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Dear Dr. Yael,

Recently you featured a letter by a woman who wrote that she lost her grandson to what she referred to as “permissive parenting.” I wanted to share our nachas story. We too had a grandchild who lost his way. None of us were happy with the company he kept and the things he did. We spent many hours davening that he should open his eyes and see what a disaster he was making of his life. The difference in our story is that our children are great parents and reached out for help.


In the end there were so many people, devoted rabbeim and kiruv professionals who saved our grandson. There were yeshivas that opened their doors and people who opened their hearts. Baruch Hashem, today he is married with a child of his own and learning in Eretz Yisrael.

Dr. Yael, I do wonder, though, why it is that children from solid homes with solid family lives find themselves making serious mistakes. Why do some of them gravitate towards those who are troubled and the lifestyle they espouse?

Can you share some thoughts?

A Fan


Dear Fan,

Thank you for your letter; it’s nice to have a happy ending to share.

You ask why kids seem to gravitate towards that which is not good for them. Simply speaking, the forbidden is always attractive and some kids, despite good parenting, struggle with the pull of the forbidden.

What I always tell parents is that the best insurance policy they have is their relationship with their kids. If it is a strong and loving one when they are young, it will likely stay that way as they get older. The more we love someone, the less we want to hurt him or her. A good relationship with one’s parents makes you less likely to want to hurt them, even when the pull towards the forbidden is strong. That is not to say that if a child veers off the derech, it is because he or she does not have a good relationship with his or her parents. It is possible for kids to sometimes lose their way, especially if they become addicted to something they tried by mistake. Parents should not be blamed for a child’s actions.

While there is no foolproof method to keeping our children safe, here are some important points to remember:

Make sure your children feel valued and loved. One of the ways to do that is by giving them structure and rules. However, it’s imperative that you explain why you have these specific rules and that you show empathy to them when you have to follow through with reasonable consequences. (It’s okay to give your child a free pass infrequently if you are generally consistent and follow through with consequences.)

Help build up his or her self-esteem. One way to do that is by assigning him or her appropriate responsibilities and giving compliments when they are accomplished. Be descriptive and specific in your compliments, especially when dealing with teenagers. Furthermore, asking your teenagers’ opinions and engaging them in conversations makes them feel important.

It’s also beneficial to keep your opinions to yourself unless asked when dealing with teenagers. While we may want them to learn from our mistakes, it’s best to let them try and problem solve on their own. Most of the time teenagers are thinking out loud when they tell you things or just repeating things their friends have said, but if you vehemently disagree with them, it can cause them to go in a direction neither they nor you would like. Don’t give unsolicited advice; however, if your teenager asks for your opinion, make sure to steer him or her in the right direction.


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Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to [email protected]. To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at