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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Horowitz Responds’

Changing Schools (Part II)

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

Our 12-year-old son is not doing well in his 7th grade local yeshiva class.

We are considering moving him to another local yeshiva in mid-year, as things are rapidly deteriorating. We are not asking for specific advice, as you do not know him or us. But can you share with us what questions to ask and answers to give when making this difficult decision?

Names Withheld

Rabbi Horowitz Responds

Two weeks ago, we discussed the following questions parents ought to explore before making the decision to switch their child’s school setting:

Which mechanech (educator) knows my child best? Which rav knows our family best?

This week, we will talk about the following:

Have we explored all possible reasons for our son’s lack of success in the current setting? Is the difficulty he is experiencing a one-year phenomenon or does it follow a pattern of poor performance over a number of years?

There are many reasons why a child underachieves in a particular school setting. But they can be broken down to three basic categories: The shortcomings of the school he is currently attending, educational or social challenges that he may have, and poor chemistry between him (and family) and the current school.

I would encourage you to begin by focusing on the second of the aforementioned points, namely your child’s learning and social profile. That component will help you address the other two segments more easily. This is because it is not uncommon for parents to switch their child’s school, only to find out later that the issues that complicated their child’s experience in the initial school followed him/her to the new setting. (A similar pattern often manifests itself with “retention” – having an underachieving child repeat a particular grade, hoping things will improve in the next round. Recent studies indicate that in a significant percentage of these cases, the problems are merely ignored and not solved at all.)

Start by thinking back to the past few years of your son’s school experience and ask yourselves if there were any signs of the problems he is currently having. Keep in mind that children, like adults, rarely change their learning styles and/or personality traits. We hope to improve the weaker points of our overall temperament – but our DNA doesn’t change.

I encourage you to explore the learning profile of your son in order to better understand the challenges he is facing this year. Is he a visual, auditory or textual learner? (Keep in mind that I only addressed the main learning patterns despite there being other, lesser- known styles such as kinesthetic learners.) Does he have attention issues such as ADD? Does he have impulse control challenges? (Please visit my website, www.rabbihorowitz.com, to review three columns I wrote on learning profiles named “Different Strokes” along with three columns on ADD.)

Answering all of these questions will help you understand your son better, as you try engaging in a forensic analysis of what is really going wrong this year. Having this information will also help you develop the “medical records” (see previous column) you can share with individuals whose advice you may seek in deciding if you ought to switch schools.

Finally, I would strongly suggest that you get an educational evaluation from a credentialed professional. Most school districts in the United States offer free educational/psychological assessments of students – including those who attend non-public schools. Your child’s principal or the director of special services can probably direct you to the appropriate office to arrange for an evaluation. If you find it difficult to access district services, consider contacting Mrs. Leah Steinberg, director of Agudath Israel’s Project LEARN (Limud Education Advocacy and Referral Network). LEARN helps parents navigate the path from determining that their child has special education needs to obtaining the services they are legally entitled to. Mrs. Steinberg can be contacted at 212-797-9000 x 325, or via e-mail at lsteinberg@thejnet.com.

Part III: More questions: How well does our child adjust to change? Are we truly open to exploring the way we parent our children?

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is the founder andmenahel of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey,and the founder and director of Agudath Israel’s Project Y.E.S.To purchase Rabbi Horowitz’s D’var Torah sefer, Growing With the Parshah, or his popular parenting tapesand CDs (including his 2-CD set on “Raising your Adolescent Children”) please visit www.rabbihorowitz.com, e-mail udi528@aol.com or call 845-352-7100 x 133.

Changing Schools (Part I)

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

Asking the Right Questions:

Our 12-year-old son is not doing well in his 7th grade local yeshiva class.

We are considering moving him to another local yeshiva in mid-year, as things are rapidly deteriorating. We are not asking for specific advice, as you do not know him or us. But can you share with us what questions to ask and answers to give when making this difficult decision?

