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November 23, 2014 / 1 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

The Road Trip

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

We’re on one of those really long family road trips. The kind that parenting experts advise will imprint fond memories on your children’s psyche. (How’s that for guilt?) And the kind on which you never leave home without a bottle of Tylenol and your favorite cup of strongly caffeinated, black coffee.

 

             So, as we’re driving, and watching the scenic countryside, I try to forget that my cramped legs desperately need a stretch. Instead I reframe and feel super-proud of my parenting skills in providing my children with emotional equilibrium as well as life-long family memories.

 

I’m sure they’ll never forget the never-ending quests for sugary snacks, the onslaught of super charged comments like: “are we here yet?” “I’m soooo bored!” and “why ARE we going?!” Not to mention the endless squabbles.

 

I know I sure won’t.

 

It’s getting darker outside. It’s a summer rainstorm-huge claps of thunder and frightening streaks of lightening and a flood of heavy rain.

 

As the noise from the passenger seats of our van gets (it must be even-fonder-family-memories being formed), I’m starting to have my doubts about whether we really are on the right track. (Not a good idea to share with stressed-out-in-the-driver’s-seat-husband.) But the doubts have crept into my consciousness and won’t go away. Have we missed our exit? Taken a wrong turn? (An even worse suggestion to offer to now-even-more-stressed-out-husband.) And my worst personal fear-are we almost out of gas?

 

It’s been an awfully long time since I spotted the last sign offering any direction. And the darker it becomes, the harder I strain to see ahead.

 

And then, when the despair is almost reaching a fever pitch, I see it. Just another couple of hundred feet–a rest stop.

 

Finally.

 

Time to stop. Time for a stretch. Time to regroup, refocus and remind everyone why we’re on this journey, with one another, to begin with. Time to store up on fresh, cold drinks, new sweets, fuel for the car, and high-powered energy for those driving it.

 

Time also to get directions. To re-evaluate and make sure that we’re on the best route.

 

I heave a sigh of relief. Intuitively, I know that once we get back on the road, everyone will be far more calm and sure of where they are heading.

 

Our lives, too, are one long journey. Along the way, we each have our personal missions that we’re here to accomplish–some big and all-encompassing; others, smaller, but nevertheless just as important in the overall picture.

 

Unlike our long car trip, our life’s journey isn’t about the destination, but the paths taken throughout. But still, as we pass through the various intersections of our lives, sometimes, through it all, life’s tediousness bogs us down. The nuances along the way may cramp our style, make us thirsty, irritated or even give us a throbbing headache. Sometimes, we even forget our destination or why we’re here. There are moments when the journey can seem pointless, monotonous or hopelessly frustrating.

 

And then, we sight it. Off in the distance, a few days ahead on our desktop calendars, is our rest stop – our holidays, or moadim, specially set times, interspersed throughout our year.

These set special days are our opportunities to reload, to fill up on spiritual nourishment (not to mention the oh-so-fattening-and-oh-so-sugary-culinary delicacies that we’ll be oh-so-sorry-to-have-eaten-later ), direction and reconnection. Time to become reinvigorated, to refocus on our journey, why we’re here, where we’re heading and to evaluate if we’re taking the best possible route.

 

So, enjoy the drive. Don’t miss out on the glorious beauty of the scenery (or the kids). And take real good advantage of those rest stops all along the way.

The Road Trip

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

We’re on one of those really long family road trips. The kind that parenting experts advise will imprint fond memories on your children’s psyche. (How’s that for guilt?) And the kind on which you never leave home without a bottle of Tylenol and your favorite cup of strongly caffeinated, black coffee.

 

             So, as we’re driving, and watching the scenic countryside, I try to forget that my cramped legs desperately need a stretch. Instead I reframe and feel super-proud of my parenting skills in providing my children with emotional equilibrium as well as life-long family memories.

 

I’m sure they’ll never forget the never-ending quests for sugary snacks, the onslaught of super charged comments like: “are we here yet?” “I’m soooo bored!” and “why ARE we going?!” Not to mention the endless squabbles.

