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January 20, 2017 / 22 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

When Should A Couple Go For Marriage Therapy?

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Q: My husband and I are having trouble in our marriage. We tend to fight about the same issues every day and he’s so emotionally distant. At what point should I consider seeing a marriage therapist?

 

A: A professional practicing marriage therapist can act as a mediator when it comes to disagreements and personality differences. These differences can cause any number of arguments. Most of the rifts a couple experience have the potential to end in a peaceful way, but then there are those rough and tumble situations where there seems to be no hope in sight. When the stability of your relationship is in question, marital therapy can provide you with the best relationship advice and guidance.

Seeking out marriage therapy to get unbiased guidance from a mediator who is professionally trained in such matters is a good start to getting back what was lost between the two of you. The marriage family therapist will offer you his or her expertise and qualified suggestions as your professional negotiator. It’s sometimes nice to have that cushion when you and your spouse can’t seem to get past your problems and communication has stalled.

Family counselors are certified professionals who have experience in all types of situations. Marriage therapy advice is a just a small portion of what they offer to couples from all walks of life. They also instruct couples on techniques of how to strengthen their bond, improve their listening skills to better understand each other, and increase their conversational and interpersonal skills.

A marriage therapist will never place blame on a guilty party, if there is one. They only try to help you work through the misconceptions, accusations and ego trips that may bring negative feelings into the relationship. You’ll find that marriage and family therapy will have a significant impact on your relationship and your lives. When communication becomes stagnant and it no longer exists between loved ones, family therapists can guide and teach you to share your feelings once again. They give a person permission to share their deepest fears and desires without feeling guilty or ridiculed by their partner. Egos are checked at the door when a mediator is present, for there is no room for them in a successful relationship.

Boredom, emotional neglect, lack of communication or attachment issues from childhood are just a few reasons why marriage problems may occur. The problems can be compounded or it may be just a single issue, but it is enough to shake the foundations of a relationship. When the couple fails to identify the causes of their difficulties, confusion and separation from the relationship can soon follow.

Sometimes, the advice helps reveal issues that were once hidden due to anger, misunderstandings, and a breach of trust. Using your marriage counselor’s advice can aid you through the process of working it out for yourselves.

There is the belief, or opinion, that family therapy should only be undertaken when a situation is too dire for repair. This is a false conviction. Marriage family therapy can be beneficial to any couple that is having issues, and at any stage in a relationship.

In many instances, troubled couples thought they were destined for divorce, and had actually started the proceedings, before they engaged in any type of family therapy. They soon realized their mistake once they began participating in regularly schedule appointments with their family therapist. The family therapy sessions saved their marriages from failing and taught them how to relate to each other in a more efficient manner.

It is best to begin family and marriage therapy when marital problems are still in the early stages. The sooner a couple engages in family and marriage therapy, the quicker and easier it will be to eliminate any misconceptions, anger, frustrations, and trust issues they may have.

Now, there are always those stubborn partners who refuse to participate in any marriage and family counseling. This should not stop the one individual who wishes to seek help. The marriage therapist can help the individual work through their own personal issues, and maybe once their partner sees the remarkable effects that the marriage therapist is having on their spouse, they may want to join in on the sessions.

Don’t be surprised when the marriage counselor digs deep into your private life. No judgment will be placed upon you; it just gives the therapist an understanding plateau of what makes you tick. It’s common to feel uncomfortable with disclosing so much personal information, but as your sessions progress, that queasy feeling will dissipate. The more open you become, the easier it will be to accept truths and understandings.

Seeking out professional guidance when your relationship appears to be bleak and unsalvageable is the wisest thing you could ever do. Regardless of the price you pay for family therapy, it can never be as expensive as losing a family.

Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch

Divorced Father and His Relationship with His Three Year Old Son

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Question: My son is three-years-old and we have a great relationship. However, his mother and I are divorced and every time I go to pick him up he runs around and sort of avoids me. It’s seems more like a game than anything else. I say that because once I chase him down and get him, we go off together – no tears, everything is great. But then, when I drop him off, he runs away without saying goodbye. For me his behavior is somewhat disturbing, how mother though has said that all this means he really doesn’t want to be with me. Other than pick-up and drop-off everything is truly fine between us. Shouldn’t my ex-wife try to help instead of doing nothing and complaining?

Answer: Taking you at your word that there is no further issue and that your son is not genuinely unhappy to see you or thrilled to leave you, it seems that you have something of a training issue. This is one of those divorce-related issues that commonly gets out of hand quickly. If his parents were married, they would demand he give each parent a kiss hello or goodbye as a greeting. The obvious support of both parents creates a simple, easy resolution to training a child to properly greet others.