Names Withheld

Rabbi Horowitz Responds

Note to readers: This subject requires a series of columns, due to the high-stakes nature of the school placement/change issue, and the large number of parents who are confronted with making these difficult decisions. How prevalent are these questions? Over the past decade, the percentage of calls to our Project YES office dealing with school placement issues has consistently hovered around 40 percent. This means that four of 10 callers were requesting assistance with school placements for their children.

I hope you find these columns helpful.

* * *

I like the way you framed the issue by asking me to provide you with a list of questions. This will help you make the call yourselves rather than having me make it for you. I believe it is healthiest for parents – and parents alone – to be making these types of da’as Torah decisions. Thus, in the end, it is your decision to make – as you alone will need to live with the consequences.

I always encourage parents to discuss substantive matters with da’as Torah. However, I have found that there is a great deal of confusion as to the difference between an eitzah (advice), a p’sak (Halachic ruling) and a brachah (blessing). (I encourage you to visit my website, www.rabbihorowitz.com, and read my “Answers About Questions” column for more details on this complex and often misunderstood issue.)

As per your request, here are some questions. I’ll add some suggestions afterward.

1. Which mechanech (educator) knows my child best?

2. Which rav knows our family best?

I think these are, by far, the most important questions for you to explore. Most parents in your predicament often look for high-profile individuals who do not know their children – such as leading roshei yeshiva, rabbanim or mechanchim – to help them decide whether or not to switch schools and which school to switch to if a change is to be made.

However, I have found that regardless of their wisdom, tzidkus (piety) or stature people who do not know your son and/or your family simply cannot and should not be asked to give you substantive advice regarding such a complex matter like changing your son’s school placement. That would be like going to a renowned heart surgeon and asking him for medical advice (whether to operate) without giving him your medical records.

If that individual has the time to do everything necessary to get the “medical records” of your son, by all means take advantage of the opportunity. But keep in mind that the higher the profile of the person you are going to, the more likely it is that there are incredible demands on his time. Trust me, you do not need an overworked, busy person right now. Remember that getting the “medical records” would mean receiving input from the current rebbe/teacher, inquiring about your child’s personality and current social interaction, reading any educational testing you’ve done, and reviewing report cards. You get the picture.

If you have access to a leading rosh yeshiva, rav or mechanech, you will be far better served doing all your homework first and then, armed with all relevant information, consulting with him as per your final decision.

With that in mind, I suggest that you look for one of the following: 1) a current or former rebbe; 2) the principal (if you are comfortable letting him know at this stage that you are considering a school change); 3) your son’s summer camp rebbe or learning director; 4) your shul’s rav; or 5) an educator who lives on your block.

Picture the concentric circles of a bull’s-eye, and think of your son as being in the middle of those circles. Whoever is in the center of his life is best suited to give you the help you need.

More questions in Part II.

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 D’var Torah sefer, “Growing With the Parsha,”or his popular parenting tapes and CDs (including his 2-CD set on “Raising your Adolescent Children”) please visit www.rabbihorowitz.com, e-mail udi528@aol.com or call 845-352-7100 x 133.

Negotiating With Our Teenager: Understanding The Dynamics Of ‘The Deal’ (Part I)

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

Dear Rabbi Horowitz:

Our eldest child is in 10th grade at a local Bais Yaakov. She is doing well in school and is generally well behaved at home. However, over the past year or so, everything we tell her or ask her becomes a full-scale negotiating session. It doesn’t make a difference what the issue is – curfew, when to do her homework, when to clean her room, etc. It is draining our energy and eroding our relationship with her.

Here are our questions:

1. Is this normal?

2. Isn’t it disrespectful for children to challenge their parents like this? Neither of us thinks we did this to our parents.

3. Do you have any practical suggestions for us?

Names Withheld

Rabbi Horowitz Responds

Nowadays, we keep hearing (appropriately so, I might add) that kids need healthy self-esteem. I think that with the incredibly complex and challenging job we face, parents need to nourish their self-esteem as well.

With that in mind, I will share with you a short phrase I tell people whenever the issue of negotiating with kids comes up in the Q&A segment of a parenting lecture: “only the boss negotiates.”

