Oct 22, 2013

It's All About Love

In the September 2004 issue of the Jewish Observer, there was a letter by Dr. Bentzion Sorotzkin in response to a previous article about the dangers of the Internet.  What follows are some excerpts from his letter:

Some of you may erroneously conclude that exposure to the Internet, by itself, will cause someone to go off the derech or become involved in promiscuity.  If this was true, then one would expect that such tragic events would be significantly more prevalent in modern Orthodox communities than in more insular ones, since the people in the latter communities are much more shielded from outside "cultural" influences.

Judging from my professional experience, the sad fact is that the percentage of rebellious teens and promiscuous spouses are very similar in both types of communities.

Some may feel that the ends justify the means and therefore, it is worth using (inaccurate) scare tactics to encourage parents to protect their families from the spiritual dangers of the Internet.  However, there is a distinct danger to this approach.  It gives a totally inaccurate picture of the reasons for youngsters going off the derech or for couples to stray.  As a clinical psychologist, with many years experience working with rebellious teenagers in the frum community,  I can state categorically that the Internet has never been the prime factor in causing a child to rebel against his family's way of life. Rather, it is family conflict, often caused by parental mishandling of common childhood behaviors, that cause a child to rebel. 
When I meet parents of rebellious teens they often express shock that their children went off the derech when they worked so hard to shield them from outside influences. They are much less sensitive to the negative impact of their own harsh and critical parenting style on their children's future ruchnius level.     In a book of lectures by rosh yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg he states: "Show me the juvenile delinquent and in almost every case I will show you a person resorting to desperate means to attract the emotional warmth and attention he failed to get but so much wants and needs ... Aggressive behavior, when fully understood, is in fact nothing but love frustrated. It is a technique for compelling love, as well as a means for taking revenge on a society that has let the person down, leaving him disillusioned, deserted and dehumanized .. If you find rebels in society today, it is because they were never given the proper love.    A recent sefer on chinuch (Chinuch Malchuti) makes the following points: "Parents who treat their children with flexibility and do not overreact to minor infractions will have children who remain loyal to them and to their way of life.... "Educators who deal with dropouts relate that every single one only dropped out because he or she received insufficient love at home. None of them claimed that they left due to complaints against Hashem or the Torah. Lack of love at home is the reason for dropping out of yeshiva and for going off the derech. A child who receives sufficient love at home will never drop out or go off the derech."

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