 

I know I sure won’t.

 

It’s getting darker outside. It’s a summer rainstorm-huge claps of thunder and frightening streaks of lightening and a flood of heavy rain.

 

As the noise from the passenger seats of our van gets (it must be even-fonder-family-memories being formed), I’m starting to have my doubts about whether we really are on the right track. (Not a good idea to share with stressed-out-in-the-driver’s-seat-husband.) But the doubts have crept into my consciousness and won’t go away. Have we missed our exit? Taken a wrong turn? (An even worse suggestion to offer to now-even-more-stressed-out-husband.) And my worst personal fear-are we almost out of gas?

 

It’s been an awfully long time since I spotted the last sign offering any direction. And the darker it becomes, the harder I strain to see ahead.

 

And then, when the despair is almost reaching a fever pitch, I see it. Just another couple of hundred feet–a rest stop.

 

Finally.

 

Time to stop. Time for a stretch. Time to regroup, refocus and remind everyone why we’re on this journey, with one another, to begin with. Time to store up on fresh, cold drinks, new sweets, fuel for the car, and high-powered energy for those driving it.

 

Time also to get directions. To re-evaluate and make sure that we’re on the best route.

 

I heave a sigh of relief. Intuitively, I know that once we get back on the road, everyone will be far more calm and sure of where they are heading.


 


Our lives, too, are one long journey. Along the way, we each have our personal missions that we’re here to accomplish–some big and all-encompassing; others, smaller, but nevertheless just as important in the overall picture.

 

Unlike our long car trip, our life’s journey isn’t about the destination, but the paths taken throughout. But still, as we pass through the various intersections of our lives, sometimes, through it all, life’s tediousness bogs us down. The nuances along the way may cramp our style, make us thirsty, irritated or even give us a throbbing headache. Sometimes, we even forget our destination or why we’re here. There are moments when the journey can seem pointless, monotonous or hopelessly frustrating.

 

And then, we sight it. Off in the distance, a few days ahead on our desktop calendars, is our rest stop – our holidays, or moadim, specially set times, interspersed throughout our year.


These set special days are our opportunities to reload, to fill up on spiritual nourishment (not to mention the oh-so-fattening-and-oh-so-sugary-culinary delicacies that we’ll be oh-so-sorry-to-have-eaten-later ), direction and reconnection. Time to become reinvigorated, to refocus on our journey, why we’re here, where we’re heading and to evaluate if we’re taking the best possible route.

 

So, enjoy the drive. Don’t miss out on the glorious beauty of the scenery (or the kids). And take real good advantage of those rest stops all along the way.

Are You A Good Parent?

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Psychologists study ways to help people find authentic happiness. Researchers report that using one’s strengths allows for greater creativity, productivity and excellence. While theses are all the ingredients for professional and career success, they have also been found to work in people’s personal lives as well. Utilizing personal strengths yields greater happiness and feelings of well being.

We can apply this principle to our parenting. The parent who understands her unique strengths will be more comfortable and confident in her parenting abilities. She will be more productive and will be able to better interact with her children, thereby parenting more effectively. She and her children will exhibit greater happiness and well being.

Haim Ginott, an eminent psychologist in the 1960′s and 70′s, addressed this issue of strengths in his parenting classes. One mother was feeling badly because her child had asked her to volunteer to be the class mother and she told him no. She complained to Dr. Ginott: “What’s the matter with me? Why can’t I be like other mothers?”

He said firmly, “A question like that only confuses. It presupposes that we should feel like other people. But we don’t. We’re not other people. We’re ourselves. You are you. We come back to the same thing again. We can only feel what we feel. And we really feel differently – each one of us does – not only about being class mother, but about everything. One mother loves to bake with her children, and another can’t stand having them underfoot in the kitchen; one loves gathering the little ones around to read aloud to them, another shudders at the thought. We each have our strengths and our limitations.”