Think about it. When you are attempting to secure a pay raise at work, the only one that you approach is your boss or supervisor. Why? Because no one else in the hierarchy of the business has the authority to grant you additional compensation for your work aside from him (or her).

Thus in a roundabout manner, whenever your teenage daughter negotiates with you, she is acknowledging your authority in a very profound, albeit indirect, way. It’s almost as if she approached you and said the following things in sequence (all things in parentheses are unspoken sentiments):

1. (I know that I need to listen to you because you are my parent)

2. (If you refuse my request, I will have no choice but to accept your decision)

3. (Now that we got that out of the way), “Can I please stay out until 11 p.m. instead of 10:30?”

Now, doesn’t that sound better?

While we are in the parental “self-esteem-building mode,” please consider the fact that it is also a compliment to the two of you that the lines of communication are open between you and your teen. Trust me, that’s not always the case. In fact, when parents tell me that their teens are completely ignoring their house rules, I almost always send them for professional counseling – as that is a clear sign that there is a complete breakdown in the “chain of authority” at home. Reclaiming that takes wisdom, time and patience – and the willingness to change.

This “self-esteem-for-parents thing” is very important since you will be in the best position to effectively parent your child when you are confident, comfortable and in control. That means speaking calmly, not lashing out verbally, and developing an aura of tranquility.

Getting back to the analogy of your boss at work, think of how your respect for your boss would diminish if he yelled at or refused to listen to subordinates when they discuss things with him. You would correctly feel that he is not in control of things. So having the self-confidence to feel in charge and in control of your household will position you to effectively parent your teenage daughter when she “negotiates” with you.

Now, to your first two questions:

1. Is this normal?

This is most certainly normal. Kids have been doing this forever. The tone may have changed over the years, due to a number of societal changes (explaining the reasons for this is beyond the scope of this column), but kids have always tried to negotiate with their parents.

2. Isn’t it disrespectful for children to challenge their parents like this? Neither of us thinks we did this to our parents.

That depends on how the negotiating is done. It is not disrespectful for your child to “negotiate” with you, provided it is done in an atmosphere of ne’imus and derech eretz. Your task as a parent is to train your child to act this way. (Next week, I will share some practical tips to help you accomplish that goal.)

As for whether you did this to your parents, why don’t you ask them? Their answer may surprise you.

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

To purchase Rabbi Horowitz’s D’var Torah Sefer, Growing With the Parshah, or his popular parenting tapes and CDs (including his 2-CD set on “Raising your Adolescent Children”), please visit www.rabbihorowitz.com, e-mail udi528@aol.com or call 845-352-7100 x 133.

Shabbat Guests

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

Rabbi Horowitz:

We have very different views on the issue of having guests over for Shabbat meals. One of us feels strongly that Shabbat should be for bonding with our own children after a hectic week, while the other feels just as passionately that we should often have guests over at our home.

We have a terrific marriage, Baruch Hashem, but our strong differing views are a sore point in our relationship.

Tamar and Eitan

Rabbi Horowitz Responds

Tamar and Eitan:

Please accept my congratulations on the quality of your marriage. A home imbued with shalom bayis is, in my opinion, the greatest gift you can give your children. A quality marriage never comes easy, but it is well worth the energy and effort that you invest in the most important relationship in your life.

As for your dilemma regarding Shabbat guests, it is difficult for me to give meaningful guidance without knowing the two of you, the age of your children, and many other variables that will impact on my response. Having said that, permit me to share some questions on this subject. Hopefully, exploring the answers to these questions will help you resolve this matter.

My first question would center on the objections of the spouse who does not wish to have guests over. The stated reason for not wanting company on Shabbat was to “bond with our own children.” But is that the only motive for rejecting company? I would suggest that it is entirely possible that your spouse may just want to be left alone after a long week (essentially to bond with himself/herself – or with you, for that matter). I suspect this is the case, and the “bonding” matter is only part of the picture.

