click here to jump to start of article
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​

Dear Emuna: Smothered in Love
Dear Emuna

Dear Emuna: Smothered in Love

I want the connection with my kids so badly but they keep pushing me away.


Dear Emuna,

I try so hard to be close to my children but they keep pushing me away. I go to sit on their beds at night and they leave the room or go to sleep or mumble monosyllabic responses to my questions. It’s very painful. I want the connection so badly. What should I do?

-- Lonely Mom

Dear Lonely,

I understand your pain and frustration but perhaps, unfortunately, you are creating this situation yourself. Our children don’t like to feel smothered; they don’t want to feel oppressed by our love or responsible for the relationship. Additionally, the older they get, the more independence and autonomy they desire. They like to set the rules for the relationship. They like to choose when and where to be close.

You shouldn’t go sit on their bed; you should wait for them to come and sit on yours. But you need to wait patiently; you can’t force it.

#If you try to hold on too tightly, they will run in the other direction.

If you lovingly give them their freedom, they will come home to roost (on their schedule of course!). If you try to hold on too tightly, they will run in the other direction. It may seem unfair (we want it so badly); it may actually be unfair (we give them so much!) but it’s the reality. If you accept that and accommodate yourself to this appropriately, you will get the results you desire.

Just one other point. If you are lonely, that is not your children’s responsibility. It is not their job to be your friend or to fill any emptiness in your life. You shouldn’t expect that of them and you should never place that burden on their shoulders. You need to satisfy your needs through your relationship with your spouse, friends, and ultimately, the Almighty.

-- Emuna

Dear Emuna,

My 15 year-old daughter’s room is a real mess – clothes strewn all over the floor, garbage overflowing the can and gum wrappers everywhere! I’ve tried bribes and threats, cajoling and reprimanding. Nothing seems to work. She is oblivious (or acts like she is!). I know it’s her room but it’s in my house and it’s making me crazy. Do you have any advice for me?

-- Susie Homemaker

Dear Ms. Homemaker,

I’m guessing that what eventually happens is that you go in and clean the room yourself – and then feel resentful. I only know because that’s what I do! But what I think you should do, what I advise you to do, and what I’m never capable of sticking with myself, is to just ignore it. Don’t rescue her. Let it become such a mess that she is uncomfortable, that she can’t find clean clothing or items she needs, that she is motivated to clean up.

That’s what the psychologist, Alfred Adler, would call natural consequences. Frequently when we allow our children to experience the natural consequences of their actions or inactions, they find them so unpleasant that they are motivated not to repeat them. That’s the theory anyway. And it often works. But not always.

For those occasions where it doesn’t – or where you are at your breaking point and you give in and go clean up – be reassured that this is probably just a phase, just one more unattractive aspect of that delightful stage of life known as adolescence. And that cleaning a bedroom (or a whole house for that matter!) is not rocket science and can easily be “learned” when it comes time for them to create their own homes.

-- Emuna

Dear Emuna,

My neighbor has a house full of small children. They frequently play outside and they are always very noisy (even when they’re inside, I can usually hear them). Sometimes I want to rest or have quiet time but it always disturbed by their screaming. Any helpful hints?

-- Frustrated Homeowner

Dear Homeowner,

We can’t usually choose our neighbors and struggles seem all too common. I try to adopt the philosophy that, as long as it fits within appropriate hours, they are entitled to make noise. That seems to be the perspective of the Torah and secular law as well. At that time I have no superior entitlement to rest. And I want the same freedom to make noise, should the occasion arise. It certainly has in the past and I’m sure it will again!

Especially if you’ve purchased your home, these people may be your neighbors for many years to come so it’s in your best interests to get along with them – to overlook what you can overlook and to gently and politely discuss what you can’t. Think of the positive role modeling you are doing for your children! The mitzvah is not written “Love your neighbor like yourself” for nothing!

-- Emuna

October 9, 2011

Ask Emuna a Question (Click here)

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 13

(13) ladydi, October 19, 2011 5:12 PM


Maybe you should move into a senior citizen complex if these "noisy" children bother you so much. You were a child once - didnt you play? Didn't you laugh? Be thankful they're healthy and that they're able to make the noise you hate so much.

(12) Shulamit Mallet, October 19, 2011 2:25 AM

It's never too late to learn

Dear Emuna, Excellent advice x3. I learned the hard way that the best way to teach a child limits is to start when they're young. Set rules that are realistic and be consistent and you've got most of your issues covered. Things may be a bit different if you have a child with "issues", but if you try to follow those guidelines, it can help you get through most things. I found that setting up individual hampers in each of my children's bedrooms to be helpful. Children also learn best by example. They have to learn the skills from somewhere, so if you want them to learn how to clean up their room, you have to work beside them and teach them how to organize their things, and work out a plan to complete their tasks. This is a great way to teach them important life skills as well. They may still be messy, you may not be able to walk into their room or see the floor at times. But when they're ready to clean it, they'll know how to. It's not unusual for a teenager to have a messy room as an expression of individuation, a way of telling parents "this is my domain and this is how I like it". Try to stay lighthearted about it. Let your child know that you're not happy about it, but don't become critical. Point out the disadvantages of not having clean clothes when they need it. It's also okay to have certain rules, like no sleep over guests if there's no path in the room to walk. Insurance risks, you know. When you see progress in their rooms, make sure to compliment them on their maturity in taking care of their things. No sarcasm, though. The more confidence a child has in himself and in you as a parent, the more they'll turn to you in times of distress, even just for a hug. Remember that your kids are a work in progress, even when they're married and out of the house. We all are, it's never too late to grow up.

(11) Susan, October 18, 2011 3:46 PM

noisy neighbors/messy room

I ditto the response from Tammy! EARPLUGS and a nice box fan makes enough white noise to drown out my hubby's snoring! We still get to sleep in the same room after over 30 years because of them! On the messy room thing. I have a daughter who was a very hard worker in school and her activities and was pretty responsible, her bedroom was a horrible tornado. HORRIBLE! I complained to a co-worker who advised me this. (we worked in a day care at the time) If she is pretty responsible and controlled in other aspects and she is consistently being controlled by school, and her extra activities, and me, she has to have control over something, let the room go. If her friends come over and she is not embarrassed by it, so be it. The friends don't care. If there is food in the room, there shouldn't be. Ask her to please pick that up and put that away. Once I realized that was true, the mess didn't bother me, I just closed the door and walked away. I told her to have as messy a room as she wanted, she was a good student, just please don't leave food there. It gave her control and she has grown up to be pretty darn neat and organized.

(10) Anonymous, October 18, 2011 1:36 PM

re: noisey neighbors

in addition to the suggested ear plugs and fans....a little emunah please...b'h you have neighbors with normal, healthy childern that make noise not to mention think of all the childern that perished in not so distant past...they are our future...everytime you hear them..say baruch hashem and that they should continue to grow in good health with torah and mitzvahs....anyways kids don't stay young so long....

(9) Anonymous, October 17, 2011 9:09 PM

Children CleanUp

One thing I learned was not to use the dirty word "chores"; you must start when they are able to walk, and they must see you "do" as well as hear your words. I know a young girl who was comfortable in the mess, and when she had a part time job, she simply bought more clothes instead of washed, she was a terrible guest in someone's home, and appalled that a roommate would even ask her to "clean up" she's helped make 2 bandrupcies, and is on welfare with 3 children, who have no idea (execpt from dad and grandma) that you clean up after yourself; and sometimes help others. Somebody els always pays for the messies; if we don't find a way to train them.

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment