Why Is My Child Acting This Way?

Adolescence is a transitional time in which teenagers move from childhood into adulthood. The psychological and physical changes that occur during this period alter their view of themselves, their family, their friends and the world around them. They don’t want to be seen as children, but instead, they desire to be viewed as adults. They want to develop their own identity and have the responsibilities of an adult (without the consequences). Therefore, as these changes occur, they may feel a need to reject the rules, values and ideology of their parents.

Parents, on the other hand, may feel like their children are acting childish with their demands, such as “ I want to stay out later” or “ I need $250 for an iPod touch.”

Parents can be frustrated by a teenager’s behavior, such as screaming, yelling and acting like a 2-year-old who’s having a temper tantrum. In addition, parents may think, “Why is my child acting this way?” or “I can’t take it anymore! I’m tired of my child’s disrespectful behavior.”

Teens may behave appropriately and be respectful to other adults, but in their own home, these same teens may act disrespectful. Teens need an outlet, a place to let down their hair.

In the same sentence, they may ask their parents to do something for them (a show of love), and they might push their parents away with a comment such as “Get out of my room.” Often, teens’ disrespectful and obnoxious behaviors test their parents’ patience.

Children need limits and boundaries, but they also need loving and caring parents. In a barrage of insults, such as “I hate you” and “you are the meanest mom ever,” I still recommend that parents give and express small loving acts. Recently, a mother reported that her daughter hardly came out of her room because she was mad at her, so the mother slipped a paper under her door that read, “I love you, Mom.” The mother thought she’d find that note crumpled in the trash when her daughter emerged, but the mother found the note taped next to her daughter’s bed. A note in your child’s lunch, on his or her pillow or by text will be remembered and appreciated (even if not acknowledged).

Parents’ reactions to their children’s transition from childhood to adulthood can make this switch smooth or bumpy. For example, if parents become scared of letting go of their “baby,” they may begin a power struggle over who is going to be in control of the teen’s life. It can be difficult for parents to decide which issues can be “let go,” which issues absolutely cannot be “let go” and which fall somewhere in the middle.

Letting go of children and watching them grow up can be challenging, especially when children reject their parents’ beliefs and values. Even though teen behavior is very normal and to be expected, parents may still struggle.

The best advice is to hang on for the ride and get some guidance as to what’s normal and expected. Of course, what works for your friend’s child may not work in your family, but understanding this transitional period can help parents be more prepared for their child’s journey into adulthood.

Lisa (Elisheva) Rabinowitz is a local Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor. She can be reached at 410-736-8118. Her suggestions are for couples in healthy relationships and exclude those in abusive relationships.

By George

2013_meredith_jacobsI knew it would be George.

I joked after the birth of His Royal Highness, the Prince of Cambridge, “I’m thinking David, after Diana. King David has a nice ring to it.”

Joking because not only is David not a traditional British royal name, there is no way the Queen would allow the third in line for the throne to be named after Diana! Not after the whole divorcing Charles and running off with Dodi Al Fayed thing. (Not that I spoke with the Queen or anything, but just assuming.)

For whom the baby is named is a big deal. I heard that when Prince William was born Diana and Charles had to delay announcing his name to allow the palace time to check out every royal who previously had the name.

George Alexander Louis.

While I’m not a royal family insider, I claim expertise in all things royal along with all the other women who remember as little girls waking up very early to watch a real princess get married. To this day, I remember the very young Diana being so nervous she messed up Charles’ full name, Charles Philip Arthur George. She said Philip Charles Arthur George. Poor girl. Strike one on the wedding day.

I’ve got to believe “George” is after Grandpa Charles.

For my fellow royal baby-bump watchers, we learned that Alexandra was the odds-on favorite had the baby been a princess — Alexandra being Queen Elizabeth’s middle name. Alexander must be a tribute to good ol’ great-grandmom.

The name Louis I remember from waking up early to watch William and Catherine’s wedding. William Arthur Philip Louis.

One name. Three generations.

I love that. I love that there was no way he would have been named Ethan or Jake. I love that the name means something, connects him to history and family.

I love that about our traditions of naming our children. The Sephardim traditionally name the first child after the paternal grandparents and subsequent children after those of the maternal grandparents. The Askenazi tradition honors family members who have passed.