If this is the case, I think that the one who wants company ought to wisely step aside most of the time and allow his/her spouse the quiet time he/she needs. Why did I not suggest that you divide things evenly? Because I think that for some people, “quiet time” is a necessity and not a luxury – a “need” and not a “want.” As such, the one who craves downtime should take preference.

Another question to ask is, “Are the people we are inviting our guests or our family’s guests?” If it is a married couple with children, are their kids close in age to yours, and are the children compatible with each other? Either answer is fine. But be aware that if the guests are yours, in all likelihood the rhythm and talk at your Shabbat table will be of little if any interest to your children. Thus, you should see to it that when you have adult company over, you afford your children the right to be excused from the table when they wish to do so. Failure to do this will quite possibly create resentment on the part of your children, and they will start thinking that guests equal long Shabbat meals where we are stuck at the table with people who talk about things we don’t care about.

Finally, you may want to ask yourselves if you are maintaining the proper balance between the needs of your children/family and the demands of your social obligations. Always keep in mind that your primary responsibility is to provide for the needs (and wants) of your children. Sometimes that responsibility means pulling in the welcome mat and bonding with your spouse and children.

Obviously, if both of you agree that having company over would not negatively impact your children or your quality of life, I would most certainly encourage you to have guests as often as you feel it is appropriate. But this does not seem to be the case in your home setting.

I read your question with interest, as I presented a similar question to my great rebbe, Rav Avrohom Pam, zt”l, about 10 years ago. At about that time, I had just started both Yeshiva Darchei Noam and Project YES, and suddenly there were dramatically increased communal demands on my time. I told my rebbe that I was concerned that I was not spending enough time with my children during the week, and that I thought I ought to discontinue our practice of having guests over for Shabbat. I asked the rebbe if canceling the mitzvah of hachnasas orchim at this stage in my life was in accordance with Torah hashkafah (philosophy). Rav Pam fully supported my decision. He told me that my primary obligation was to the children that Hashem blessed us with, and if I felt they needed my time, it was not only permissible not to have guests over, but was the proper thing to do.

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is the founder and menahel 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 estyk2@aol.com, or call 845-352-7100 x 133.

On Confidentiality

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

Rabbi Horowitz:

My daughter has confided in me that one of her friends is cutting herself, and she is concerned that her friend may really hurt herself – or worse, chas v’shalom. She made me promise not to tell anyone.

What are my obligations and responsibilities to my daughter, her friend and her friend’s parents?

Name Withheld by Request

Rabbi Horowitz Responds

The matter of children or young adults engaging in self-destructive behavior, such as the “cutting” that you noted in your question, is a very serious matter – and far more common than we would like to think. In fact, I will submit that all frum teenage girls nowadays have either only one “degree of separation” or two “degrees of separation” between them and someone who is actually cutting herself. This means that they personally know a young lady who is engaging in this practice, or know someone who knows a “cutter.” In my next column, I will respond to the issue of the “cutting” and what you ought to be doing to help your daughter’s friend. (For the record, I already reached out to the writer of the letter in order to get her professional help in dealing with this dilemma.)

This week I would like to draw attention to the promise you made to your daughter, namely not to tell anyone. The quandary that you now find yourself faced with raises several ethical questions:

1. In light of the emotional turmoil and potentially life-threatening danger to your daughter’s friend, are you morally bound by the promise you made to her?

2. If (or when) you will be faced with a similar dilemma in the future, would it be wiser to simply tell your daughter outright that you cannot promise not to tell anyone?

3. How about the overall privacy matter with your own children? Is it OK to check up (or as the kids might say, snoop) on them by looking in their drawers/pockets, listening in on their conversations or checking their e-mail/IM/website history – in your effort to keep them safe and out of trouble?

Perhaps the best way to gain clarity in this complex web of ethical dilemmas is to first address question #3 – the matter of privacy as it relates to your children.

A crucial underpinning of any meaningful relationship is developing a sense of trust. Because trust is built up slowly over the course of time and so easily eroded, it is very important that children deem parents trustworthy and sincere. That means never being dishonest with them and not violating their sense of privacy unless it is absolutely necessary.

