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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Advice from the Rebbetzin

"Avoid arguing, no matter what," responded the Rebbetzin, when I asked for advice, yesterday.

"You can not win an argument with a teenager," she continued.  (My father said the same thing.)

She suggested making a list, together with the teen, of all the tasks that need to be done: chores, homework, clean room, go to bed on time, etc.

Then allow the teenager to choose one task that s/he commits to doing, on her/his own.

Give the teen the control over what s/he chooses.  Then (and this is the hard part) ignore all the other tasks.

Repeat the process once the teen has successfully gotten into the habit of doing the task.

This might sound easy to you, but it feels increadibly difficult to me.

I know it makes sense, but that does not make it easy to "let go."

She said something else, too.

One of my children constantly wants to bring relatively valuable items on tiyulim (hikes).  The likelihood of these items getting lost is high.  I would like this child to wait until s/he is a little more reliable (read: responsible).  The child thinks (mistakenly) that s/he is already responsible (even though s/he still loses things all the time!!!).

The Rebbetzin suggests that these items are not worth fighting about.

"Let them lose these things," she advises, "They will lose things, and they will learn. Kapparah."

"Arguing only makes them dig in their heels, even harder," she says, about all these issues.

I know she is right.

I just do not know if I can do it.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,


Leah Goodman said...

wow, Chinese spam.
And I don't know if I could do it either.
The one suggestion I can offer for room cleaning is to get the kids to do one room cleaning task at a time as opposed to cleaning the whole room (put all the books on the shelves, put all the laundry in the hamper, put away the clean laundry) and let them take breaks between tasks.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

I have a hard time letting go too, but I still have issues with the fact that my parents were so controlling when I was a teenager; so I know I HAVE to let go.

Karen said...

On the lost items, I agree with her 100%. I've done it myself. On the tasks, the only problem I have with it is, how do you lengthen the list? I would have the kid agree up front that you pick even ONE thing to do now and I won't nag you about the others, but every x (week, month, whatever) we add one. Otherwise, my kids at least would say, but you said I didn't have to do it.

SuperRaizy said...

Your daughter needs to listen to you because you are her mother and you said so.
Of course she doesn't want to do chores, homework, etc. (who wants to?) but she needs to understand that these are her responsibilities and she must fulfill them. Period.
If I ran my house according to your Rebbetzin's advice, I would have complete chaos (and very lazy and disrespectful children).

Anonymous said...

i suspect you are going to get as many differing views as people giving advice.
here's my two cents:

go ahead and make that list on your on. notice that some of the things impact just your teen (like (not)going to sleep on time has natural consequenses for HER, not cleaning her room means its too messy for enterataining a friend, etc...) and other things are part of her responsibilities to the family - chores around the house, etc.
as she is getting older, why not concentrate on letting her take more responsibilty for herself like bedtime, and cleaning her room(although you can still have curfew for being back home by a certain time...)
but if anything, increased maturity which affords more independence does not mean she is any less responsible as a family member - she should be sharing (proportionately to other responsibilities and capabilities) family/household chores, not slacking off them.

good luck!

big hug

Anonymous said...

ps- what i meant by "taking responsibilty for herself" i did NOT mean what your rebbetzin was saying about getting her to commit to doing it her own - i meant: let her figure out when to put herslef to bed, clean her room etc...

love BW

RivkA with a capital A said...

Why assume I am talking about one of my daughters?

I was careful not to indicate which child inspired this particular post.

LeahGG - That level of "micromanaging" worked when my kids were little. As teens, my kids resent my "telling them what to do."

tesyaa - my mother definitely controlled more things around the house than she had to. I also know I have to let go. Unfortunately, it is easier said than done.

Karen -- Good point.

Super Raizy -- OK, I am open to alternatives! Tell me how you get your kids to listen and do what you want, especially when they do not want to do it.

Yes, my children need to listen to me because I am their mother. Ultimately, my kids do what I demand of them. But sometimes the price is very high.

I do not like yelling or threatening.

Recently, one of my kids lost out on something really important because the kid was just too rude, and I just stopped helping.

But I do not want to take everything away.

I need to find a balance. I do not want my kids consumed with resentment and I do not want to be consumed by resentments either.

We all need to feel good about our relationship. At the very least, we all need to feel respected.

BW -- the question is how to get them to WANT to take responsibility for these things.

I did an experiment once and found that this particular child easily let the laundry go for so long that there were no more clean clothes in the closet... (not to mention the enormous pile of dirty clothes and other junk on the floor, that made it impossible for anyone to walk into the room!)

Anonymous said...

- regarding the female-gender teen referance - that has more to do with MY teens than yours (i won't have a male teen for another 5 yrs).