As Jews we are familiar with this concept. In our morning prayers it says, ” My G-d the soul you placed in me is pure. You created it, You fashioned it, You breathed it into me.” G-d lovingly placed a portion of Himself within us. That is our soul. Our soul contains a gift from G-d, our unique personality, aptitude and strengths. We just need to discover and use these gifts to the best of our ability. Using our individual talents enables us to meet our potential and live life to the fullest.

Here are 5 questions we can ask ourselves to help us find our strengths, our uniqueness and our individual style, so that we can parent happily, productively and effectively.

1. What aspect of parenting do you find energizing? What comes easy to you?

We often spend a lot of time focusing on our weaknesses. Our dress is wrong for the party, our house is not clean enough, our children aren’t polite enough and the neighbor does it all better than we ever could. We need to stop looking at what we think we are doing wrong and concentrate our efforts in searching for our own areas of competence and strengths. It is the part of parenting and nurturing that comes most naturally to us. It is what makes us feel fulfilled and whole.

Think about what you love to do with your kids. Is bath time or feeding your children their favorite foods one of your preferred activities? Do you enjoy cuddling and curling up with them to read a good book? Do you love to take your kids out and about town to a new exhibit at a museum or do you like making popcorn and watching old movies with everyone on the couch? Somehow we always push ourselves to do the hard stuff, things we don’t like to do. Ironically, our strengths lie in the activities that we do effortlessly.

2. When do you feel good about your parenting?

Is it the hugs and kisses from your children or teaching your children to tie their shoes and ride their bike? Do you enjoy when your child shares with you something new he or she has learned, like the lifecycles of a butterfly or the habits of a beaver? Or do you relish hands-on activities, like arts and crafts or sewing?

Most of my clients do not tell me about their best parenting moments. They mostly share the times they messed up. In one of my classes we decided to change all that. Everyone was required to tell a story of at least one time where they felt they did it all right. Parents realized, “Hey, I am not so bad after all.” Focus on the positive aspects of your parenting and you will gain an appreciation for yourself and all that you do.

3. What are your five best qualities as a person and how do you use them to enhance your relationship with your children?

Here is a short list of character traits that can help: Honest, cheerful, independent, artistic, wise, athletic, spiritual, fun-loving, laid back, caring, spontaneous, thoughtful, practical, flamboyant, kind-hearted, brave, logical, calm, discreet, cooperative, brave, giving, punctual, friendly, warm, tactful, adventurous.

You want to cultivate your best qualities and find ways to connect with your children using those traits that you are most proud of.

If you are a kind-hearted, compassionate person then empathizing with your child probably comes naturally to you and you can easily find ways to relate. If you are independent minded, then teaching your children the life skills to stand on their own two feet is something you will do naturally. A flamboyant and adventurous type parent will teach her children to enjoy life and find joy in the unexpected.

4. What aspect of parenting overwhelms you?

Be honest with yourself. Some of us are more energetic than others. Get real with yourself, what your capabilities are and work with them. If you have a low threshold for typical parenting tasks, and find yourself often at your wit’s end, get help. Hire a babysitter or cleaning service. If that is not an option have a heart to heart talk with your spouse or get another family member to pitch in.

Touchy feely parents might feel overextended because they do too much for their children. Talk to your more independent minded friends to get tips on how to get your kids to help. Independent parents might balk at an overly sensitive child. Parents who are emotional can return the favor and teach those parents how to better deal with the world of emotions. The adventurous parent might have a hard time with the schedule and strictures of parenting. You might want to use your imagination to do your chores in a fun, original way.

Being realistic with yourself and acknowledging your weaknesses in a soft way allows you to expend your energy on finding creative and practical solutions to manage your limitations.

5. What do you do to recharge and relax?

Parents, specifically mothers, need time for themselves. It is a necessity. Mothers need to unwind and just be. The demands of family can leave you drained and cranky. Everyone has their own way of relaxing. Find your personal preference. Do you love spinning class, curling up with a good book, a stimulating lecture or getting together with friends? You can also think about what you loved to do as a child and haven’t done in a while.