After a divorce, there are these sad differences that cause further rifts between parents. Your ex probably feels it’s not her job to deal with this or, worse, that she’d be covering up real issues which are occurring between you and your son. It would be ideal if she’d help and the two of you could stand firm together and teach this simple well-mannered behavior. In fact, the behavior could be brought on by conversations she’s having around your son in anticipation of your time together. In subtle ways she could be making your son anxious. She could be saying things like, “Everything will be okay with Daddy and I’ll be right here when you get back waiting, don’t worry.” This sort of sentence contains underlying negative messages that little kids feel and interpret without even realizing it.

However, there is nothing in the scenario you’ve described that would suggest that mom is fueling this behavior – and it may be time to reduce your dependence on her doing the job of parenting. It’s not her job any more than it’s yours to care for this situation. In reality, distancing herself from this may help you learn to be a more complete parent and feel confident to manage these types of situations.

A simple solution would be to teach your child a secret handshake and greeting that you practice with him. The secret handshake can include a ritualistic kiss and hug as well. This way, through fun and love, you’ll get your son in the habit of running to you to be involved in the “secret” greeting.

Rabbi M. Gary Neuman

Is ‘Jewish’ Parenting Lax?

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal by Yale Professor Amy Chua – “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” – has inflamed passions across the country. The blogosphere is ablaze while The New York Times, Newsweek, Time and hundreds of other news outlets have run articles and often angry opinion pieces debating the wisdom of Chua’s authoritarian – some argue abusive – parenting tactics.

Excerpted from her new book, Battle Hymn to the Tiger Mother, the article argues that Western parents are far too indulgent of their children’s desires. Chua’s own children were not allowed to watch TV, play computer games, get anything other than an A in school, be anything other than the number-one student in every subject (except gym and drama), or play any instrument other than piano or violin – which they had to play whether they wanted to or not.

Chua ackowledges, “The fact is that Chinese parents can do things that would seem unimaginable – even legally actionable – to Westerners. Chinese mothers can say to their daughters, ‘Hey fatty – lose some weight.’ By contrast, Western parents have to tiptoe around the issue, talking in terms of ‘health’ and never ever mentioning the f-word, and their kids still end up in therapy for eating disorders and negative self-image.”

According to Chua, “Western parents are extremely anxious about their children’s self-esteem. They worry about how their children will feel if they fail at something, and they constantly try to reassure their children about how good they are notwithstanding a mediocre performance on a test or at a recital. In other words, Western parents are concerned about their children’s psyches. Chinese parents aren’t. They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently.”

Interestingly, amid all the debate regarding Chua’s parenting model, some have argued that people should look to the Jewish community for a paradigm of successful parenting that churns out successful and happy adults. How would one describe this model? Liberal and permissive, they claim.

“Do we [Jews] ascribe to more lax, permissive parenting that’s wrapped in Jewish-mom guilt?” asks Wendy Sachs on the Huffington Post in reaction to Chua’s article. “Without a doubt,” she answers, boasting that Jewish kids routinely talk back to their elders.

On another blog, George Mason law professor David Bernstein argues that “Jewish parents are known for their permissive parenting [a]nd Jewish kids seem to do alright.”

And in an article titled, “Why Chinese Mothers are not Superior,” entrepreneur Martin Varsavsky argues that Jewish parents “spoil” their children and if they “get a bad grade [their parents] go and fight it out with the teacher.”

I frankly was quite surprised to learn that people consider Jewish parenting to be lax and permissive. Certainly traditional Jewish teachings would not give one this impression. Proverbs, for instance, famously declares, “Spare the rod, hate the child” (13:24) and “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him” (22:15). Indeed, the sentiment expressed in these verses is so embedded in Judaism that Jewish law does not treat a father or teacher who accidentally kills his child or pupil while disciplining him as a murderer.

Nor do biblical heroes exhibit much in the way of permissive parenting. Sarah advices Abraham to banish his son Ishmael and God agrees with her. Jacob curses two of his children on his deathbed – hardly the act of a fawning parent. King David may be an exception, but not a laudatory one. Indeed, the book of I Kingsimplicitly blames David for Adonijah’s attempt to seize the throne. Why was he at fault? Because “[David] never distressed [his son Adonijah] by asking him, ‘Why have you have done such and such?'” In other words, he spoiled him.

Writing about parenting, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch argues that if one wants one’s child to “subordinate his likes and dislikes to a higher authority” – the basis of all of Judaism – then one must start training him at an early age. Hence, Rav Hirsch exhorts parents:

Train your child, from the very first year of his life, to obey any reasonable order you may give him.

Gradually and firmly break him, as early as possible, of the habit of staging outbursts of impatience or temper tantrums in order to obtain something you have denied him because it would not be proper or good for him.

Elliot Resnick

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.

Chana Weisberg

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.

Chana Weisberg

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.

Adina Socloff

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

Debbie Brown

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/the-process-of-change-part-i/2009/06/10/

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