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November 27, 2014 / 5 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Relationship Theory’

Reframing

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Over the past few months we have discussed many of the major ways in which we can understand what makes a teenager tick. Now let’s put all the pieces together and work towards restarting the relationship between you and your teenager.

 

Beginning again is never easy, especially when starting over demands that a person develop new habits.  However, restarting a relationship with a teenager is easier than most parents think.  Old habits can be replaced by new ones as long as you follow the Three Cs and keep the goals of Relationship Theory in mind.

 

Remembering the importance of connection, control and communication, parents can use the following techniques to help jump-start their relationship with their teenager:

 

Reframing

Communicating intent to change

Keeping the goals in mind

 

Reframing

 

Reframing can help parents view their teenager from a new perspective.  Seeing the relationship from a different angle can lessen the effects of a long history of bitter emotions.

 

Try to depersonalizethe conflict by viewing the teenager as a unique and separate individual.  One technique I teach parents is to treat their teenager as though he or she were a friend’s child.  With friends and acquaintances, we are extra careful not to overstep boundaries and we work hard to stay calm and maintain our sense of compassion.  Imagine how much better a parents’ relationship with their teen could be if they would relate to him or her with more love, politeness, and respect.

 

Another way for parents to reframe the relationship is to view themselves as their teen’s grandparent.  Many of us have fond memories of our grandparents.  I always viewed mine as a tremendous source of love and generosity, and their home was a place of kindness and acceptance. I never felt belittled or criticized by my grandparents.  Perhaps grandchildren have this special relationship with their grandparents because they are not the primary providers or responsible for discipline.  Parents who are able to imagine themselves as their children’s grandparents and relate to them in that way can reduce friction and give their children more of the love and kindness they need.

 

A third possible way is for parents to view themselves more like a salesperson and less like the chief executive officer of a company.  The shift in focus works as follows: For the first ten or eleven years as a parent, you were the CEO of your family.  As CEO, you were in charge of everything – how your children dressed, what they ate, whom they played with, what they watched on television and when they went to sleep.  Just like a CEO, you decided on all policies, budgets, and staffing (babysitter) issues.  You called all the shots from top to bottom.  However, when your children blossomed into teenagers, everything began to change.  Instead of being the CEO of your family, your role began to change and you became a salesperson.

 

A salesperson is very different from the CEO. Back in the office, the CEO wants results – he has invested millions of dollars in inventory and staff, he has investors and a board of directors to answer to and is financially responsible for the entire company.

 

A salesperson, however, is outside – hired to convince customers of their need to buy the company’s products.  Successful salespeople develop sales techniques that enable them to convince the customer that spending an extra $3000 on the latest stereo system (for example) is important for the customer’s happiness.  A salesperson must be able to close the deal and try to ensure that the customer returns to buy more products in the future.

 

Parents of teens at risk would do well to shift from being the CEO to being a salesperson in their family.  There’s no doubt that teens can be difficult customers. They develop particular tastes, desires and feelings strengthened by a powerful sense of autonomy and independence.  You know you can’t force them to do what you want anymore.  You may keep on trying and hoping.  You may even beg them to turn out the way you want them to, but they always seem to choose what they deem is important.  In truth, your child, who is now a teenager, has become a picky consumer and you need to learn the skills of a salesperson.

 

So how are you going to sell your teenager what you want him or her to buy?   Any salesperson will tell you that one of the most important rules in sales is that in order to make a deal you have to first develop a relationship with your customer.  You have to keep the customer engaged and interested in pursuing the relationship. To do this, you need to find ways to assure your customers that you are sincerely concerned about their happiness and well-being.  Of course, a good salesperson knows that you also have to wait for the right moment to sign the deal.  Salespeople need to be patient.  They know that sometimes just being friendly during the first encounter is what brings customers into the store a second or third time until the deal is done.

 

Reinterpreting Negative Behavior

 

Do teenagers at risk willfully try to harm or upset their parents or are they simply acting out their pain and pent-up frustrations? As we have learned in previous chapters, teenagers at risk are not just cranky, spoiled or rebellious.  They are dealing with serious emotional issues and are confused about their identity.  Many are angry about their lack of autonomy and their inability to live life the way they see fit.  During this time, parents are tempted to believe that if their teenagers would just listen, their problems would somehow go away.  However, teenagers at risk have a problem that is similar to a physical disease and demands professional attention.