I enjoyed ice-skating as a kid. When my daughter took lessons so did I. I rediscovered a forgotten pastime. Instead of going to the gym, once a week I head to the ice rink. In other words, take note of what relaxes you and try to fit it into your schedule as much as possible.

Notice that nowhere in this article are the questions, what does your best friend do as a parent that makes you feel inadequate and why aren’t you trying to copy her? What gives you the most guilt? How did your mother parent and why haven’t you done everything you can to emulate her?

To tap into your unique, individual personal strengths, the questions you need to ask are the ones that force you to turn inward and take a good deep look at yourself.

Our G-d given personal strengths are the things that we are naturally good at and give us energy and vitalize us. To increase our joy, contentment and pleasure in our children and our families we need to cultivate and build our parenting strengths. Very simply, the key to our happiness and ultimately to our children’s happiness is to find what we love about parenting and do more of it.

The Process Of Change (Part I)

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

At different points in their lives, many people will attempt to make behavioral changes. Whether the changes are temporary or lasting will depend greatly upon several factors. For example: Does the person want to change? Does the individual have the resources and knowledge to successfully make a lasting change? Is there anything preventing the person from changing? Then there is always the expected relapse. What factors will trigger a person’s return to a former behavior?

Whether people are contemplating clearing their basement or office of clutter, fighting an uphill battle to take off weight, trying to stop smoking, or attempting to improve their parent-child relationship, making any change in their behavior, especially a lasting one, is rarely a simple process. It usually involves a substantial commitment of time, effort, energy and emotion.

As far as solutions are concerned, there is no single answer that will work for everyone. Some people may have to try several different techniques in order to achieve their goals, often through a process of trial-and-error. And even if they do find a successful approach, it does not necessarily follow that they will experience immediate positive results. Along with feelings of disappointment, it is common for them to feel frustrated. And it is during this irritating period they may become discouraged, give up on their goals and revert to old ways.

In view of the frustration, there are (at least) two factors that can potentially enable individuals to reach and maintain their goals: finding ways to stay motivated ,and having a support system in place. Whether the support is professional in nature and/or is derived from peers, acquiring inspiration, encouragement and strength from sensitive and understanding outsiders can sometimes make the difference between forward momentum and giving up.

And now for the crucial piece – the building blocks of the process – how does change occur?

There are theories to help explain how change occurs. The ‘Stages of Change Model’ (SCM), which was introduced in the late 1970s by researchers James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente*, has been used to help us understand the mind/body stages we go through when we do change. And while this particular model does offer possible strategies to help us work through each stage, the model serves a greater purpose. It provides us with a sense of the complexity and chaos (i.e., the ups and downs and rollercoaster ride) involved in the process. That awareness lends itself to help generate more patience, understanding and compassion – with ourselves or toward others – in navigating the struggles within the various stages.

One key thought behind the Stages of Change Model is that behavior change does not happen in one step. Rather, there is a gradual progression of small steps toward a larger goal. And people tend to progress through different stages on their way to successful change with one caveat in mind – that it will be at their own rate.

In this two-part article, the contextual framework upon which we will be focusing is parenting behavior changes. We will identify the stages, discuss certain aspects and offer several possible strategies or perspectives associated with the stages.

Note: For the purpose of the illustrations below, names were chosen randomly.

Stage 1 – Pre-contemplation

During this earliest stage of change, also referred to as “denial,” people are not considering a change. Everything in their world seems just fine the way it is. They claim their behavior is not a problem and/or they believe they have no control over their behavior. They may become defensive in the face of pressure to change, often manifesting in blame. In many instances, they are either unaware or under-aware of the consequences of their actions to family members. In addition, they may not realize that a different approach exists, or that other choices are available. With this lack of information, they may be uninformed that ‘they can choose to choose’ or ‘they can choose to make a different choice.’

