Admonishing without destroying

A young couple become parents.  They begin to imagine all the positive and uplifting interactions they will have with their children.  Admonishing and criticizing children is most likely not part of this blissful scene.  Unfortunately, the reality of life and the chinuch obligations of parents soon intrude and require parents, on occasion, to correct, reprimand and admonish (i.e., give “tochacha” to) their children.  However, when they try to implement these measures they often find their efforts to be ineffective at best or counterproductive at worse.  Yet it is clear that we are halachically obligated at times to admonish our fellow man and to guide and correct our children.

This article will explore how chazal look at the issue of reprimanding and admonishing – particularly regarding chinuch – and their advice on how to maximize its positive impact and minimize the likelihood of it backfiring.

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The Role of Parents in the Current Crisis of “Off the Derech” Adolescents

The problem of rebellious adolescents has become a major area of concern for the frum community.  Many articles have been written on this subject and it is rare for a community organization to hold a conference without workshops devoted to this topic.  While accurate statistics are not available, most educators and activists feel that the problem is growing at an alarming rate.  Many knowledgeable activists use the term “epidemic.”

This paper will review the items commonly mentioned as risk factors in frum children becoming rebellious (“going off the derech”).  I will demonstrate that there is a strong tendency – albeit with the best of intentions – to downplay the role of parents in this problem.  The reasons for this avoidance and how it can impede efforts to alleviate the problem will be explored.

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Honoring Abusive Parents

As a clinical psychologist in the frum community I have frequently been asked by patients to address the question of the obligation to honor abusive parents. As a result, I have researched the issue and have discussed it with some prominent Rabbonim. I would like to share some of what I have learned with other clinicians and anyone else who needs to address this issue.

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Beginning the Healing Process

“It can happen in the best of families” is an expression often heard in regard to rebellious teenagers. Indeed, when a teenager goes “off the derech, ” we tend to blame the teenager himself, bad friends or negative influences. We tell ourselves that even a youngster from a “good home” can be swayed by a decadent culture. After nearly 30 years of counseling parents and teenagers in the Orthodox community, I am convinced that this attitude is both detrimental and inaccurate. It is detrimental because it causes parents to feel powerless in preventing this tragedy from happening to their child. One can’t change the basic nature of a child nor can on e totally isolate his child from the environment. It is inaccurate because teens who reject their family’s way of life are far more likely to be reacting to family issues (e.g. anger and hurt resulting from ongoing conflict with their parents) than to innate character flaws or environmental influences.

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Developing Middos: Learned Or Experienced?

When Hillel was asked to summarize the Torah in one sentence, he proclaimed: “Di ’ lach sani, lechavrach lo savid — What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor; the rest is commentary.” This is the minimum level of chessed: do not harm others. A higher level is expounded by Rav Akiva in his famous statement: “ ‘Ve’ahavta lere’acha kamocha , zeh klal gadol baTorah – Love your neighbor as yourself’; this is the great principle of the Torah.” It is clear from this that violations of mitzvos bein adam lechaveiro (mitzvos that govern interpersonal relationships) are at least as objectionable, as those bein adam laMakom (between man a nd Hashem ). Parents who are sensitive to this point put in a great deal of effort to teach their children middos (ethical character traits). It is the purpose of this essay to determine the most effective means by which we can develop positive character traits in our children.

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The Impact of Marital Disharmony on Children

By: An anonymous bochur

The feelings of shame started when I was a little child. My parents didn’t express any joy at being with each other. They criticized each other harshly, and they always found something to criticize about me. My parents would argue in my presence in loud voices, often yelling at each other in anger. Terrified of what might happen, I would withdraw to stunned silence. When I was finally able to speak, I would plead with them to stop fighting, but they were still trying to prove themselves right in my eyes – which seemed to me like they were expecting me to solve their problems.

 

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Over-Involvement by In-Laws: Recipe for Disaster

Rabbis and marriage counselors who deal with matrimonial issues report that the over-involvement of parents and in-laws in the lives of their married children is a frequent cause of marital conflict. Even when this over-involvement is not the actual cause of the contention, it will exacerbate it. The nature and degree of over-involvement (and the resulting damage) varies greatly from one case to the other, from mild intrusiveness to attempts at total control.

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Rebellious or Individualist: When the Apple Falls Far From the Tree

In “My Son’s Different Path,” a fascinating article published recently by Aish Hatorah, Heather Desilva tells of her experience as a secular mother whose son has chosen to become frum. Describing the dilemma she grappled with as her son began moving towards Yiddishkeit, Mrs. Desilva writes: “I didn’t know if I should panic, fight, or applaud.” Ultimately, the author chose to support her son’s decision, and as he
gradually became more religious, she says, “I stood aside and watched him blossom.”

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