My column on the screaming sister in law garnered a heated response. Here is the one that was furious at me, and the rest who were furious at the letter writer for not understanding the pain of a child. Any comments from you?
Your articles are always informative, interesting , edifying , enlightening ,and self effacing . I've seen you write so many wise observations , you are obviously accomplished and very talented -both as an author and as a mental health professional . Your most recent column in Binah, about "the screaming sister in law " though , left me perplexed . Obviously not being a professional and frankly being less experienced in life than you makes it somewhat incongruous for me to feel so sure of my opinions vis a vis yours . Nevertheless I feel that you might agree they are accurate . First and foremost , when talking to anyone , patient or letter writer, whose question is predicated on the nature of others , must a full psychoanalysis be given on the others ? Wouldn't a focus on the positive actions of the questioner be more appropriate? (It's what you would and did end up doing anyways , and bringing a sister in law to a parenting class didn't necessitate a psychoanalysis on her or her husband . Pathetically to my parenthesis , your psychoanalysis , if accurate , a parenting class would probably do little to alleviate the problem ).
What was more troublesome was your treatment of two very serious ,very different , very dangerous tools , namely divorce and children's services . Divorce is , as you well know , a tremendously traumatic experience for children . Married parents are the home of a child and divorce is ripping the roof over their heads . A screaming mother can be traumatic at that time for a child . Usually, the child's natural resilience (a treasure from Hashem that is worthy of its own Halel ) will allow them to mostly filter out unpleasantness , parent caused included . Children from divorced homes on the other hand , are truly scarred people who often remain with a most unpleasant cocktail of emotional and psychological scars for life . Top that off with the fact that had they separated , the mother would have been the main custodian . Why , Why would you toss that out as the obvious first recourse ??!?!
Your treatment of children's services was yet more troubling . Children's services can save lives . So does open heart surgery . Commando incursions into enemy territory , and a host of many other dangerous interventions . The common denominator between all the above is that greater danger must be present to justify the danger of the action . In a forum of qualified therapists and adults with life experience , children's services needs no more introduction . No Mrs Blumenfeld , it would NOT be nice if children's services swooped in to every home where raised voices regularly resound .
It seems to me that the reactions you gave were all a direct result of the word "abuse" you so strongly recommended using for this behaviour . It may have been a good idea to use that word . Awareness in excessive extreme behaviour's consequence is important . But at what cost ?
At the cost of broken homes ?
Children stolen from parents needlessly ?
Leave the theatrics for the teenagers .
Leave the facetiousness to the amateurs .
You are a professional adult and in a forum of people treating you as such need to take heed of that fact .
I grew up unfortunately under the wrath of a harsh father ( to put it mildly). He would do horrible things to me and my siblings. My mother felt helpless against his rage. When I read the article about the father not standing up for his children, I was reminded of my mother. It was not that she wanted us to get hurt. Now, Boroch Hashem my mother was able to get out of the abuse relationship with the help of child services when they interfered when my dad did something dangerous to my brother. My mother is a lot stronger now. Now, my parents are divorced and for me, living in a life of fear is more traumatic than living with my parents not living together. My life is safe now! I'm not a nebach because my parents are divorced! Maybe the people who are so oblivious to how the world is changing and how everyone's problems are changing are a nebach. I was speaking to a friend and I mentioned something about my father being abusive. She didn't know what to say. She was so confused and uncomfortable. I felt even more uncomfortable. About what you said about that a child can shake it off, I hate to tell you this but your wrong. Me personally and my siblings (and there are plenty more people) still have scars. It's taking a long time and intensive therapy but we are healing slowly from the suffering we endured.
I fervently hope that my letter will raise awareness.
Dear letter writer,
You wrote that a child who is exposed to constant screaming from a parent will be traumatized at the moment but his natural resilience will allow him to filter out the unpleasantness..... as opposed to a child from a divorced home who will stay with scars for life. Firstly, Why wouldn't a child from a divorced home be able use his resilience to stay emotionally ok. Why is he any different than a verbally abused child? Secondly let me tell you that maybe a child will display a show of resilience(a strong front) when being yelled at. Why should he show his parent or outsiders who witness the yelling that he is weak? But deep down his self confidence is being squashed. Every negative comment that is said about him piles up until the tower might come crashing down on him one day and oh how he remains with scars. In his mind he is bad and worthless. Let alone the fact that as they grow up they learn that yelling and mocking is normal and yelling becomes a part of them. Be it to their siblings or eventually their own kids. So go on Mindy and continue spreading the awareness so people should learn that now it's not ok to yell at your kid s! You're kids are not your stress balls and you can't squeeze them every time you feel stressed because scars do remain!!
Sincerely, an observer
Wow !!!! Your columns are always great , your answers on the mark , your delivery impressive . This column really hit the spot . In one fell swoop , you've answered so many of my long running questions ! Namely , I have dealt with wonderful charismatic teachers , caring , brilliant educators , and empathetic , effective mental health professionals . So many of them highly qualified and effective in their fields , as well as just great people to be around . On the other hand , the niggling " this person is missing something " , refuses to go away . In one sentence you epiphanized the point . These people have borderline tendencies ! They are lacking the tools to deal with themselves. The "people person-ness " about them is only one result of their ailment . But where do I go now ? I'm findings bugs under every rock I pick up ! Where does stop this armchair psychology ? How do I know which therapist to trust ? Or does it not matter ? Can "borderliners " be one thing in treatment and another in personal relationships ? Please help me work this out :
PS. The original letter from this writer was much more virulent and strident. She rewrote it and sent it in again to Binah, so my following response is actually to her original and not the polished version
Here it is:
As always, there is a challenge to respond to a question under 200 hundred words within a column of a thousand words. but here I will be even more succinct. Readers respond to my columns from their own place of pain and experience, so I assume that is the case here as well. let me say it straight. A parent that screams at her children and hits them, especially in public, is doing much worse in private. If her husband refuses--or is too afraid--to rock the boat by intervening, the children are at risk emotionally and physically. And I do not believe children from homes of divorce are doomed as you imply; any more I believe that being exposed to fearful parental behavior should be accepted. And with the knowledge that I am reaching thousands of people a month with my columns, I will always, always, always choose humor to convey my message. And notice what this response--sans humor--feels like.
originally published in Binah
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