 

When children are diagnosed with serious physical illnesses, do you think their parents can rightfully blame the children and claim that they are sick because they are lazy, obnoxious, or even selfish? Will the parents fight their children in an effort to make them better? Probably not.  However, somehow when parents deal with teens who have emotional difficulties, they lose perspective and believe their children could change “if they just wanted to.”

 

Instead of dismissing their teenagers’ emotions, parents need to accept that an at-risk teenager has a type of disease.  It’s not a disease that can be identified in a laboratory or under a microscope, but rather can be classified as a social illness that needs the same amount of attention – if not more – than a serious physical ailment.  Realizing that their child is suffering from an illness can reduce the feelings of anger many parents have.  This allows them to more easily maintain a compassionate stance that helps them deal with the real problems and less with their own feelings of loss of control.

 

Parents who have one teenager at risk and are unsure of how to explain that teenager’s behavior to the rest of their children should consider telling them that at-risk behavior is similar to a physical illness.  They should tell the children that their sibling is suffering from an illness that needs intervention and that they can help by being patient and loving.

 

To Be Continued

 

 

Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch, MA, is a Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in marriage counseling and teens at risk. He is the author of “At Risk – Never Beyond Reach” and “First Aid for Jewish Marriages.” To order a copy, visit www.JewishMarriageSupport.com. For an appointment call 646-428-4723 or email rabbischonbuch@yahoo.com.

The Magic Pill

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Life is full of stories about teenagers having difficulty making it through adolescence.  However, parenting teens – even teens who are at risk – doesn’t have to be such a daunting task when parents are willing to focus more on the relationship and less on getting immediate results.  Building the relationship is the key to reaching teens who are at risk.

I understand why most parents feel confused about how to deal with a teenager who veers “off the path.” It often comes as a shock when it’s your child who is swept into a counter culture that seems to affect more of our teenagers every day. The “at-risk” phenomenon seems to be everywhere.  Although the exact number of teens at risk is unknown, some estimate that the trend touches about one in four religious families.   I believe that the numbers are even greater. The problem likely digs much further into Jewish society than most rabbis, educators, and parents would like to admit.

But what or who is to blame for the at-risk phenomenon?  Some suggest that the problem originates in our schools; others maintain that dysfunctional homes are “ground zero” for risky behavior because kids miss out on key emotional ingredients such as love, caring, and parental stability.

Conventional wisdom points to the rapidly deteriorating standards in Western media.  Today’s television shows, movies, and Internet sites are filled with inappropriate and self-destructive images that are having a negative impact on teenagers and are fueling the at-risk crisis.

However, another possible way of viewing the at-risk phenomenon is that in actuality, it does not exist. Adolescents have always rebelled against the traditions of their parents.  The drop out rate among Orthodox Jews is similar to drop out rates in other religious groups that try to maintain higher social and religious standards than the societies they live within.

The theories go on and on, but the problem in our communities and homes continues unabated. David, age sixteen, for example, was a client I saw over a six-month period. Like most of my clients, David came from a traditional orthodox home and attended a yeshiva in the New York City area. School was always an emotional battleground for David, his teachers, and his parents.

According to David’s parents, in fourth grade David started having trouble sitting still in class.  He would speak out of turn, disrupt the class, and act in inappropriate ways.  He didn’t like Chumash and his mind would constantly wander. Instead of focusing on schoolwork, he would daydream about video games, movies, and his favorite sports teams.  Finding it difficult to concentrate in class was only the beginning of David’s problems. In fifth grade, he started getting into fights with his classmates and often received detention for bad behavior. Overall, David was an unhappy and slightly withdrawn child who was about to enter a five-year rollercoaster ride with his parents, principals and teachers.

Since David was doing poorly in the school he was in, his parents decided to send him to a school that specialized in working with teens in crisis. Although his behavior seemed better for a few months, most of David’s previous problems remained.  He still couldn’t sit still in class, he didn’t like his new friends, and began to act out.

David was in that school for two years, but he was still unhappy and acting inappropriately.  In fact, the situation got so bad that his principal asked David to leave.

At the same time, the situation at home had become a living nightmare for his parents.  The boy they had raised to be a well-behaved shomer Shabbos mentsch had turned out to be a loud, unappreciative, and angry teenager.  David was in trouble, and his parents were unable to deal with his emotional distress or figure out what to do next.

