According to Reb Shalom Arush, The best way to deal with your teenager is by doing everything that you can to maintain a peaceful loving relationship with him at all costs – this, says Reb Shalom, means that even if they are “rebelling” against our most cherished values and beliefs – peace comes before everything.
How is a parent able to do this? Certainly Reb Shalom is not advocating that we abandon our role of educating our children – the Torah obligates us and ultimately holds us accountable for teaching our children how to live in accordance with Jewish Law. How then can we avoid strife with our children and educate them when they are showing contempt and distain for our way of life?
Know with certainty, that no matter how far your adolescent has strayed from Hashem he secretly loves and respects you far more than you can imagine. Even if he does not listen to you and opposes you at every opportunity, realize that he wants to find a way to come back to you and to admit that he needs your love, support and guidance. Your teenager may not be strong enough to admit that his friends are not good for him. He may not believe in himself enough to admit these things to you or even to himself but he feels them nonetheless.
An adolescent who is opposing his parents, his yeshiva and the life he was born into, is not rebelling against his parents. That’s psychological nonsense. All of our children’s behaviors are being directed by Hashem because he loves our prayers and desires that we parents go to Him with our children’s “problems” rather than trying to figure them out ourselves or dumping them on the lap of some therapist.
Deep down, an adolescent who is losing his grip on holiness and healthy functioning knows that he is lost and that the ways of his parents are the Truth – he knows that his parents have his best interests at heart; and that his parents have been advising him correctly despite his rejection of the Truth. A parent who understands that his child’s behavior is being orchestrated from Above and blames neither himself nor his child for the behavior will certainly be able to save his child.
When Rav Arush had some difficulties with his own children, years ago, he didn’t complain or drag his kid’s in for evaluations, he went straight to the grave site of Samuel the Prophet and prayed for his children until the decrees were reversed. That’s what Hashem wants from us too – to beg and plead with Hashem to save our kids by telling Hashem about all of the good qualities that our children have. Hashem wants to hear us defend our kids not complain about them. We need to tell Hashem that our kids want to return to Him but that they need more strength and belief in themselves; we need to tell Hashem that our kids really do want to listen to us but that we need Hashem’s help to know how to speak to them; we need to tell Hashem that the only reason that our teenagers “rebel” is because their sins have caused them to feel so low about themselves that it’s too painful for them to admit that they have been wrong. We must mention every single good point that we can think of about our children to Hashem because even one little bit of goodness and light can push away trillions of dark experiences that the child has had. Once Hashem sees that we lovingly accept our children and defend them to Him no matter what, then: He will rip up the decree against them; they will lose interest in their silliness and they will follow you back to a life of purity, wholesomeness and Truth.
Here are some ideas of what to pray for:
* Pray for self-clarification so that you know how you want to raise your child and what are truthfully the best options that you can offer him.
* Pray to be guided by emuna. That doesn’t mean that you don’t make a great effort to help your child but the outcome is up to Hashem. Hashem will cause your child to go in the way that he needs to go for his own soul-correction. Pray for the wisdom and strength to be able to show Hashem that you will accept the outcome that He ultimately decides upon with gratitude, humility and self-nullification. No matter what - a child needs his parent’s Blessings. Love them unconditionally!
* Pray for acceptance of the reality that you probably are not going to know “why” your child is behaving this way. Each situation is highly complex and is being orchestrated from Above.
* Pray to believe that your child’s behavior is not your fault or his; that even if you made mistakes - it doesn’t matter - his behavior is coming from Hashem so there is absolutely no one to blame.
* Pray to know with complete certainty that Hashem is leading you and your child though a series of tests where you are both are re-visiting “places” from previous life-times to see how you will handle the same situations now. This is one reason that glib advice from some therapist or pediatrician is dangerous.
* Pray to remain at peace with yourself with your teenager and with your spouse during this process. Turn away from the slightest bit of strife. Never get angry, argue or enter into even “peaceful discussions” with your child that are tinged with even a little aggression. It is better to politely excuse yourself at such times.
* Pray for the will to throw away all of your secular psychological books on child-raising – literally remove them from your home.
* Pray to never turn to your pediatrician for his opinions about your child’s behavior unless he submits himself to a Tzaddik – otherwise his advice will probably not be true and will only confuse you and divert you from searching for help from Hashem.
* Pray for the ability to avoid all standardized theories and techniques about child-rearing. Run away from the use of sophistication and manipulation to “shape” your child’s behavior. Simply pray for your child. Your prayers can completely reverse the situation if you inwardly acknowledge that Hashem is your only hope for salvation.
* Pray to believe that what Hashem loves the most is the desire of parents to bring their children close to Him by example. Let your children know that you are committed to advocating for them and defending them before Hashem.
* Pray to be a model of emuna for your child. By engaging in personal prayer you are teaching them how to pray as well.
* Pray that your children will notice that you also don’t make your own decisions but rather consult with Hashem and His Tzadikkim before doing anything.
* Pray that you will be able to lean towards chesed (kindness) over gevurah (strictness), with your child, but you need both.
* Pray to know the Truth - Without Hashem you are just groping in the dark trying to figure out how to raise your children.
* Pray to accept that the most important gift that you can give to your child is a model for how to speak to Hashem in personal prayer.
* Pray hard that while your teenager is still in your domain, that you will have the opportunity to influence him by exposing him to your Belief’s about what’s best in life and what leads to the greatest happiness and sense of purpose.
* Pray to humbly acknowledge that it was Hashem who assigned your teenager the job of rejecting everything that you stand for and to test your willingness to surrender yourself completely to Hashem’s Mercy.
* Above everything - maintain a loving, caring attitude toward your child. A parent should never ever stop loving a child – even one that he may need to love from a distance in order to protect other children. Never ever stop praying for that child to be able to return safely to your loving arms.
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Zev Ballen, LCSW has been a practicing psychotherapist for 32 years. He is licensed in Israel and the State of New York. Zev has the endorsements of prominent Gadolei Yisrael such as the Nikolsburger Rebba, Shlita, Reb Yitzchok Fagelstock, Shlita, The Kasaner Rebbe of Forshay, Shlita, Rav Shalom Arush, Shlita, and Rabbi Lazer Brody, Shlita. He resides with his family in Jerusalem where he learns in Rav Arush’s Kollel and maintains a part-time practice. You can write to Zev Ballen at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at: 845-362-8600 (US line) or 054-840-9499 (Israeli line).