When Ariella and I first spoke, she described the state in which her family was living – a state of upheaval, turmoil and suffering. She was well aware of the need for her to change her parenting approach toward her children, two of whom were struggling with adolescent and profound learning issues. She was ready to begin learning. However, her husband, Yosef, refused to join her. “My husband has no intention in changing. Why should he? He doesn’t believe there is anything wrong with how he relates to the kids. In his map of the world, everything is fine, well, at least based on his perception. His claim is that the kids are the ‘real’ problems because they’re uncooperative and chutzpadik. And then he yells, criticizes and puts them down. So I feel a need to come to their rescue. But then, typically, he blames me for their behaviors. He’ll usually say: ‘You don’t know how to handle the kids. You’re too soft. You just have to put them in their place!’”

And on a different note Eight-year-old Shlomie’s hearing loss had not been detected until it was too late. In the interim, this sweet little boy began exhibiting behavior problems in school. The administration was unable to provide him with tutoring and so his father took on the role. Yehuda spent hours tutoring his son, a task he started with the best of intentions. However, Shlomie was unable to grasp the learning. It was a hard pill for his father, a man who spends about 19 hours a day learning Torah, to swallow.

Frustrated with his son’s inability to keep pace with the class, the interchange between father and son gradually deteriorated. At this tender early stage, they were at each other’s throats. And the signs were beginning to show up in school. Imagine how Yehuda felt when the principal indicated he would not allow the child to remain in school. Imagine how Shlomie’s mother felt when she heard that her 8-year-old son had been “kicked out.” Imagine how horrified his loving grandmother felt when she tried convincing her son, Yehuda, that unless they do something immediately to help build up Shlomie’s self-esteem, the child’s future emotional development would, no doubt, suffer.

This grandmother was educated. She understood the domino effect associated with profound learning problems, low self-esteem, a child’s disinterest to learn and future at-risk behavior. And yet she felt helpless, unable to get her son to think differently, to entertain other options, and to shift from his attitude of “everything will work itself out.”

And so the big question is, can you get someone in denial to change? Or should we say how do you get someone in denial to change?

Ironically, most parents with whom I have worked have posed to me an almost identical question: “How can I get my child to change?” And my answer to them, in the form of a question, is applicable, here as well: “What exactly do you believe you can do to get your child to change that will not compromise your ultimate goal or hinder your relationship? And equally as important, if you do get your child to change (through manipulation or control), do you believe the change will be a lasting one?

While one’s intentions to influence someone’s behaviors may be selfless and noble, it is vital to keep in mind that a decision to change is internal; it must come from within. Stable, long-term change cannot be externally imposed. As a matter of fact, when outside (negative) pressure is involved (i.e., anger, criticism), the opposite result often takes place. Therefore, one of the best strategies one can use in a relationship is to learn how to communicate in the most flexible and compassionate way. And part of utilizing effective communication is to think prudently: When is it best to say something and when is it more beneficial to rely on Chazal’s adage: “Shev v’al ta’aseh (do not do – or say – anything)?”

In Part Two, we will continue identifying and discussing the other stages.

* http://www.addictioninfo.org/articles/11/1/Stages-of-Change-Model/Page1.html

Man Serving Hashem … The Center Of Creation

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

The brothers of Yosef referred to him as the “The Dreamer” (Bereishis 37:19). And, while the brothers seemed to have used the title in a disparaging manner, Yosef’s life was, in fact, inextricably tied to dreams.

He engendered the envy of his brothers when he shared his two dreams with them. He correctly interpreted the dreams of the ministers of Pharaoh, and later rose to glory when he was called upon to shed light on the dreams of Pharaoh himself. The two original dreams of Yosef and their significance in the events of the lives of the children of Yaakov compel us to study them carefully and glean important messages from their meaning.

Yosef’s first dream (Bereishis 37:7) was about 11 sheaves of grain in a field, bowing to the center sheaf – representing the 11 sons of Yaakov bowing to Yosef. His second dream (Bereishis 37:9) was all about heavenly matters. In this dream, the sun, the moon and the stars were bowing to him.