My grandfather, Maurice, died on my mother’s 25th birthday. She is the youngest of his four daughters. The shock of his death sent her into labor with me, and I was born two weeks early. My family has always told me that it was a great honor to my grandfather that he had a name, that there was a baby named after him, before he was buried. My mother and my aunts always told me how special I am to them because I was named after their father. My grandmother gave me a diamond ring on my 16th birthday that my grandfather had given to her. She gave it to me, she said, because I was named after Poppy. I wear it only on the most special occasions. One day, God willing, I will give it to a granddaughter.

When it came time to name our children, Jonathan and I thought a lot about who the names would honor. What kind of people had carried the names first. By naming our children, we were making wishes that they would inherit certain traits and placing blessings that they would be as loved.

So while not all babies inherit an actual kingdom, be they George or Julian, Alexandra or Sofie, may all babies be blessed with names that mean family.

Meredith Jacobs is managing editor of JT’s sister publication, Washington Jewish Week.

Saying ‘I Love You’

When husbands and wives communicate their love for each other on a daily basis, they strengthen the foundation of their marriage.

The expression “I love you” contains only three words, but for some spouses, it is hard to articulate these words. One of my clients stated, “My spouse knows how I feel, why do I have to say it?”

Spouses are not mind readers and need to hear and be shown expressions of love. When I ask clients, “When was the last time you said, ‘I love you’ to your spouse?” some cannot remember.

Another client explained, “I don’t want to say “I love you” without meaning and feeling it, so if I don’t feel loving at that moment, then I will say nothing.” Since feelings can come and go based on our stress levels, busy lives, attention span, etc., I suggest to my clients that they express their love in some fashion on a daily basis.

Communicating our feelings is vital to marriage and relationships, but saying, “I love you” can be challenging for a variety of reasons. For example, sometimes we don’t say these three words because as children we didn’t hear them expressed in our home. If we didn’t hear “I love you” or other words of endearment aschildren, it is more difficult to say them as adults. Sometimes, we have been hurt by a past relationship and don’t want to risk being hurt again.

From a Kabbalistic perspective, women were given nine out of 10 measures of speech. Therefore, in general, it may be easier for women to verbalize their feelings.

Below are a few suggestions of expressions of love. I recommend picking one option and trying to perform the exercise at the end of the suggestion.

1. Expressing yourself nonverbally: Smile, hug or kiss. Today, I will _____ (fill in the blank) to demonstrate my loving feelings toward my spouse.

2. Performing actions: Helping your spouse with the children; calling (or texting) in the middle of the day statements such as “I love you,” “I miss you” or “I’m thinking of you”; making or buying his/her favorite food; writing your feelings in a card. Today, I will recognize _____ (one way) that my spouse expressed his/her love to me. Or, today, I will perform _____ (fill in the blank) to express my love toward my spouse.

3. Teaching by example: You verbalize to your spouse, “I love you,” which demonstrates how to communicate in a loving manner. Today, I will say _____ (fill in the blank) to express how I feel toward my spouse.

4. Listening without distractions: Turn off your cell phone when you are trying to have a conversation or spend time with your spouse. Today, I will listen and focus on my spouse for _____ (fill in the blank) (specify a certain amount of time, such as a half-hour).

5. Being appreciative: Recognizing one way your spouse has helped you or been thoughtful. Today, I will thank my spouse for _____ (fill in the blank).

6. Giving: Giving to a loved one promotes positive feelings. Giving does not necessarily mean a momentary gift, but giving of yourself or your time. Today, I will give to my spouse by _____ (fill in the blank).

If your spouse is not naturally verbally expressive, you may need to be patient and understanding as he/she discovers expressions of love. In the meantime, take the time to cultivate your marriage by saying “I love you” yourself.

Lisa (Elisheva) Rabinowitz is a local Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor. She can be reached at 410-736-8118. Her suggestions are for couples in healthy relationships and
exclude those in abusive relationships.

Ask Mesila: Teach your children how to handle money

Q: My 10-year-old daughter recently earned about $200 by helping at a day camp. To her, it seems like a fortune. She now wishes to use that money to buy herself extra junk food and the things she claims all of her friends have. It kills me to see her squandering her money, but she says that she is the one who earned it so she has the right to decide how to spend it. My wife and I are unsure how to respond. What do you think?

A: The Midrash says that when Hashem told Moshe to collect the machatzist hashekel, He showed him a matbei’ah, a fiery coin. The matbei’ah shel eish can perhaps be understood as a metaphor for money in general: Both fire and money are necessary for survival, but both can be enormously destructive when uncontrolled. Just as young children should not be allowed to play with fire, they should not be given free rein in handling money. Money is not a toy. It is a potent, intoxicating and dangerous substance, and its use needs to be controlled.