- if there's something that bothers YOU more than them, either you will do it, or teach yourself to care less than they do (like collecting their dirty laundry).
as for getting them to "take responsibilty": that's why i suggested starting with the things that have natural consequenses for THEM. so if s/he decides to stay up late - they will have to deal with being tired the next day, or if they didn't spend enough time preparing hw- a lower grade, etc...
they are old enough to figure out the solution on their own, and to implement it on their own.
this allows them to excersise more independance= to show they are in practice becoming more responsible for themselves. discuss this with them, and point out that the same increase in maturity which affords them greater independance and freedom,also means more responsible behavior towards others,especially towards their own family members - like helping out with the house or younger sibs, or mom/dad etc...WITHOUT whining...

obviously, NO complaints, NO yelling, NO frustration, is too tall an order, but i hope this improves things for you.


RivkA with a capital A said...

BW --
Staying up late -- they don't mind. One falls asleep in class, but is not about to change. Another just gets grumpy and unpleasant at home, but manages at school, so is also not about to change. Come to think of it, they are all like that!

"NO complaints, NO yelling, NO frustration"??
That is definitely "too tall an order"!


Anonymous said...

My kids get an allowance. I also pay for chugim, clothes etc. With the chugim and allowance comes certain responsibilities. If they clean the room when I tell them and help around the house, these privilages continue. If not, they lose them. I don't get paid if I don't work. It's a lesson they have to learn eventually.

Melissa said...


I must have my sister read this post. Her daughter is 18 and they never see eye to eye.

I tell her someday it will just happen, and she will appreciate you, but for now she is a teenager and teenagers are like strange alien beings.

I also wanted to thank you for your comments that you left me. I can't wait to look for the book that you mentioned.

Your advice was so helpful. You are right, I must not forget about Kashrut, Shabbos and Mikvah.

I wish I lived in Israel. It would be so wonderful to meet you in person someday.


Melissa (Masha- my Hebrew name)

Ranting Zelda said...

you seem to be an honest person and a sane one, too. the problem is that you expect everyone else to be on your level. they're not! do not waiste an ounze of your precious energy trying to deal with people who fall short of your standards. just delete any unwanted advise or commercials. do not internalize other people's faults. love, zelda

Baila said...

RivkA,it sounds like you live in my house. Like Raizy,I don't like the idea of having my kids choose one thing from a list of things--they all need to be done. My kids would just do the one thing,and I'd never get the other ones done.

But I do try to pick my battles. The TV or computer or I-pod only goes on for an hour or so. They have hours to fill from the time they get home from school. Yes, they have homework and chugim, but they still have hours to fill. I remind them they can use the time to walk the dog, to clean their rooms, etc. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't.

I have also told my daughters who tell they have nothing to wear that I am not buying them anymore clothing. They have nothing to wear but I will find all sorts of clothing tucked behind beds, balled up in their closets etc. And Im sticking to that.

RivkA with a capital A said...

Anon -- Yeah, we did that for a while. Then I stopped allowances, and we made a pay system for chores. I prefered to pay them for their contributions, rather than witholding payment for lack of contribution.

But we had a problem scheduling "pay day" (because it involved calculations, as well as payment). I want to schedule regular "family meetings" on Saturday nights and include "public pay day" in those meetings.

Melissa -- People promise me that kids grow out of this stage!

I hope you will visit Israel soon. I would LOVE to meet you in person!!

Meanwhile, I enjoy reading about your spiritual quest and wish you well on your journey.

Ranting Zelda -- I am definitely honest. Sane... well, that all depends on your definition! ;-)

"Do not internalize other people's faults" is great advice, though easier said than done.

Baila -- The question is how to get things done withough going head-to-head. It might be that I need to take a few steps back. Demand less for NOW (not forever). And then move forward one step at a time.

I have kids of whom I can demand a lot, and kids who buck at even minimal demands. Everyone has to contribute to the household; I would like it if we could all work together!

I have set rules, but enforcing them has become unpleasant for ME. Sometimes I feel like I am repealing so many privileges that there are none left! Then what??

I do not want all this conflict and anger.

I have tried to convey to my one child, who does not do laundry, that doing laundry might just solve the "no clean socks, no clean Shabbat clothes" problem!

My husband once wanted to just go out and buy this child more socks. I had a fit. This child has at least 10-15 pairs of socks. Buying more socks would only INCREASE the amount of time the child could DELAY DOING LAUNDRY! More likely, it would also increase the amount of laundry that I would be doing!

So far, not having any clean clothes has not proved enough of a motivator for this child to do laundry.

I finally gave in and have been running endless machine loads, in order to get rid of the mountain.