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Frazzled Mom
Mom with a View

Frazzled Mom

A hole in the nose is easily repaired. A hole in the heart is much more difficult to mend.


Dear Mom with a View,

My teenage son is going through a very difficult phase right now. He ignores most of what we say, disobeys many of our rules and recently threatened to pierce his lip. Besides causing his father and me stress and anxiety, I'm worried about the impact of his negative behavior on the other kids in the house.

A Frazzled Mother of an Adolescent Son

Dear Frazzled Mom,

Take heart. First of all, your son's behavior (as unpleasant as it may be) falls well within the range of normal adolescent behavior (see Surviving Your Adolescent).

Secondly, although his actions may suggest that he is ignoring what you say, I can assure you that he is not. The advice you give, the words you use, the manner in which you speak them and the ways in which you act are all having an impact on him. Our children are very heavily influenced by the values we express -- both orally and through our deeds. When they emerge from this phase (I know, it can't happen too soon!), you will be surprised to seem them modeling themselves after you. It just takes a lot of patience and a lot of trust.

The most important thing is never to give up, never to lose hope.

While we, as parents, are busy worrying about the negative impact of this defiant or inappropriate behavior on our other offspring, we want to be careful not to give them something deeper and more serious to be concerned about.

All of our children -- and particularly our difficult ones -- need our love.

All of our children -- and particularly our difficult ones -- need our love. They need to know that we will never, God forbid, abandon them, that we will always be there for them.

If we feel we need to push away one child to protect the others, we are making a serious mistake. We are teaching all of our children that our love for them is conditional, that there are things they could do that could lead to some type of disinheritance. We have introduced an underlying layer of fear and anxiety into everyone's lives. We have made all of our children feel vulnerable and insecure.

On the other hand, if our children (including the adolescent himself) see that although we may disapprove of certain behaviors and attitudes our love for them remains firm, everyone will be strengthened. The home will embody security.

A difficult teenager who is never allowed to forget how much his parents love him and believe in him has a much better chance of emerging successfully from that phase.

Additionally, we shouldn't discount the support of his siblings. Instead of separating them from each other or even worse, turning them against him, the love and closeness of siblings can be a powerful force in keeping this recalcitrant teenager firmly entrenched within the bosom of him family.

I'm not saying any of this is going to be easy. Or magic. Or that there won't be stumbling blocks along the way. But, just as the Almighty loves all of His children and we are empowered and united through this knowledge, so too will our children be empowered and united through the recognition of our unwavering love and commitment.

You may still be frazzled but don't worry about his negative influence on his siblings; worry about them responding negatively to him. He is lost and frightened and their support (and yours) needs to be at his back. A hole in the ear (or lip or nose) will easily close and is easily repaired. A hole in the heart is much more difficult to mend.

January 31, 2009

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Visitor Comments: 8

(8) Mom, February 8, 2009 4:54 PM

Difficult Time with Teen Daughter

I had a very difficult time some about 6 years ago with our teenage daughter with regard to school behavior, drugs and alcohol.

My husband (her father) was not comfortable with disciplining our daughter. He pretended to believe whatever she said about the smell of pots on her clothes and where she spent the night. He mostly avoided her for 3 *or* 4 years.

Every single day was a strugle for me. I dreaded the weekend when I would lie awake at night imagining her in some disasterous situation. I can''t tell you how many times I buried that child in my imagination. I was so sure that she was dead.

But I stuck with her. I was incredibly intrusive to keep up with her. Then, I knew what she was up against and could talk to her about it. With a good therapist and sick to it mothering she is beyond all that now and doing great.

She did influence her younger brother. He saw the mess she made of her life and the stress/pain she caused our family. He decided to stay out of trouble in high school.

Every situation is different. Spend as much time as you can with your teen. Make up things to do together ("I need you to go to the grocery with me. I can''t lift the dog food.") Time is really all we have to give. Be there and pray.

(7) Leah, February 5, 2009 10:26 AM

I cannot imagine that Mrs. Braverman would suggest that parents should allow cocaine and sexual abuse between siblings and other ills to stay in the home. I believe what she is saying is located in the level and example of what is going on in the home. Piercings and not listening to parents are difficult issues - not self distructive to a point of death or psychological impairment heaven forbid. Thirteen year old Ishmael was actually taking his bow and arrow and aiming it on purpose at his toddler aged brother, Yizchok, pulling the trigger and intentionally missing by inches and saying, "Oops, gosh I got a little too close that time." THERE is a tremendous difference here between the two issues being compared here.

(6) Anonymous, February 4, 2009 9:58 PM


While I agree with the author that it is important to show your children unconditional love and to not give up hope, I believe that there are situations that call for parents to act and set up boundaries. Teenagers sometimes need a more tougher love and need to know that not all their behavior is acceptable. Additionally, there are parents who ask Rabbanim and have been told to take the very painful step of asking, (their over 18 year old children who are continuing to live a different lifestyle of their parents), to either agree to live by their parents rules or to find another place to live. While that may sound shocking and painful, there are some families and some teenagers where this needs to happen. I do think those parents need to find them somewhere else to live if that teenager decides to take that route, and to keep up a relationship, but again only if it is appropriate for the family & said teenager. Appropriate Daas Torah and mental health professionals should be utilized in these types of situations.

(5) chaya, February 3, 2009 2:54 PM

have no regrets

When they are grown, remember that YOU were the ones that parented them. So try to stop and think before you respond to their behavior in any way angry or belittleing...try to stay focused and calm, difficult as it may be.. and have a talk with him or her later, when your own feelings have settled. You shouldn't treat your young adult as a baby, but should treat them with the respect you want them to give you..In this way, in the future, you will have no regrets and they will look back on their teen years with happy memories of the way their parents raised them.

(4) Anonymous, February 3, 2009 2:13 PM

response to Ms. Bach

problematic indeed. As were many of the situations our forefathers found themselves in and from which we are encouraged to gleen wisdom, no? but thanks for your input. i can see how a son of a concubine could throw a bit of complexity into the mix. Either way, I think Ms. Braverman's advice was not only eloquently written, but sound. take care.

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