According to Jewish law, a girl under 12, or a boy under 13, cannot take possession of any object or money.

The Torah view is that it is not good for children to be independently wealthy. No matter how bright they are, they do not possess the emotional maturity to make the correct decisions with money. Therefore, they should not be allowed the heady feeling of financial autonomy, nor should they be burdened with the weighty responsibility of managing their own finances.

If your 10-year-old has earned money, it technically belongs to you. To your daughter, however, your taking control of her hard-earned wages may seem utterly unfair, so you will have to be very careful to present it to her in a way that she can swallow.

Instead of exercising your “legal right” to your daughter’s money by appropriating it, you should express to her, gently and lovingly, that the money must be spent at your discretion. At the same time, communicate to her that you have a great deal of respect for her and her efforts and that it is your parental duty to help her use the money she earned in the way that will be the most rewarding and productive. Your daughter’s newfound wealth puts you in the position to teach her crucial values and attitudes toward money.

Teach her about charity. Teach her that money is important — not as an end, but as a means. Teach her the value of saving money, the value of planning how to use money and the value of establishing priorities when spending money. Teach her that having money is a responsibility and that having money does not make anyone a better person, and that money should not be the topic of idle conversation.

You cannot impart these attitudes and values to your daughter in a vacuum. But you can teach her these by involving her in the decisions that will be made with regard to her money. Suggest to her positive ways she can use it, and give her the opportunity to offer her own ideas. Explain to her the various options for safeguarding money — bank accounts or the old-fashioned coin bank — and decide with her how much should be put aside for savings and where the money will be kept.

Ideally, the time to discuss with children how to use their money is before they start earning it. This way, parents can explain ahead of time what will be done with the money, before any misunderstandings arise.

Mesila believes that teaching good financial habits should be part of the education we give our children. By demonstrating to our children the importance of handling money properly, we give them the foundation for a lifetime of financial responsibility and stability.

This new column is penned by Mesila financial planning and counseling experts, mesila.org. Email questions to editor@jewishtimes.com.

Keeping Jewish Teens Involved

For many Jewish teens, the culmination of their involvement in Judaism comes at the age of 12 or 13 when they read their Torah portion and celebrate at their bar or bat mitzvah party. While some teens will go on to complete confirmation classes and may be involved with a Jewish youth group, many will cease to be engaged with Jewish life at all.

Nearly two years ago, the Jim Joseph Foundation, a San Francisco-based organization that strives to foster compelling Jewish learning experiences for Jews ages 13 to 30, began a study in hopes of finding new and innovative ways of keeping these teens actively involved in their Jewish communities.

“The foundation funds Jewish education for youth and young adults and after looking at the success we’ve had in the college and young adult space, we felt that we wanted to push the envelope in the teen space as well,” said Josh Miller, a senior program officer at the foundation. “We did some analysis and found that in most communities the penetration rate in the teen market is 15 to 20 percent which is quite low. So, we set out to ask the question of how we can work with communities to increase the number of teens having effective learning experiences in their communities.”

Collaborating with consulting firms BTW Informing Change and Rosov Consulting, LLC, the foundation put together a research advisory group comprised of funders, key experts and practitioners and a group of six teen advisers from geographically and ethnically diverse backgrounds.

“Bringing together advisers really helped shape and reshape the research project to see what was happening in both the Jewish and non-Jewish world to see what kind of strategies and programs seem to be resonating with young people today,” explained Miller. “We also wanted to have teen advisers because if you’re going to write a report about an age population that can speak for itself, by all means bring them into the conversation. It’s one of the smartest things we did.”

The researchers spent February-May of 2012 studying both Jewish and non-Jewish youth and leadership groups; the official report was published this past March.

While a number of important findings are detailed in the 17-page report, Miller highlighted three that he felt are the most important for the Jewish teen community. The first, he described as “location,” meaning that it’s important to create experiences that are normative for teens in places they go to on a day-to-day basis.

The second he termed “people, people, people,” explaining that an essential part of keeping teens engaged is having effective leaders who can form relationships with the teens, making them want to return to the group and therefore be engaged in Judaism.

“The critical element of how and what the adult role is, is really important,” explained Deborah Meyer, executive director of Moving Traditions, a Philadelphia-based organization that was profiled in the report and works to focus a gender lens on Jewish learning and practice. “Having the right adults as staff and volunteers to engage with the teens is the single most important element in successful work with teens.”

The third essential finding was the need for organizations to create low barrier programs that allow teens to be casually engaged at first, and make the decision on their own to attend more events or become more involved.