Yosef aroused the envy of his brothers when he related these dreams to them. However, Yaakov Avinu had a different “interpretation” of the dreams of his son. While he adopted an external pose of annoyance with Yosef, the Torah relates “V’Aviv shamar es ha’davar – And his father [Yaakov] ‘guarded’ the dreams [and anxiously waited for them to come to fruition] (Bereishis 37:11; see Rashi).

Yaakov Avinu Waiting And Watching

This causes us to question – what did Yaakov Avinu see in the dreams of Yosef that the brothers missed?

Rashi lists several similarities between the lives of Yaakov and his favorite son, Yosef (Eleh toldos Yaakov, Bereishis 37:2, see Rashi). In that light, it is interesting to note that Yaakov Avinu also dreamed of the same two elements, gashmius and ruchnius – earthly and heavenly matters – when he was sleeping in Beis El, on his way to the house of Lavan (Bereishis 28:12). He dreamed of a ladder standing on earth that reached the heavens.

However, that is where the similarities ended. Yaakov’s dream was all about transcending the earthly and climbing the ladder to dwell in the presence of Hashem. The central figures in Yaakov’s dream were the angels. Yosef’s dreams were about Yosef, with all participants in the dreams paying homage to him.

That being the case, the brothers of Yosef seemed to be correct in their contempt for their brother’s view of things. Why then did Yaakov guard the dreams and expect positive outcomes from them?

The answer may be that Yaakov understood the deeper meaning in the dreams of his son. Yosef was thinking of man in his highest state – as the center of the briah (creation) itself. Yosef was not egotistical; he was thinking about the awesome responsibility of man to serve Hashem. Yosef, who was to become the visionary leader of the entire world, and who was the virtual bechor (firstborn) of Yaakov, was dreaming of the limitless potential of the human being to become the center of creation.

After all, Hashem created this world – earthly and heavenly things – so that man can serve Him and thereby bring shleimus (fulfillment) to His world (Rashi Bereishis 1:1, Bereishis Rabbah 1:6). Yaakov’s dreams were about angels; Yosef dreamed about heavenly humans.

Yaakov realized that the brothers misunderstood Yosef. He was upset that Yosef shared his vision with his siblings and aroused their envy. At the same time, Yaakov was “guarding” the dream, and hoping for its eventual fulfillment. As Rashi explains, Yaakov was hoping for these lofty dreams to come true.

Passing The Tests

Over the following 22 years, Yosef was severely put to the test. He was sold as a slave and sent to Mitzrayim, demoralized and alone. He was tested by the wife of Potifar, and then spent 12 years in a dungeon. Having passed the trial of loneliness and deprivation, he was then faced with a greater challenge: glory and royalty. Yet Yosef remained the humble servant of Hashem throughout these divergent phases in his life (see Rashi, Shemos 1:5). His faith in Hashem remained intact, and of all our great avos and shevatim, he alone earned the title of Yosef HaTzaddik, Yosef the Righteous One.

Yaakov’s confidence in his son was rewarded. Yosef emerged from his trials and tribulations as the deserving leader of the world. The sheaves of the world, the people, were paying homage to him as they came to Mitzrayim to purchase grain for their families. More importantly, the heavenly objects were bowing to him, as well. Yosef had brought meaning to the world of Hashem. All celestial bodies joined in paying tribute to Yosef – and to his creator, Hashem.

Best wishes for a Gutten Shabbos.

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

To purchase Rabbi Horowitz’s Dvar Torah Sefer, “Growing With the Parsha” or his popular parenting tapes and CD’s – including his 2-CD set on “Raising your Adolescent Children” – please visit www.rabbihorowitz.com, email udi528@aol.com, or call 845-352-7100 x 133.

Teens And “Long” Motzai Shabbosos

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

Dear Rabbi Horowitz:

For the past few years, my wife and I have dreaded one aspect of Eastern Standard Time’s fall arrival.