It is of paramount importance for your children to have a sense of privacy in their home. In addition to developing a sense of comfort and belonging, in the long term, it also helps them establish appropriate boundaries that help protect them from abuse/sexual predators/molesters. If children are raised to feel that they have a sacred right to their “own space,” they are far less likely to allow others to invade that space and mistreat them in the future. (This is a very important matter that I addressed in my 2-part column on abuse prevention. Visit my website, www.rabbihorowitz.com, for those articles.)

It may be helpful to keep in mind the sage advice of one of our generation’s outstanding mechanchim, Rabbi Shlome Wolbe, zt”l, who often commented that children are miniature adults who need to be treated with the same respect that we would afford other adults.

Always be candid and up-front with your children. If you are inclined to check their IM or website history, for example, (and in today’s climate, maintaining that level of vigilance is very prudent advice), inform them in advance that you will be doing so. If you are worried about the behaviors and friends of your teenagers, and are apprehensive that he or she may be engaged in destructive activities (such as alcohol and/or drug abuse), it would be wise to inform them of your concerns. You might also clearly state that you may feel the need to occasionally suspend your rules of privacy in order to keep a more watchful eye on them.

Please don’t go the route of regularly snooping on your children. Trust me, your children will find out what you are doing. It is only a matter of time until they do. And when that happens, they will rightfully feel violated, and you may find that you have created a terrible rift in your vital relationship with them. I personally know of more than one young adult who left home permanently – ultimately abandoning Yiddishkeit – over having their privacy regularly violated. This is not to suggest that this was the only reason (there rarely is only one reason), but this was the final straw.

When discussing privacy boundaries with your children, it is a good practice to stake your claim to occasionally – and rarely – violate these rules if you think they are engaging in life-threatening or destructive behaviors. You may wish to use the analogy of a firefighter, who doesn’t knock politely on doors when opening them to extinguish a fire. If you have established healthy boundaries – and trust – over time, your relationship will survive the stress associated with the suspension of your house privacy rules. And deep down, your children will respect you for caring. But they will find it hard to forgive you if you violate their trust by snooping on them.

With that in mind, I think that the answer to question #2 would be to tell your daughter that you cannot promise not to tell anyone if someone’s life may be in danger. You should assure her, however, that you would not take any action without discussing it with her in advance.

As for helping her assist her friend, I strongly feel that expert, professional help is required for the “cutting” matter. This is not something that well-meaning individuals with no professional training – like me – should touch at all. The best thing we can do as responsible adults is place the young lady in the hands of an expert who can guide her properly.

It may be a good idea for you to find a mental health professional with training in self-destructive behaviors and take your daughter to speak with him or her. He or she can help your daughter understand her friend’s actions, and then your daughter can recommend to her friend that she see this doctor or clinician. In this way, you will not have violated her privacy and will be offering her meaningful help.

In closing, I commend you on being an involved parent, one who has earned the trust of your daughter. The fact that she confided in you speaks volumes about the quality of your parenting skills. Rav Shimon Schwab, zt”l, notes that the first time the word re’ah (friend) is mentioned in the Torah relates to the incident of Yehudah’s misdeed (see Bereshis 38:20). Yehudah found himself in a very uncomfortable position during the incident with Tamar, and he reached out for the help of an individual, who is introduced to us as Chirah re’eihu (Chirah his friend). Rav Schwab explains that since Yehudah was comfortable confiding in this man after he had sinned, he was crowned with the title of “re’eihu.”

A friend is one who listens without judging. A friend is one with whom you can let your guard down. A friend is someone whose friendship is genuine and everlasting.

Fortunate are those who have parents who guide them, who constructively criticize them, who set limits for them, who teach them right from wrong by personal example, and who are their friends.

© 2007 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved.

Note to readers: In the next column, we will address the issues of “cutting” and self-destructive behaviors.

