May 26, 2010

I'm Boooooored ...

Why, oh why, do parents teach their children to be bored? You know ... the parents who repeatedly take their children's "boredem temperature," by assuming that boredom is a natural and frequent state of being for infants on-up, and talk often about boredom and encourage their children to be bored:

(saying about an infant/toddler ) "The baby is bored."

(asking a child) "Are you bored?"

(assuming) "He/she is doing that because he/she is bored."

(reinforcing) "So what will you do later so you won't be bored?"

(overheard by child) "Yes, please come over; otherwise the kids will be bored."

How is it possible, when a child has a friend over to play (presumably to ward off boredom) that they can approach the parent for guidance as to "what they should do next" and they can't play endlessly by themselves? This is possible when the parent has instilled a boredom mentality in the home so that the child has been programmed to say, "We played X and we did Y, so what should we do nooooow?"

Have you seen people wheeling a carriage with a toy attached to it? As though the world is "old hat" to the toddler and therefore he needs a toy to occupy him and prevent boredom.  How silly!

Is there a concept of "boredom" in Torah? Is there room for boredom in Jewish life when we are meant to account for every second of our time? Although children are not yet obligated in mitzvos, are we not doing them a great disservice by even mentioning the possibility of having time on one's hands with nothing to fill it as this goes to counter to avodas Hashem? How can a servant of Hashem be bored when Hashem's service ought to fill his life completely?

I suggest not using the word "bored" at all with children.  One day, they might come home from a playdate or from school and say, "What does 'bored' mean?" having heard another child use it.  And what if the parent responds, "It means they don't know what to do next - isn't that funny?"

How can parents who provide their children with books and toys and games and crayons and crafts even entertain the question of "I'm bored, what should I do?"

Another suggestion: Have your child(ren) make a list of all the possible activities they can do.  The list can be divided into Shabbos and weekday activities, activities they can do by themselves and with others, indoor and outdoor activities.  The list needs to be revised as they grow - the list for 4 year olds is not the same as the list for a 6, 8 or 10 year old. 

And you can introduce the idea by saying, "Let's make a list of all the things you can do so that when you want to do something, you can look at the list and be reminded of all the possibilities."  Then, if the child asks you what they should do, you can say, "Let's take a look at your list of activities and you can pick something."

If a child is taught how precious the tefillos of children are, and how precious the words of Tehillim are, they can be reminded that anytime they want to do something worthwhile, they can say some Tehillim. 

If a child is given story tapes to listen to and books to read, they will have good material to think about.  A child with a rich intellectual life has been given a gift! What did Scharansky do for years in jail? He spent a lot of time playing chess in his mind, against himself, when in solitary confinement!

R' Zushe of Anipoli said you can learn three things from a baby:

1) always be busy

2) when you need something, cry out for it

3) when your needs are satisfied, be happy

If you see a baby (and I daresay a toddler and school aged child) that is not busy and happy, something is amiss.  Let parents not be the ones inculcating a problem!

May 17, 2010

This time last year ...

I've asked this question to four people and so far, not one has gotten the right answer.  I'll try it on you.  What were we very preoccupied with at this time last year?


Think harder.

Give up?

Remember how every other news item seemed to be about the Swine Flu? How schools were closing? How the Experts were weighing in with their estimates about how many people would get it, how many fatalities there would be?

Hmmm ...

For those who became seriously sick and r'l, even died from it, it was serious business, but was the "pandemic" anything like what we were told it would be?  I'd like all the experts who made pessimistic pronouncements one year ago to be re-interviewed now and asked why their estimates were so way off. 

Was this a miraculous intervention thanks to our prayers and good deeds? Was it not a major threat to begin with? Was this another example of media hype like we had with SARS which did not turn into an epidemic? Did they enjoy making doomsday predictions much like meterologists who report impending blizzards with glee and who are often wrong about their forecasts? I'd like to know.  In the meantime, keep keep washing your hands.

May 11, 2010

Psychiatry part 3

In Mishpacha magazine's supplement "Calligraphy" from Pesach (which usually has fiction but this time had non-fiction), there is a very disturbing story about a third grader in Israel who was doing wonderfully in school until he began speaking less and less and was diagnosed by a pediatrician with selective mutism (which does not explain anything, just describes the fact that the child isn't talking).

He began to withdraw socially and then stopped speaking altogether. A psychologist had him draw on a paper, asked the parents whether the child had experienced any trauma, and when they said they no, the psychologist said she thought he was reacting to a severe trauma or was psychotic and to bring him back in a week.

Rather than explore what might be bothering the child who had been 100% normal till then, a week later the same psychologist recommended that they take him to a psychiatrist because she decided that his condition was dire.

Based on this, they actually picked up and moved the family to Yerushalayim! (yes, they asked a shaila and sorry to say, the psychologist's opinion was adhered to like it was the word of G-d).