Here’s our dilemma: We have three teenage children, two girls and a boy, 14-18 years of age. Every Motzai Shabbos, we have major negotiating sessions with each of them regarding curfew and the appropriateness of the venues they and their friends are looking to go to.Any suggestions, please? There has got to be a better way!

Rabbi Horowitz Responds

Dear Yitzi:

Reading your letter generated flashbacks – and sweaty palms – as it brought back memories of a few short years ago when my wife and I were raising four teenagers simultaneously (there is a six-year spread between our four married children). Nearly every Motzai Shabbos was a blur of post-havdalah phone calls to and from friends, with my wife and I trying to keep a handle on where each of the kids was going.

On a communal level, there is unfortunately an acute shortage of “kosher” recreation for “normal, on-the-derech” boys and girls. And that often leads to all sorts of friction in homes like yours, as you find yourself vetoing destinations for your children without having anything to replace them with. (I always tell parents to do everything possible not to take away something from their children that they cannot replace. That’s why it is so difficult to separate your children from friends that you do not approve of. It is very difficult to replace the friend due to a whole host of social reasons.)

With that in mind, my first suggestion is to do everything in your power to find or help create enjoyable, kosher and, if possible, supervised entertainment for your children. It may seem daunting, but with some support and cooperation from your friends with children of similar ages, there is quite a bit you can do. Make arrangements to rent a local gym or pool, or better yet organize a league where the children can play sports and compete with each other. Don’t be intimidated. Just call a meeting in your home and get things rolling. In my hometown of Monsey a friend of mine, David Newman, started a Pirchei baseball league about 10 years ago for a relatively small group of kids. It has grown exponentially since then, and hundreds of frum boys now play baseball Sunday afternoons with their fathers coaching and attending. (David has graciously offered to share his experiences with any parents who wish to start similar programs in their communities. He can be reached at dnewlnew@aol.com.)

Now is also the time to establish a relationship built on trust with your growing sons and daughters. Speak to them in easy-to-understand terms about how trust is built between adults, and encourage them to always be honest with you about where they are going. This will require you to be more tolerant and flexible, because should you veto too many places, your kids will ask, “Why can’t we be like our friends who don’t tell their parents, or are untruthful with them?” And that is a tough question to answer. Establish a curfew time for them, and clearly set out the consequences for ignoring the time that they must return. As always, try to be flexible and cut your children some slack if they can respectfully make the case why they would like to be out later.

One thing that I found very helpful as a parent (and long before that as the head counselor of a summer camp where I supervised dozens of older teens on their days and nights off camp grounds) was to set a designated time when your children must call in. For example, if curfew for your child is 11 p.m., inform him or her that you would like a call or text message at 1) 10 p.m. – just to let you know that things are well; and 2) at 11 p.m. – should he or she be running late. I have found that kids who need to call in to parents at specific times are often more aware of the precise time, and what their responsibilities are as far as informing their parents.

Please remember this phrase: Only the boss negotiates!

That means you should always remind yourself not to get flustered by your child’s negotiations with you over the details of your house rules. Always keep in mind that when people wish to negotiate for a raise at work, the only person they will go to is the boss – the one who can grant them the additional pay they seek. Thus, imbedded in the often-grueling give-and-take with your teen(s) is the acknowledgment that they accept your authority as “the boss” of your home. Of course, as normal teenagers they will rarely – if ever – thank you for your concern. But deep down, they appreciate it.

Believe it or not, I occasionally get bitter complaints from teenagers that they do not have a curfew – meaning that their parents are uninvolved and don’t care enough to parent them. In fact, study after study shows that hands-on parents who set limits for their kids have closer and more meaningful relationships with their children than hands-off parents.

Finally, remember to keep to the shvil hazahav (the golden path of moderation) and allow your teens to gradually assume responsibility for their lives – all the while keeping a watchful and caring eye on them.

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is the founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey, and the founder and director of Project Y.E.S. To purchase Rabbi Horowitz’s D’var Torah Sefer, Growing With the Parsha, or his popular parenting tapes and CDs – including his 4-CD set, What Matters Most – please visit www.rabbihorowitz.com, e-mail udi528@aol.com, or call 845-426-2243.

Addressing My Child’s Questions On Evolution: Discuss Or Take A Pass (Part II)

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

In last week’s column, a parent named Sara asked how she should deal with a book she bought on the planets that contains text describing the world as being 15 billion years old. She questioned if she ought to read it to her children and discuss with them the fact that there are people who believe this – while sharing with them our belief that the Torah teaches us that the world is 5,766 years old. She wanted to convey to her children that the theory of evolution is not accepted in the Torah world, and noted that she would like her kids to hear that information from her – rather than possibly hearing it later in life from someone who does not have proper hashkafos.

In my response I separated our adult understanding of essential matters of our bedrock emunah from the challenge of discussing these matters with our children. I also noted that the fact that there are objects in our world that appear to be more than 5,766 years old is not, in and of itself, a contradiction to our emunah. This is because Hashem created a world that was mature and developed – with aged trees and stones.

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Sara:

In the late 1800′s and early 1900′s, issues of emunah (unresolved questions pertaining to bedrock, fundamental components of our faith in Torah Mi’Sinai) seemed to have been a far greater challenge than they are today. Communist philosophy, the atheist mindset that went hand-in-hand with it, and the Haskalah raged through Europe like a forest fire and was a significant factor in many frum people abandoning Yiddishkeit.

Most of today’s children and adults, on the other hand, are not as preoccupied with philosophical matters as were their grandparents. I would guess that this change is due to today’s enhanced living conditions, and the distractions of technological and recreational opportunities. After all, the much slower pace of life in pre-war Europe allowed for more reflection and introspection – while today’s teens have far less discretionary time for matters of hashkafah.

With that in mind, your point about not raising these challenging concepts with your children may be valid. But I would suggest that all things considered, it would be far wiser to open a dialogue with your children about concepts of emunah and bitachon while they are still in your home, and are at an age when their set of nisyonos (temptations) are more manageable.

In Project YES’s 11 years, I have come across countless teens (and more than a few adults) whose commitment to Yiddishkeit was significantly weakened due to questions related to fundamental emunah concepts that were suppressed or left unanswered by their parents and/or educators. And while it is only a small minority of individuals who actually abandon Yiddishkeit due to these types of questions, having them “out there” unresolved during vulnerable phases in one’s life is not a recipe for maintaining his or her spiritual commitment to our mesorah during these trying periods.

I would most certainly encourage you to broach this delicate subject gently by mentioning that we firmly believe that the age of the world is 5,766 years, and that some objects in the world appear to be far older (as we discussed in the previous column).

What is most important in this discussion is that you leave the door wide open for your child to approach you with any questions – now or at any time in the future. Keep in mind that an unasked question is inevitably an unresolved one.

Often, parents (and educators) are intimidated to leave that door open for fear of being asked a question for which they may not be able to formulate an appropriate response. I suggest, however, that you need not be concerned about being in that predicament. Not knowing the answer to a question affords you the opportunity to guide your child as to what a Torah Jew ought to do in a situation where he or she has unanswered questions.

Suggest that he or she consult with a rav in the community, or a kiruv (outreach) professional who may be better equipped to answer these questions pertaining to our emunah. Or better yet, model the behavior by going with your child to the rav or kiruv professional.

You may actually enjoy the experience.

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is the founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey, and the founder and director of Project Y.E.S.To purchase Rabbi Horowitz’s d’var Torahsefer, “Growing With the Parsha,” his popular parenting tapes and CDs – including his 4-CD set “What Matters Most” – and his recently released parenting book, “Living and Parenting” (ArtScroll), please visit www.rabbihorowitz.com, e-mail udi528@aol.com, call 845-426-2243, or visit your local Judaica store.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/addressing-my-childs-questions-on-evolution-discuss-or-take-a-pass-part-ii/2008/08/06/

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