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is the founder and menahel of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey, and the founder and director of Agudath Israel’s Project Y.E.S. To review and download a free pre-publication copy of Rabbi Horowitz’s “Bright Beginnings Chumash Workbook,” please visit his website, www.rabbihorowitz.com, e-mail ek@darcheinoam.org, or call 845-352-7100 x 133.

On Davening (Part I)

Friday, June 15th, 2007

Dear Rabbi Horowitz:

My 12-year-old daughter is, B”H, a well-rounded, hardworking Bais Yaakov girl. She takes her schoolwork seriously and has a nice circle of friends.

Recently, I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend. On Shabbos and Sunday morning, when she does not have school, she has begun to sleep in unusually late and often does not daven Shacharis. Even when she wakes up with enough time to daven, she seems to be procrastinating and looking for excuses to avoid having time to daven. This is particularly disturbing to me as her mother, due to the fact that I’ve always made a great effort to daven every day – despite the challenges it entails.

How do I get my daughter to appreciate the chashivus and beauty of tefillah without making her feel that yiddishkeit is a burden?

Yocheved

* * *

Dear Rabbi Horowitz:

My eight-year-old son comes to shul with me Shabbos mornings. I enjoy walking to shul with him, and we both like spending the time together. However, he quickly gets bored after about 15 minutes of davening. What can I do to motivate him to daven better?

My wife keeps telling me to “lighten up” with him, and not subject him to such a long davening in shul. I keep telling her that I went to shul when I was his age.

We would appreciate your hadrachah (guidance) with this issue.

Nachum

Rabbi Horowitz Responds

Yocheved, Nachum:

I guess that an effective method for addressing your questions would be to analyze the factors and conditions that are conducive to creating the environment for sincere tefillah – in adults! If you are a regular reader of this column, you know that it is my strong feeling that many of the issues that we deal with in raising children are, in fact, issues that we as adults are struggling with.

Once we have a better understanding of these factors and conditions, it will be easier to reflect on your child’s unique situation as it pertains to his/her davening. You will then be in a better position to develop an action plan to help with that process.

I would suggest that among the many possible prerequisites for inspired tefillah, four important ones would be:

1) A rudimentary understanding of the Hebrew text of the davening and, preferably, an appreciation for the context and deeper meaning in these tefillos.

2) A feeling of vulnerability or a void/need in our lives that we hope tefillos will fill.

3) A feeling of connection to Hashem, and the faith that our tefillos are answered.

4) In the case of children, age-appropriate settings and expectations for tefillos are in order.

A careful reading of these factors will reveal that if any of these are lacking, it is entirely possible that the result will be rote, uninspired tefillos or, worse yet, a complete lack of participation in tefillah. Please permit me to expand on each of these items – with some suggestions for remediation in areas that may be lacking.

Understanding Our Tefillos

When parents would solicit Reb Yaakov Kaminetsky, zt”l, for advice on how to inspire their children to daven properly, he was known to ask them if their children understood what they were reading. When you think about it, it is a rather logical question. After all, imagine if we were asked to recite Latin poetry (lehavdil) with emotion and passion – while not understanding what we were reading!

If you find that your child is lacking an understanding of the basic tefillos (and perhaps this is an area where you are also in need of assistance), perhaps consider exploring the meaning of davening during your Shabbos meals. You may also think about approaching the rav or president of your shul to discuss the possibility of introducing shiurim on tefillah in your shul.

Another way to go would be to purchase some of the superb English-translation siddurim – including the recently released “trans-linear” ones. They are powerful tools in our efforts to increase appreciation for our tefillos. And please do not get hung up about what “others” or your children will think about your need for assistance in gaining a better understanding of davening at this stage in your life. It is a wonderful and powerful statement that you take davening seriously when you invest time, money and effort in personal and spiritual growth. Our children watch us very carefully, and they will be picking up an invaluable chinuch lesson from you when they see that you are willing to face your shortcomings and have the courage to self-assess and shteig (grow spiritually) – even years or decades after you left yeshiva or Bais Yaakov.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/on-davening-part-i/2007/06/15/

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