CHINUCH THINK TANK

real questions from parents around the world

How can we set boundaries and say no to our children without worrying that it will affect our relationship with them or even cause something worse?

There’s a concept in business called the “service recovery paradox.” It takes place when a customer thinks more highly about a company after they’ve solved a problem with their service, compared to how the customer would regard the company had there been no problem at all.
This proven theory is amazing: a customer will have more loyalty toward a company if he had an issue that was addressed to his satisfaction, beyond what it would have been had there been no difficulty to begin with!
The psychology behind this phenomenon is explained as follows:

All humans have a need to feel heard and understood. Effective service recovery meets this need since the company has empowered its customers to share their views and issues. The company has listened to its clients’ claims. Most importantly, it’s empathized enough to deal with the customers and their dilemmas. So the psychology behind the service recovery paradox involves the gratification a company creates by making its customers feel heard, cared about, and understood.

This means that even if the company wasn’t able to resolve the problem, but it made the customer feel supported and appreciated, it succeeded in building customer loyalty.
Let’s say a person bought a pair of shoes, and now he wants to exchange them. At one store, the clerk gives him a disgruntled look and exchanges the shoes begrudgingly. This doesn’t create customer loyalty; it might even cause the person to never return! However, if the customer enters a store, and the clerk there shakes his head sadly and spends a long time calling different supervisors to receive approval for the exchange — and in the end, he can’t get the approval, but apologizes to the customer profusely — he has just built customer loyalty.
We can — and should — apply this concept to parenting.

Imagine you have a house rule that a child can’t go to a certain place, and they ask you for permission to go there. There are two ways to respond:
You can tell the child, “No — you know the rules.”
Or you can say, “You know we have rules. Is there a special reason you’re asking this time?”
Child: “Yes. Everyone is going because it’s Chani’s birthday.”
Parent: “Oh, I see… I bet this means a lot to you. You’d be disappointed if you couldn’t go. Let me think about it and discuss it with Daddy/Mommy” (even if you know the answer will be no).

The parent then gets back to the child, without making the child wait too long, and without just throwing out an answer in passing. Instead, the parent creates the setting where the child knows the parent is focused on him and says:
“We realize and appreciate how much you want to go, so we gave your question a lot of thought. Unfortunately, the answer is still no. I know this must be disappointing, but Daddy/Mommy, and I think this is the best chinuch for our family. You may not understand it now, but one day you’ll be thankful. We’re only doing this because we love you so much.”
I know that some people will think the last three lines are old-school, but they are truly important. Even if your child can’t hear them now, it will be etched in his heart that you’re acting in his best interest and because you love him, even if he doesn’t understand.
Should you give your child something else in place of what he’s asking for? This is unnecessary and shouldn’t be done every time, otherwise, the child will expect something in return every time he receives a no. However, if you are not giving something to him in exchange for the no, look for an opportunity to do something positive for or with the child, unrelated to what they asked for.

Responding to your child the above way shows him that he’s been heard and understood. He’ll feel his parents’ empathy and love toward him. If anything, it will only strengthen your relationship — just like the service recovery paradox.

I discovered Judaism too late to raise Torah-observant children. How can I best influence them as adults and also one's grandchildren when there is resistance, disinterest, and influences from the non-observant Jewish in-laws and spouses other than by effective modeling and prayer, of course?

Our goal as parents is to cultivate children who can function in a healthy independent fashion. As they mature our chinuch strategies evolve and we move from a more directive role to one of guidance and encouragement.
When our children reach the stage in life when they’re raising their own families, we must give them the space and respect to do so as they deem fit. At the same time, we as grandparents understand that we have certain life
experiences that in many situations could be very helpful.
The overall idea is to be open to sharing our advice, when sought. We can gently suggest how observance will be beneficial in the larger picture , for example with their shalom bayis etc. If our advice is not sought then it is best
to allow our children to manage on their own and rely on what they have learned from you as parents as they developed. As much as we desire to impart our knowledge and We have only the best of intentions, unsolicited advice usually goes unheeded and very often even leads to your child feeling resentment, feeling disrespected or controlled.

I have a 6 year old son that’s constantly bullying her twin. He demands that she does whatever he wants otherwise he'll beat her up. If she has something he wants he'll just grab it away or punch her. I'm at my wits end. I'd appreciate some guidance.

Your 6 yr. old is smart enough to realize the difference in the level of physical strength between a boy and a girl at the age of 6 – and he’s using that to get what he wants.

Most likely what he really wants is recognition and importance from you, his parents. He’s acting out towards his sister to get your attention.

Perhaps start practicing with him positive validation once a week for at least two and a half months. Spend time with him, validate and reinforce his positive character traits. Try not to bring up at all the fact that he grabs away or punches to get whatever he wants. It’s also important to practice positive validation with his twin as well, so that there does not result an imbalance in the family in regard to her – but the time per week spent with him should be more. (for example two and a half hours for him; one and a half hours for her). After two and a half months of consistent weekly times, re-evaluate.

If one child tells on another child that is doing something wrong, how do I address the issue without causing animosity between the siblings?

