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Dear Emuna: Smothered in Love

October 9, 2011 | by Emuna Braverman

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

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