Unbelievably, this poor child was enrolled in a special needs school. Interestingly, he still sang zemiros at the Shabbos table but otherwise, he was doing worse.

They took him to a pediatric psychiatrist. Their child was 10 and a half and the change had begun three months before. Without interacting with the child at all, this rasha of a doctor declared that the boy was either experiencing clinical depression or psychosis and he wrote out a prescription.

Around the third visit, the child went over and touched the fax machine and this doctor yelled at him, stood up and forcefully waved his hand and said, "Get away from there! You're psychotic, yes you're psychotic!" And he wrote out another prescription.

This is a pediatric psychiatrist!? Why, oh why, did this evil person specialize in working with children when he hates them? And by what did he write out a prescription without thoroughly examining the child?

The story goes on. They administer drug and after drug to the child who gets worse and worse.  He had terrible side effects from the drugs, was diagnosed with schizophrenia, was confined in a psychiatric hospital, was severely beaten and abused by the Arab driver of the van that took him to his institution, and then a particular drug was credited for helping him get back to normal.

The parents did what they thought was best. I feel sad for them and the miserable experience they had, uprooting their family and everything that happened, but it needs to be said: Nobody bothered trying to find out what made a previously normal 10 year old withdraw. These medical doctors are trained to diagnose pathology.  Mental illness is nebulous, usually with no physical evidence of a physiological problem and as in the case with the "Girl in the Green Sweater" and the woman in the "True Healing" post, drugs and mental illness labels were not what was needed.  A person reaching out in kindness with the way to the person's heart is what was needed.

This reminds me of an article I read about a year ago about a man who came to the US to collect tzedaka so he could pay for a wedding.  Once in America he was unable to get himself out of bed.  A friend took him to a psychiatrist and you'll never guess how the MD treated him .... Are you ready? Have you guessed? Yes! He wrote a prescription for an anti-depressant!

Now tell me, if the doctor had written out a hefty check for the person, or if the fundraiser had unexpectedly won the lottery, would he be depressed? Nope.  Would he need drugs? Nope. So why are we, as a society, allowing our fears and sadness to be treated with drugs?

May 10, 2010

Psychiatry part 2

I recently read another two things (in addition to my "True Healing" post, two posts ago) that have reinforced my strong feelings about psychiatry. 

I am almost finished reading "The Girl in the Green Sweater" by Krystyna Chiger about how she survived the Holocaust at age 7 by hiding in the sewers beneath the city of Lvov for fourteen months.  After many months underground and enduring horrific living conditions (swarming rats, for one thing) the usually cheerful girl became silent, sullen and sad.  She did not feel like eating, talking or doing anything.  It's what a psychiatrist would diagnose as childhood depression.

Her mother was desperate about her, thinking her temperament was changed forever and so she told the Polish man who was their protector about her concern.  The Pole led her through the pipes and said, "Let me show you something."  She crawled through and then climbed a ladder which led to an opening to the street where she could see sunlight through the grate.  It was the first sunshine she had seen in over a year.  She heard children playing outside.

He said to her, "You have to be strong, little one.  In just a few days, you will be up there playing with the other children.  You will smell the same flowers."

And she writes "And in this way I became whole again," thanks to him.

What would a psychiatrist have done for her? Without a doubt, reached for his prescription pad and drugged her.

(more in the next post)

May 7, 2010

"She is in the tent"

I heard a recent shiur from Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein (of Ohr Naava) which he gave to young men at Ohr Yitzchok.  Among other things, he spoke about the angels asking Avrohom where Sarah is and Avrohom responded, "She is in the tent," i.e. she is modest.

R' Wallerstein took the opportunity to say a most unpopular view, acknowledging that he could not say this in a talk to girls or he'd lose 80% of them.  He said that what he has to say is the truth though people don't want to acknowledge it and a rabbi saying it will be seen as hopelessly out-of-touch with today's reality.  What he said is:

Women belong in the tent, in the home, taking care of their home and children.  Men are supposed to go out and provide for their families.  Men should get up early and learn before they daven and then go to work and learn again in the evening. 

Sarah was in the tent.  She didn't serve the guests because it wasn't modest for her to serve men.  Sarah did not have a career.  She wasn't a PT, OT, or speech therapist.

Too many of today's children are being put on the bus and taken off the bus by foreign help.  Having this help around the house when the husband is there leads to serious problems.

To many of today's kids are on Prozac, seeing therapists, sleeping till 4:00 in the afternoon.

Women today are embarrassed to say they are a housewife.

Boys in shidduchim who say they want to be supported for years and expect their wives to do it, who don't change their plans when their wives are pregnant, not feeling well, what is their learning worth?

All the foregoing are R' Wallerstein's remarks.  I give him lots of credit for saying the unpopular truth.  Is anybody listening?