Upon completion of the report, the foundation worked with eJewish Philanthropy to run a blog series, encouraging discussion amongst those involved in the study, and those who read the study and wanted to contribute.

“We wanted those who work in the teen space and even teens themselves to weigh in with their reactions to the report. It was really extraordinary to see the comments and discussions, and it really became a rich online conversation for the sake of our learning and advancing the field,” said Miller.

He added that an important finding from the post-report online discussions was the emphasis on programs reaching out to preteens and the empowerment of teens to recruit their younger peers to get them excited about what they could be doing in their teen years. Additionally, an emphasis was placed on parent education and having parents encourage their teens to be a part of their Jewish communities.

While doing research and publishing an in-depth report is a huge undertaking, those involved hope that it doesn’t “gather dust” but rather inspires communities to take action on behalf of their Jewish teens.

“I would like to see conversations within communities around teen engagement and communities taking the topic seriously to try and address it head on,” said Jeffrey Kress, associate professor and academic director, Experiential Learning Initiative, JTS, and a research adviser for the report. “Sometimes it’s a challenge, and communities need to rise to that challenge and ask the question of how are we meeting the needs of our youth and taking a collective responsibility for the development of our youth for their embarking on the next phase of their Jewish development.”

Meyer praised the work of the foundation, adding, “They’re not just saying that there is a problem, but they want to do something about it which is really important and they are doing that as a lead funder.

“We’re hoping that we raise awareness about the importance of teens as an age cohort and get the attention of Jewish policy makers and Jewish funders,” said Miller, who added that the foundation has plans to host a Jewish webinar series discussing the organizations that are highlighted in the report. “It’s such an important developmental stage and it’s a great opportunity for the Jewish community to enrich young people’s lives in a complicated time.”

Perhaps Lucas Lendenbaum, 18, from Silver Spring, and a member of the teen advisory board said it best.

“It’s important to keep teens engaged because it’s a prime time to get Judaism imprinted in their brains and to know that this is something important that could be with the teens for the rest of their lives.”


New series provides support and best practices

In this millennium, parents are facing challenges their own parents could hardly have imagined. Whether it is texting, time management, tantrums or toilet training, being a parent, and adjusting to a child’s ever-changing developmental needs, has always been a shock to the system.

Most parents can benefit tremendously from expert advice and the opportunity to share concerns with fellow moms and dads. “How to Raise Great Kids in Today’s World,”  a series cosponsored by Jewish Community Services and the Jewish Community Center, will help parents at every stage feel more prepared for the most challenging job they will ever have.
[Read more…]

Building A Peaceful Home

Healthy marriages make healthy children

I believe that most couples get married wanting and believing that their relationship will be filled with shalom, peace. But couples inevitably have conflicts that cause strife in their relationship. The days of fun dates and the honeymoon can turn into the daily grind of cleaning, cooking and changing diapers.
[Read more…]

Start Making Memories

“By the big red barn In the great green field, There was a pink pig, Who was learning to squeal.”

Those are the opening lines from “Big Red Barn” by Margaret Wise Brown.

There was something about this book that I loved. Loved it more than Brown’s more famous “Goodnight Moon.” Even now, when I read it to myself, I hear my voice reading it out loud and feel as if I’m moving forward and back on the glider in the baby’s room.

I read to my children each night since the day they came home from the hospital. Even when they were just days old, I read to them and sang to them.
[Read more…]

Letter From The Past

I pulled the hand-addressed envelope from my mail tray at work. Spying the name above the return address, I said, “Oh my goodness. I just got a letter from my second-grade teacher!”

The stationery was bordered with pale pink and blue flowers set apart from the open writing space with a lavender ribbon (not an actual ribbon, but a watercolor ribbon). It smelled faintly the way I remember stationery smelling when I was a little girl. I don’t know if Hallmark scented the paper, or if the box had been in a drawer along with scented scarves, or maybe it was just my imagination, but the smell and look and everything about the letter made me feel like I was 7. [Read more…]

Positive Messages

Healthy marriages make healthy children

A continual dialogue is being played out in your mind. Sometimes you are not aware of this dialogue, but your thoughts can bring you happiness, sadness, anxiety, anger and/or fear. You decide if your thoughts will be positive or negative.

You also have a dialogue playing about your spouse (or loved ones). For example, when he/she surprises you with roses, your favorite dinner or an evening getaway you may think, “My spouse is so thoughtful and loving.” When he/she does something upsetting, you may think, “My spouse is not considerate.” [Read more…]