This is a very valid concern as one must be careful not to cause bad feelings between siblings. One must also be careful not to encourage what can turn into Lashon Hara.

It depends on whether the child is reporting on behavior directed against himself as opposed to ‘informing’ about a sibling’s actions. It’s also relevant to know what’s the reason behind the child’s ‘tattle-telling’. Is he looking to get the sibling in trouble? Is he genuinely concerned about the child’s actions or perhaps is he looking to gain some form of personal benefit? It’s also important to factor the child’s age into the equation.

Without further information, I will say in general, a parent must be very careful in hearing and acting upon another child’s ‘tattle-telling’. It’s best to assess and see for yourself what’s happening – if the behavior is currently taking place or happened in the past.

If this refers to a behavior that happened in the past one must act very wisely – perhaps asking questions to encourage the child who’s being spoken about to tell the parent directly themselves.

If none of the above is possible it may be best not to react at all. If you have no choice you must be very careful and try your best to address the issue without the child knowing how you found out.

It is also important to avoid giving too much attention to the child who has shared the misbehavior as one does not want to encourage ‘tattle-telling’ as a general rule. Obviously, if the behavior shared is a dangerous one, the approach will be different.

Wishing you much hatzlacha,

Shana Pogrow, MSW

I want to have a close relationship with my teen. How do you balance being close to a teenager - sharing information about your life - and having privacy as a parent?

This is an excellent question and I admire your desire to be close to your teen. You clearly have an understanding that there is a unique dynamic in parenting teens. 

 

Our teens have a need to be close to us, although they may not admit it. It is very important to build adult relationships with them as they grow older. However, an adult relationship does not mean that they are now their parents’ equals. We need to  show respect for them and their capabilities as they mature and develop. A 13-year-old teen is very different from a 19-year-old teen, and the interactions and discussions between parents and children should reflect that. 

 

Although it’s appropriate to share personal experiences, you have to keep clear boundaries. For example, it’s very healthy for parents to share a difficulty they’re experiencing but they don’t have to (nor should they) share all of their personal experiences. It’s important to choose wisely when and how to share. 

 

Ask yourself – what’s the reason for sharing the particular experience? 

 

It’s important that our children learn that everyone is human and makes mistakes. Our children need to learn that it’s OK to express emotions or struggles in a healthy fashion. It’s not appropriate for children to know every aspect of their parents’ personal lives. They are not our equals. 

 

Sincerely,

 

Shana

 

Shana Pogrow, MSW is EPIC Families Director of the Parental Guidance Center

If one child tells on another child that is doing something wrong, how do I address the issue without causing animosity between the siblings ?

This is a very valid concern as one must be careful not to cause bad feelings between siblings. One must also be careful not to encourage what can turn into Lashon Hara.

It depends on whether the child is reporting on behavior directed against himself as opposed to ‘informing’ about a sibling’s actions. It’s also relevant to know what’s the reason behind the child’s ‘tattle-telling’. Is he looking to get the sibling in trouble? Is he genuinely concerned about the child’s actions or perhaps is he looking to gain some form of personal benefit? It’s also important to factor the child’s age into the equation.

Without further information, I will say in general, a parent must be very careful in hearing and acting upon another child’s ‘tattle-telling’. It’s best to assess and see for yourself what’s happening – if the behavior is currently taking place or happened in the past. 

If this refers to a behavior that happened in the past one must act very wisely –  perhaps asking questions to encourage the child who’s being spoken about to tell the parent directly themselves.

If none of the above is possible it may be best not to react at all. If you have no choice you must be very careful and try your best to address the issue without the child knowing how you found out.

It is also important to avoid giving too much attention to the child who has shared the misbehavior as one does not want to encourage ‘tattle-telling’ as a general rule. Obviously, if the behavior shared is a dangerous one, the approach will be different.

Wishing you much hatzlacha,

Shana Pogrow, Director of the Parental Guidance Center

My 21 year old daughter feels very upset towards her dad when he comes into her room when she's still on the computer at 1:30am-2am. She’ll be working on projects and in between watching some clips or news, chatting with friends, etc. She has a stronger filter than he has, gets up on time for work and is generally responsible. She feels very controlled. Can a father still boss his kids when they still live at home ages 21 & 23?

You described your husband’s behavior toward your 21 and 23 year olds as “bossing “ them and your daughter feeling “controlled”. Understandably, this is not a healthy situation. At this age, our children’s choices are theirs.

The most we can do is be a positive role model. If your 21 and 23 year olds seek our guidance then for sure we are there for them but we can’t police their actions. Seeing their accomplishments and cheerleading their successes is the best way to relate to our children at this age.

I do want to address the fact that they are still living under your roof. Since this is your home there is a level of respect that they must show toward the parameters you and your husband have established. Ie. if a child is not keeping Shabbos (chas V’shalom), do so in the privacy of their room – not at the Shabbos table. Beyond situations where there is outward disrespect for the values of the home, you must allow your child to act as they choose. Again always being there with an open ear and understanding heart if they choose to confide in you.

Sincerely,

Malka Labell, Director of our Mentoring program

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