They consulted with friends and family, as well as with rabbis in the community, hoping they would have some insight into the problem.  The most common piece of advice they got was to send David away or put him in a remedial program.  However, David’s parents weren’t sure what they wanted to do and the tension in the house had become unbearable.

David needed help and his parents needed answers.  Most importantly, David’s parents needed to know that some glimmer of hope existed, a light at the end of the tunnel that would change their son’s life.

Desperate and impatient for a solution, David’s parents asked me what the “pill” was for at risk behavior. I suggested to them that the “pill,” in most cases, is for parents to start focusing on their relationship with their teenager. I call this novel yet remarkably simple idea “Relationship Theory,” which places priority on the power and impact that a good relationship can have upon children, both young and adolescent alike.

Part 1 – The Secret To A Happy Marriage

Friday, November 21st, 2008

Are you looking for emotional first aid for your marriage? If you are, you’re not alone.

Today engaged couples, newlyweds and couples who have been married for years, are feeling insecure about their relationships and looking for advice on how to make their marriages work better or simply to heal their relationship wounds.

It’s no surprise that people are feeling unsure about the state of marriage in America. Take the latest studies on divorce.  A 1999 study called The Effects of Divorce on America showed a significant increase in divorce over the last seven decades.  The report found that:

“In 1935, there were 16 divorces for each 100 marriages. By 1998, the number had risen to 51 divorces per 100 marriages.” In addition, “Over a 20-year period the number of divorced Americans rose from 4.3 million in 1970 to 18.3 million in 1996.”

The statistics speak for themselves: relationships in America are in trouble and, as a society, we are experiencing more divorce and dysfunction than ever before.

The good news is that I believe that most marriages can work. Often, all they need is a little guidance and direction, and when necessary, a bit of first aid.

It is true that the Torah community does not share these same statistics; our marriages tend to last longer and the viability of Jewish marriage is one of the great examples of the power and wisdom of the Torah. However, over the last few years, we are beginning to see a new trend. Not a month will pass by when we don’t hear about a young couple getting divorced.  The fact is, 30 years ago, “divorce” was an almost unspoken word in the Torah community. Today, divorce is becoming more common and we may be viewing the beginning of a new and dangerous trend.  As a case in point, a colleague of mine recently mentioned to me that he stopped giving engagement gifts and preferred to wait until the couple took the final steps to the chuppah.  These are signs that relationships are becoming harder to solidify and more difficult to maintain.

In today’s turbulent times, the entire notion of relationships is at risk, and the current tidal wave of divorce is causing a significant amount of anxiety. Worse, as skepticism about relationships grows, couples are becoming wary of promises that, “things will just work out,” and “love will conquer all.”  Many are willing to try just about anything to know for certain whether their marriage will succeed

In fact, some are so desperate for iron-clad assurances about their relationships, that they are willing to spend hours searching online for articles on marriage, participating in forums, and even taking illusive five minutes quizzes that promise to see if they have found their “true love.”

Here’s an ad I saw for one such dubious website: “Doubting if the person you are with is a right one for you? These tests and quizzes will help you to disclose his or her true essence.”

And that was just one site. There are so many others online that promise answers about romantic compatibility, how to know if you have found your soul mates, how much you have in common, and whether your love will last forever. It’s easy to get sucked into the appealing veneer of these quick and easy answers that aren’t based on fact or sound judgment.

Take Yossi, 25, and Deborah, 22, a young couple that came to talk with me about their fears of marriage and their inability to build a meaningful relationship. When they first walked into my office I was struck by how well they appeared – at least on the outside. They were in the prime of their lives, well dressed, soft-spoken and well educated. Yossi was a systems analyst for a software company, and Deborah was a graduate student who had just started her first year in a master’s degree program in psychology.

Yossi, it turned out, was having difficulty deciding to get married. Deborah was scared that Yossi couldn’t make up his mind and that he was unable to commit to a stable relationship.

Yossi had other concerns about marrying Deborah. He was uneasy about the negative vibes he was receiving from what he described as Deborah’s “well-to-do” family. He was sensing that they would be unwilling to support them while Deborah was still in graduate school, and he was worried that he couldn’t carry the financial burden alone.

