I wonder if there is any family with teenagers which doesn't
have a "get up in the morning" problem with at least one of
them some of the time. Then there's the bed-wetters brigade
that have representatives in even the most well-put-together
families. Those families who have mercifully escaped both
those pitfalls may just have a Right Royal Temper on their
hands instead, or perhaps a fussy eater, a school refuser, a
scratcher, a biter. Whew, the list is endless!
What all these behaviors have in common is that they
generally cause tension and unpleasantness, to put it
delicately, between the parents and the child.
Well, if one of your progeny's behavior is somewhat on the
list or its continuation, then I have a suggestion for you.
My suggestion starts with a statement. "Nobody is a problem;
the problem is the problem and the person is the person."
That means that my Chaim Boruch is not a bed-wetter but that
"Bed-wetter," that well-known rogue, is sometimes getting
Chaim Boruch to wake up in a wet bed.
"Come on, don't play semantics with me!" you roar at me.
No, this isn't semantics, it's a genuinely different way of
dealing with PROBLEMS. The idea is this: you take aside, in a
neutral if not friendly moment, your little `trial' and say
something like, "You and I seem to have a problem." The
problem is the behavior. Try to let your child/teenager give
a name to the problem, e/g. "Morning Dozyness," "Comfy Bed
Paralysis," "Tricksy-Wee," "Red Hot Anger." Kids are
brilliant at finding names.
Once you have the name, or even before, you can admit what
"Comfy Bed Paralysis" does to you. "It ruins my morning. I
really don't like getting cross, morning after morning. Just
think, if I didn't have to deal wth CBP every morning, then
perhaps I'd have the time to make porridge or French toast
for breakfast. Have you any idea how to fight CBP?"
Do you see what you have already done? You no longer have a
lazy / infuriating / selfish / what am I going to do with
you, infidel. Now I know that none of us `parenting group'
generation would dream of calling our children names! But
here, you and s/he are on the same side, trying to control
that well-known teenage illness called Comfy Bed Paralysis.
Just that act of pulling the yetzer hora outside and
naming it bursts the anger/resentment bubble.
I've had such conversations and it really does put you and
the child/teenager on the same side and even if the problem
isn't solved, the adversary status never returns.
Once you have it `outside,' you can explore the problem
together. What it wants of its victim; how it tricks him into
doing unwanted behaviors; when it's there and more
importantly, when it's not; is the problem good or is it bad,
and why do they think that. Does this sound rather like
therapy? Well, it is, actually, but your questions don't have
to sound like this list. Basically, you are just trying to
get the problem as outside and as visible as possible.
While you are having a good chin-wag about your common enemy,
you will undoubtedly notice that there are occasions when he
doesn't raise his ugly head and even if he tries, he doesn't
win. For instance, just listen to this irate Mom of a sleepy
"You mean on a day of a tiyul you manage to squash
down that devilish CBP and you get up on time? How on earth
do you do that?" Not -- "If you can get up for a
tiyul, why can't you get up for minyan?"
Do you realize what that first sentence does? It makes your
teenager into a hero. He can hold his head up high and say,
"I beat the CBP."
This is the second secret of this method. You look at the
successes and try to increase their frequency rather than
starting at the failures. Can you see what a difference that
You have a child with a raucous temper. You pull Temper out
and see how it makes Shalom throw things, and scream, and...
and... You find that Temper gets a hold "When somebody plays
with my things and when..." Yet one time somebody played with
his things and Temper didn't get him. That's your signal.
"What? How did you do that? Was there some special power you
used?" You may get an answer like, "Well, it was a little
baby and I know that I must never hurt little babies, so I
just swallowed my Temper." Or perhaps, "I was so happy that
day that I smiled Temper away." You're likely to get more
answers if you show how special and important it is to you
that he overcame Temper.
Children have the most marvelous imaginations and you can
certainly fire them by suggesting ways of battling with
Temper. Anything from davening to shutting it in a box
will do. Just remember that this is not a Mussar lesson.
Freezing it in the freezer or carrying an anti-temper charm
are also fine battle strategies. Don't try to point their
noses to davening if that doesn't really talk to them.
Your Shalom has changed from a child with temper tantrums to
Brave Warrior who sometimes even wins the battle with Temper.
You and he have joined the same army and you are on the same
With children, this method is great fun. You get a chance to
reenter that wondrous world where anything is possible. With
older ones, it takes rather more tact. So that's it.
TAKE THE PROBLEM OUT OF THE CHILD and join with him against
Find the times when PROBLEM loses and from there, find more
and more ways to put PROBLEM in its place.
NARRATIVE THERAPY, the mother of these ways of looking at
problems, helps people with problems and those people also
leave therapy with their head held high, having built up a
plot of the way that they would prefer to live that
represents their values, hopes, dreams and commitments better
than their current way.
Their current way is never belittled; it is just another
plot, another way of living their life but they have decided
to follow a more preferable plot. Just like with our children
and teenagers, their problems are taken outside and put under
the microsocope and they, too, are amazed by the realization
that they have dealt with similar problems successfully
But that's therapy and this is just a little chat or two and
perhaps a war dance and a rocket launch to send the problem
Go on, have a try. Put a smile on your face, a child in your
heart. Catapult all that frustration out of the window and
Batya Jacobs, Narrative therapist, Maor Aynayim. 053-