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Parenting With Rabbi Ackerman
Rabbi Yitzchak Shmuel Ackerman, LMHC
Click here to view my clinical profile
When a parent tells me that she is overwhelmed, I usually say "That sounds very difficult. What do you do when you're overwhelmed?"
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Showing Results 1 - 10 (289 total)
5 Words
Author: Rabbi Yitzchak Shmuel Ackerman, LMHC
July 21st, 2019

I’ve read that when you are angry at your child you should take a deep breath and count to ten before you say anything.  Every time I’m about to tell my child what she did wrong, I stop, take a deep breath, and count to ten.  After I’ve done all that, I say the exact same thing in the same angry voice that I was going to say to begin with.  What’s the point of breathing and counting when I end up the same, R …
44 Antidotes Part 2
Author: Rabbi Yitzchak Shmuel Ackerman, LMHC
April 2nd, 2020

In my previous article, I alluded to a tefilah that gives us 44 antidotes to the machala afflicting the world today. That tefilah is called Al Chait.  The occasions on which it is said are Yom Kippur and your wedding day.  We say Al Chait on those days in order to ask Hashem to wipe our slate clean so that we can begin anew at these turning points in our lives. The word anew is defined as in a new or different and typically more positiv …
A Failed Syllogism
Author: Rabbi Yitzchak Shmuel Ackerman, LMHC
August 24th, 2020

The Gemara (Yevamos 79a) tells us that Yidden have three characteristics: we are rachamanim, merciful; baishanim; and gomlei chasadim, kind to others. The Mishna (Avos 2:5) tells us that a baishan cannot learn. This leads us to the following syllogism: Yidden are baishanim. Baishanim cannot learn. Therefore Yidden cannot learn. We seem to have a problem here.  Our syllogism has brought us to a false conclusion.  Obviously, BH, Yidden c …
A Half Truth and a Lie
Author: Rabbi Yitzchak Shmuel Ackerman, LMHC
January 16th, 2013

How often do you believe what your children say to you? How often do you take what they say at face value? The pasuk says b’tzedek tishpot amisecha, and the Mishna tells us he’vai dan es kal ha-adam l’kaf zchus.   Clearly, we are supposed to judge everyone, including our children, favorably.  We should not suspect our children of lying or distorting or withholding information in order to trick us or manipulate us …
A Half Truth and a Lie, Part 2
Author: Rabbi Yitzchak Shmuel Ackerman, LMHC
January 25th, 2013

Most children, most of the time, tell the truth about their thoughts and their feelings.  They have no intention of lying or hiding anything from us.  
Yet they sometimes give us incomplete information about what they are feeling.  It’s the same thing we do to them, and to each other.  We reveal only some of our feelings, we tell a half-truth rather than disclosing the feelings that put us at risk of becoming vulner …
A Hidden Source
Author: Rabbi Yitzchak Shmuel Ackerman, LMHC
February 26th, 2018

We assume that there is a mitzvah to raise children to become bnei and bnos Torah, a mitzvah of chinuch habanim.  Is there such a mitzvah, and if so, what is the source for it? It appears from the Rambam in Sefer haMitzvos that the Torah only requires us to teach Torah to our students.  The Rambam points out that the Sifri on the term “v’shinantum l’vanecha”  (Devorim 6:5) says this refers to students.  …
A Home for Bracha
Author: Rabbi Yitzchak Shmuel Ackerman, LMHC
October 21st, 2021

Omar Rabbi Shimon ben Halafta: lo matza haKadosh Baruch Hu kli machazik bracha l’Yisrael elah hashalom. Rabbi Shimon ben Halafta said: haKakodosh Baruch Hu found no vessel that could contain blessing for Israel other than shalom. (Uktzin 3:12) My colleague received this email: This coming week Selichos begins. My father used to wake me up when I was in 1st grade, and he'd take me at midnight to Shul. Therefore, I have been doing that with …
A Huge Responsibility
Author: Rabbi Yitzchak Shmuel Ackerman, LMHC
August 27th, 2014

When I was a rav in Baltimore I once began my drasha as follows: Hershel’s mother was having a very hard time getting him out of bed one morning. Hershel finally said to his mother, “give me three reasons why it’s so important that I get out of bed.”
She replied, “All right, Hershel, I’ll give you three reasons why it’s so important that you get out of bed. First of all, because you’re Jewish. …
A Model Parent
Author: Rabbi Yitzchak Shmuel Ackerman, LMHC

A Model Parent

Rabbi Yitzchak Shmuel Ackerman, LMHC

I don't know how many happy endings you hear, but here's one. My son is blooming, he's a top bachur in his yeshiva.