Yossi and Deborah were unsure of their future and didn’t know if this was going to be a successful marriage. Like other young couples, they wanted to know if there was some kind of “crystal ball” that I could gaze into to tell them if their marriage would work. I told them that I wasn’t a magician, but I could offer them some sound advice about relationships. I explained that the key to marriage was something that has been known from time immemorial.  In fact, it is so simple and profound that most couples (barring serious emotional illness or domestic abuse) could utilize to greatly enhance their chances of staying happily married.

Towards A Better Marriage – Part 1

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

Are you experiencing a difficult marriage? Do you feel that you are the only one who cares about your relationship and your spouse won’t listen to your pleas for change?

According to the principles of Relationship Theory that I outline in my book At Risk – Never Beyond Reach, there are alternatives to perpetuating negative patterns of behavior in marriage. To understand how changes can occur, we will begin by examining five key areas of interaction between couples: control, love, self-esteem, individuality and meaning.

This week, we’ll explore the nature of control and how the imbalance of power can have negative effects within the family structure.

Control may be one of the most important areas plaguing difficult marriages. Remember, no one likes being controlled. In fact, those who suffer at the hands of a controlling spouse often linger for years with feelings of anger and depression. They may also experience the following feelings:

· They are stuck with another person’s definition of them.

· They do not have the right to their own opinions.

· They can earn love and acceptance by abdicating control to another person.

· They are “successful” if they fulfill another person’s vision, even when it does not in any way support theirs.

· They must obtain permission to act in matters that are, in fact, their own business.

There is also no doubt that control breeds hostility and resentment. I once spoke to a couple where the husband controlled every aspect of his wife’s life. He decided how she raised her children, where she shopped, how much money she could spend and whether or not she could have a cell phone. Their marriage was in a shambles and they had developed various negative styles of communication, stopped bonding with one another and lived a life of isolation and constant friction while living in the same house.

I have seen other troubled marriages where a spouse yields an inordinate amount of control over areas such as finances, education, food and vacation plans while leaving their spouse totally in the dark. These couples – like others – need to moderate their level of control and achieve a healthy balance of power in their relationship.

Also, it’s not just about communication, but attitude and perspective as well. A controlling personality tends to ignore his or her spouses needs and feelings and focuses only on what they view as necessary to maintain their own sense of security and equilibrium. The controller’s message is: It’s my way or the highway!

This mistaken attitude towards control also affects all family relationships, especially those with teenagers. A couple once came to me to discuss their teenager’s controlling behavior in the home. Their son tended to yell at his brothers and sister, boss them around and insult them on an ongoing basis. It became apparent after spending just a few moments with the parents that the father also had difficulty managing his anger and felt free to insult his wife on an ongoing basis in front of me, and much worse, in front of his child. Their son had learned early on how to control and berate other family members and was now mirroring the behavior he learned from his parents.

To help this family, I aimed to reduce external control and replace it with Relationship Theory, which teaches families how to shift towards respecting each other’s feelings and working to fulfill each other’s needs to the best of their abilities. This family needed to stop trying one another and to begin to respect the other person’s sense of autonomy.

For marriage to work, both husband and wife need to watch carefully how they exercise control. One step towards moderating an imbalance of power is to begin to develop an attitude of chesed or good will towards one another. When this is accompanied by expressing appreciation for one another on a daily basis, couples may begin to see each other as valuable and unique individuals, both adding to the quality of the relationship.

Another way of moderating control is by having a frank discussion about how decisions are made and who makes them. In some instances control can be divided in a healthy way, as long as both sides agree to the arrangement. For example, a couple could decide together who makes decisions and in which areas of influence. A lot depends on whether or not both sides consent to the power structure. The problem begins when one side assumes that they are the one in control and neglects to take the other person’s desires into consideration.

When couples begin to moderate their level of control, they often begin to experience more positive feelings in their marriage. One couple once described to me that when they reduced their level of control they felt as if they where newly married once again.

After control is replaced by Relationship Theory, couples can then go on to work towards improving their ability to love another. Next week we will explore the dynamics that love can play within a healthy marriage.

Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch is the executive director of Shalom Task Force and the author of a new book about parenting teenagers called At Risk – Never Beyond Reach: Three Principles Every Parent and Educator Should Know. He maintains a practice in family counseling and is a popular lecturer on parenting and relationships. You can visit Rabbi Schonbuch on the Web at www.neverbeyondreach.org or e-mail questions to him at rabbischonbuch@yahoo.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/marriage-relationships/towards-a-better-marriage-part-i/2007/09/25/

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