most effective in ameliorating your difficulty. I hope these ideas are helpful. Hatzlachah!

Dear Dr. Respler:

My wife and I disagree on a crucial point regarding the issue of childrearing. I believe in discipline but not in hitting. My wife, however, becomes angry and hits our children. Thankfully she hits them on the behind and not too hard, but I believe she does this too often. The children listen to me more than to her, and I even overheard my eight-year-old son say, “I don’t care if Mommy hits me; it doesn’t hurt anyway.”

My wife is also inconsistent. After she hits the children, she kisses them and buys them gifts. I feel that I am strict but loving and fair, and believe that the children respect me more than they respect my wife. My wife agrees with my assessment, but she says it is because I spend less time with them. I believe that it is her inconsistent methods and the fact that she hits them that leads them to disrespect her. I know that she loves our children, but I am upset with her relationship with them. What do you think?

Bais Yaakov Dropout: So Where Were My Parents?

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Editor’s Note: This article is a follow up to Batsheva’s previous article “How Bais Yaakov Almost Ruined My Life”, where Batsheva wrote how Bais Yaakov education almost turned her off to Judaism. 

I want to say, before anything else, that I never expected this type of response from my blog post. I’m overwhelmed and amazed by how many people have had the same or very similar experiences to mine, and hearing their stories is more inspiring then anything else.

Had I known that 9,000 people would be reading what I had to say, there are a few things I would have added. For one, I’d like to answer the question that I’ve seen on every comment thread: Where were the parents?

My parents are incredible, open minded people. They have always supported me in every decision I have made and I have never blamed them for sending me to Bais Yaakov. In my community, it was the best option at the time and I can’t say I would’ve made a different decision had I been in their shoes. They made me follow the school rules, because as many of you pointed out – when you are part of an institution, you must follow the rules of that institution.

When I was younger, I didn’t tell them how I was feeling, because I felt that I was wrong. I didn’t tell them when I got in trouble in school, because I didn’t want to get in trouble at home too. However, as I got older it was pretty clear that Bais Yaakov was not for me. As soon as I was old enough, they sent me to a much more open minded boarding school in another state where they felt I could find my own place in Judaism.

I’ve spoken to a lot of people who felt unaccepted religiously. Most of them, at one point or another, threw religion away. I never did that. I have never intentionally broken Shabbat, never eaten at a restaurant that wasn’t Kosher. I credit that completely and totally to my parents. My parents are YES people. Shabbat was not the day where I couldn’t go on my computer or go rollerblading – it was the day that I got to spend time with my family and friends. The dining room table was always covered in board games, popcorn, and chocolate chip cookies. Chagim were the same way. My father loves to learn. Dinnertime was centered around what time minyan was that day. Religion was a very positive thing in my home. As a kid, I didn’t connect THAT Judaism with what I was learning. It was just our lifestyle.

When I said I wish someone had been there to tell me all the things I know about Judaism now, I was wrong. There were people who would have told me, had I been brave enough to ask. I have had many amazing influences in my life – my siblings, friends, families in my community. Now, looking back, I can see the effect that they had on me. But when I was fourteen and feeling like I didn’t fit in, I didn’t think anyone would understand.

One other thing I’d like to clear up is that I didn’t write the post to place blame. To quote Rascal Flatts, “God bless the broken road”, and I wouldn’t go back and change anything. All of my experiences have led me to the place I am now, and I’m very happy here. As I said, the Bais Yaakov system works for some. My friends graduated from there and most of them have no idea why I wrote what I did. My intention was never to hurt or offend – I just had something I felt that I needed to say. Based on the amount of positive responses I received, I think I made the right decision by posting it.

Visit Batsheva’s blog, They Call me Shev

Back To School

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

What is the most impressive accomplishment in professional sports?

What is that question doing in this newspaper?

One of the lessons Ben Azzai teaches us in Pirkei Avos is al t’hi maflig l’chol davar, which means there is potential value in everything in Hashem’s world (Tiferes Yisrael on Avos 4:3). We might even be able to derive a musar haskal from professional sports.

In most sports, there is a champion. Every year, someone wins the Davis Cup, the Stanley Cup, the Superbowl, and the World Series. How would you determine which of those is the most impressive achievement?

Perhaps the most impressive achievement is none of those. Perhaps the most prestigious title is the one that no one wins, year after year. Perhaps the crowning achievement in professional sports is the Triple Crown of Racing, which no horse has won since Affirmed won it in 1978.

A victory so seldom achieved is an impressive achievement. And I think there’s a musar haskal for each of us, particularly as parents.

Rabi Shimon taught: There are three crowns: the crown of Torah, the crown of kehuna, and the crown of malchus. (Avos 4:13) That is our triple crown.

How can each of us aspire to all three crowns? How many of us are kohanim? How many of us are descendants of Dovid Hamelech? And if many of us can only aspire to the crown of Torah, what is the lesson for us in knowing that there are two other crowns?

According to Rabi Yitzchak Izaak Chaver, each of the three of the crowns bears significance for every one of us:

The crown of kahuna alludes to service, the positive mitzvos.

The crown of malchus alludes to self-restraint, the negative mitzvos.

The crown of Torah alludes to knowledge, to learn for the sake of Torah. (Ohr Torah, cited by Misivta Avos, kaftor v’ferach page 62)

How does this apply to you and your child?

There are three areas of achievement for a child: social, behavioral, and academic.

You want your school-age child to have friends, to cooperate with teachers, and to master the lessons that she is taught.

You want your pre-schooler to play nicely with other children, to sit in the circle when the morah says it is circle time, and to learn shapes, colors, numbers, and the aleph-bais.

Learning appropriate social skills incorporates positive mitzvos such as v’ahavta l’reiacha kamocha and b’tzedek tishpote amisecha.

You want your child to achieve the crown of kahuna, to form friendships by expressing kindness, patience, and generosity.

Cooperation with teachers includes the negative mitzvah of al tasur.

You want your child to attain the crown of malchus, to learn self-restraint, to reign in impulsive behaviors and desires.

Torah encompasses all of the above as well as the study of Torah itself.

You hope your child will acquire the crown of Torah; that he will see the joy of Torah in others and strive to gain it for himself.

You want your child to win the Triple Crown. Sometimes, I hope, he will. When he falls short in one or two areas, don’t be discouraged; be concerned.

How do you express concern? How do you help your child when she is struggling in one of these areas?

Please join me for a Webinar on how to address these and other back to school issues, including How to Talk to Your Child’s Teacher, How to Get Homework Done Without Tears (yours or theirs!), and Effective Study Habits.

Log on at Frumtherapist.com on Thursday, September 6 at 11:30 AM for a LIVE, INTERACTIVE 45 minute presentation* about: Homework – Has it been a struggle to get started, get it completed, get it right? Or even to find out if any homework was assigned?

Test grades – how does your child study? Is memorization hard for him? Doe she have trouble with comprehension? Conversations with rebbeim and teachers – what to ask, how to initiate and how to respond.

Rabbi Yitzchak Shmuel Ackerman is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with specialties in marriage, relationships, and parenting. He works with parents and educators, and conducts parenting seminars for shuls and organizations. He can be reached at 718-344-6575.

*The webinar is sponsored by The Jewish Press.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/back-to-school/back-to-school/2012/08/30/

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