I'm calling with tears of gratitude in my eyes.

He had been on a slippery slope.

There is no statute of limitations on gratitude. The last time I had spoken with Henoch was nearly 4 years ago. He called me back then because he was concerned about his son Mendy. Henoch and I worked together for about five months. When we ended our work together, he seemed more optimistic than when we had begun. He had become more confident in himself as a father as a result of learning some new skills.

The first time I had spoken with Henoch he sounded nothing short of distraught. He had found a letter his son, then an 11th grader in a well known "main stream" yeshiva, had written to a girl, saying she should call him at yeshiva, and say she's his sister. He told me that Mendy had always been a good student, had good friends, had a good relationship with both of his parents, that he's a "really good kid." And then Henoch asked me what he should do.

As a rav, my answer to that question is to follow the guidance of the Ha'ksav v'Hakabala on the mitzvah of giving admonishment. He writes that you should not say "why did you do that?" You should instead describe what you observed the person saying or doing, and then ask them what happened. As a therapist, I also asked dad what he thinks will happen when he does that. The reason I asked him that question, was that I was pretty sure that he was not going to do it. I wanted to help him figure out how he possibly could. This was the first of the new skills we worked on for dad.

My conversation with Henoch went something like this:

What do you imagine will happen when you sit down with Mendy, tell them you found the letter that he wrote to this girl, and ask him what's happening?

I can't do that! I can't tell him that I found the letter. He's going to want to know why I was snooping around in his room.

That sounds like a reasonable question. What are you going to tell him?

I don't know! What am I supposed to tell him?

I'm not sure I understand the problem here. When he asks you why you were snooping around in his room, I would assume you would simply tell him why you were snooping around in his room, no?

I can't tell him that!

You can't tell him what? Why were you snooping around his room?

Because I'm his father, I have to know what he's doing.

All right, so you were doing what you believe is appropriate, yet you're not willing to tell your son what you were doing even though you believe it was appropriate. I'm not sure I understand that.

He is not going to understand that it's appropriate and he's going to get very upset with me.

You're probably right. And, you're concerned about him. So what would you like to do here?

I'd like to tell him that I don't want him writing to letters to girls, and I don't want him talking to girls at all. But I can't tell him that without telling him that I found his letter, and I couldn't have found the letter if I hadn't been snooping around in his room. It's not like he left it on the dining room table. Rabbi Ackerman, just tell me, did I do the right thing or not?

So I sat back, took a deep breath, and taught Henoch a new skill. I told him that unless something is in the Shulchan Aruch, you don't always have a clear "right or wrong." A lot of things in life come in shades of gray. That doesn't mean they're unclear. It means there is clearly something good about it and clearly something not so good about it. Parents are often left with choices that are less than perfect, and the skill is to make what you think is the best available choice, rather than wishing there was some perfect alternative. This is the skill of accepting uncertainty and moving forward despite it.

The second skill I taught Henoch was how to explain to his son what it was like for him to tell his son the truth, knowing that his son might resent him for what he did. This is the skill of humility, to do the best you can and accept the fact that someone else might think you should have done better.

And the skill of being a "model parent?" I didn't teach that to Henoch. Every parent is a model. Children do learn by osmosis, almost exclusively.

B"H Mendy is now a top bachur in his yeshiva. I would like to think that he has earned that status by the quality of his learning, and by excelling in the middos of humility and gratitude he sees in his father.

Rabbi Yitzchak Shmuel Ackerman, LHMC, is the Director of Parent Mentoring for Agudath Israel's Project YES. He has worked with hundreds of parents from around the world.

He also works with educators in 18 schools offering guidance on how to connect with children.

Rabbi Ackerman has a private practice specializing in family, couples, parenting, and pre-marital counseling, and can be reached at 718-344-6575.

A Parenting Cook Book
Author: Rabbi Yitzchak Shmuel Ackerman, LMHC
March 7th, 2016

Where can I find a recipe for nachas? No one has ever asked me that question using those particular words. Many parents have asked me what books I would recommend to them that would help them with their children. As is my wont, I usually respond to their question with a question of my own: what books have you found helpful so far? Well, I read [fill in the blank with any of the many parenting books that are available] and I thought it had some r …
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