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Q: My nineteen-year-old daughter was set up on a date a little while ago. We spoke to many of his references, all of whom told us how wonderful he and his family were. They have gone out a number of times and my daughter seems to be very interested in him. However, I have noticed that he interrupts her when she speaks and he doesn’t say please and thank you. How can I teach my daughter to look out for and learn the appropriate middot?

A: It must be hard for you to watch your daughter with someone you don’t feel is treating her correctly. If you sense that these are isolated issues and that this young man has good middot in general, but has just slipped up in these cases, then I would probably not say anything to your daughter. However, if you feel that these acts are indicative of the way he treats people in general, then it is very important to speak to your daughter about proper middot in herself and others.


How can you help your daughter identify appropriate middot? First, you could instill in her the belief that she is a valuable person. People who have self-confidence are much less likely to tolerate when others are impolite or inappropriate with them. Second, explain to your daughter that there are social norms that people abide by, such as greeting others politely, and saying “please” and “thank you.” While these might seem like silly practices, in reality, they indicate a respect for another person. When people fail to perform these simple actions, they are signaling the belief that they are more important than others.

Luckily, middot and social skills can be taught to others. Eventually, middot become second-nature when pointed out properly and with care by a social skills professional. Don’t write this boy off yet, as with some help, anyone can learn to conduct themselves with derech eretz.



Q: No matter what I do, I cannot get my son to do well in school. He scored extremely high on his IQ test and was off the charts in his development when he was in preschool, but now as a fifth grader, he just seems completely unmotivated. Is there a way I can motivate him?

A: This is a common question that people ask me – and the answer is that we cannot motivate our children to do well. Instead, we can provide them with the tools necessary for success and force them to examine why they choose not to excel in school.

Dr. Michael Whitley, the author of Bright Minds, Poor Grades, suggests having a child make a list of his or her classes –math, English, science, history, etc. – and beside each class, state the goal, the grade, what the child wants to see on his or her first report card. This way, the child is setting his own goals, as opposed to his parents. He will then want to work to meet his personal goals.

Second, you should think about talking to your son about why he does not try in school. Perhaps he feels that he material is not challenging enough and could use enrichment. Alternatively, maybe he feels that no matter what he does, he will never be good enough. Once you come to the heart of your son’s lack of motivation, you will be able to help him set realistic goals that satisfy both you and him.

Lastly, you might consider taking your son to an education specialist who can assess your child’s potential and motivation. This will give you a good idea of the legitimacy of your expectations and help you figure out steps for the future.


Q: My three-year-old daughter was recently diagnosed with aphasia. Her particular type of aphasia consists of thinking one thing and saying another. For instance, when she wants to say, “Be quiet,” she will instead say, “Shut up.” While she qualifies for speech therapy from the state, I wondered what else I could do to help her?

A: Aphasia is a language disorder in which there is an impairment in speech, but not necessarily a loss of speech. There are many types of aphasia, but the one you describe with your daughter is one in which her brain and her mind do not communicate reliably.

In the book Aphasia and Its Therapies, Anna Basso outlines “conversational treatment.” Someone trained in education can help children relearn their language skills simply by asking questions and receiving answers. The vital part of this treatment is not judging the children’s responses to the questions regardless of how incoherent or inappropriate these responses are.

A typical conversational treatment could go as follows:


Adult: What did you do in school today?

Child: Played with blocks, stupid.

Adult: Were the blocks stupid or did you make something stupid?

Child: Neither, I just played with blocks.

Adult: Oh, and did you have a snack?

Child: My stomach hurt and I was stuffed. The food was yucky.

Adult: Did your stomach hurt before you had the snack?

Child: Yes, and that made me not want to eat the food.


Through non-judgmental conversation, the adult here is subtly pointing out to the child that some of the words and phrases she is using are not appropriate or relevant. Once the child consistently recognizes these behaviors, she will be less likely to use them in the future.

Family members can also:

Allow your child plenty of time to speak

Avoid correcting your child (instead, ask questions to clarify meaning)

Simplify language by using short, uncomplicated questions


The good news is that research has proven that aphasia it is possible to recover from aphasia. It takes a lot of time and patience, but in the end, your child’s mind and mouth should work in unison.


Register now for a Mindsets and ADHD workshop by Dr. Robert Brooks on November 13, 2018. Please call Mrs. Schonfeld at 718-382-5437 for more information.

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An acclaimed educator and social skills ​specialist​, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at [email protected].