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He likes coming home — too much?

Introduction:

I debated whether the question below, which came to me this week, suits the framework of this blog. Apparently, it's not an issue of marital peace but rather the education of adolescent children. However, I believe answering this question would be beneficial: this specific question is very common, and the approach described in my answer also applies to domestic harmony.


Question:

I am the mother of a boy in a large yeshiva [high school focused on Jewish studies with dormitory accommodations]. I regularly ask his teachers how he's doing, and I hear good things. He's doing fine.


One thing bothers me: he really likes coming home, and does so quite a lot. Too much, in my opinion. For example, he used to come home only during school vacations, and his arrival was an event in our house. Everyone was excited to see him.


But now, seeing him around is just a regular part life. Yesterday he was here, and also the week before. There is no novelty in his coming home. I've explained that to him, and he respectfully listens, but he keeps coming home frequently.


I asked his teacher about this, and he said, "He is a positive guy, comes to prayers, and studies as we expect him to. Don't say anything to him. We speak openly, and he tells me everything. I am not hearing anything that he doesn't like about yeshiva."


A different teacher confirmed the same, that the yeshiva seems to be good for him. But I'm still concerned. What can I do?


Answer:

My answer probably won't be what you want to hear. I believe the right approach, what your son needs to understand from you, is as follows:


"The house is always open to you. We love you and accept you as you are. At any time, in any situation, this is your home in the full sense of the word. We are always excited and happy when you come!" (By the way, when he comes for official school vacations, get excited as if he hasn't been home for a year. This is very important.)


"As for whether it is right to leave the dormitory, you can decide for yourself. You are mature and responsible. Think for yourself if this is the correct thing to do. If necessary, consult with your teachers. I'm not the one to ask since I'm biased. I love you and always want you to come home. You don't have to share your deliberations with me. But if you do decide to come home, let me know so that I can have the things you like prepared."

If you want him to be happier in the yeshiva:

  1. Checking in with his teachers is always good. Teachers are only human, and when you show interest in your son, you bring him into their focus.

  2. You can always ask your son directly if he needs anything, such as a tutor.

  3. Above all, show interest in him as much as possible. Ask as much as he is able to tell, and when you listen, do two things:

    • First, listen until the end. Express interest, care, and acceptance. Not criticism! (By listening, you might discover that someone is harassing him, for example, and then you have to consider whether and how to intervene.)

    • Second, search very pointedly for the good things he does in the yeshiva: the number of hours he studies, the tractate (or chapter, or even page) that he finished, the essay he wrote, the lesson he was able to understand. Then praise him. Tell him how happy he's making you, fulfilling your life's ambition for your children.

Now, there are two sides. He wants to come home, and you want him to stay in yeshiva and study. Naturally, when you take the role of his conscience, he renounces it. He wants to come home, and that's it.


Also when this desire of his to get home is not accepted, then he has to fight for it, express it, and fulfill it more and more. His desire will not be satisfied as long as he feels that he is not understood.


What needs to be done is to return his conscience to its natural place: his own heart. Allow him to be the one to decide. Let him know: "I'm not telling you what to do. You're mature and responsible." Every hint of criticism, even in your body language, turns you, the mother, into his conscience, and the result is not worth it.


On the other hand, in order limit his desire to come home so that he stays in school until the official vacations, it's important to learn a certain rule: when someone wants something, he or she needs two things:

  • For someone to understand and accept this desire.

  • For the wish to come true.

Many times, when the first exists, the second is completely unnecessary!


So give your son's desire a place. Tell him that he's right, that you understand him, love when he comes home, that the house is always open to him. Then he will be free to think and decide for himself. When he does arrive home, he will feel much more at home. This will also give him less of a need to come so frequently.


It is possible that at first using this approach he will arrive a little more frequently. This not a cause for alarm; he's just garnering more experience in taking responsibility for his own decisions. Little by little, he will understand the implications of leaving school and his dormitory when he's not supposed to. He will take responsibility for his choices and actions. After all, soon enough he will marry, and if he returns home earlier than he is expected to, you won't be there to ask him why he is returning home early. He will have to deal with the consequences of his decisions by himself. (By the way, his wife will also not be welcome to take the position of his supervisor! She must also be the "home" to him, which means providing acceptance and love.)


Perhaps the only way to inculcate good character in the hearts of our children, especially older children, is to place our trust in them so that this quality (trustfulness) will exist in them. Your son is lucky to have a teacher who seeks to understand his soul. This approach takes into consideration that his teacher considers him to be a positive person.


Now, what does the answer above have to do with marital relationships? At home, it is important for both men and women to completely abandon the role of playing the other person's conscience, neither in words nor insinuations. You are not responsible for the spiritual state of the other.


When your spouse desires something, the approach described above applies to that relationship as well. Always listen, accept, and give space to the other person's desire, even if it's a pipe dream or clearly illogical.


If you want the other person to grow stronger in some way, the formula is as follows:

  1. Get off the conscience stage. Let the person awaken to his or her own private conscience.

  2. Foster peace in the home by strengthening love, giving, and acceptance in tangible, physical ways to the other.

  3. Strengthen yourself in the thing you want the other to become stronger in. Learn the subject so you will have an understanding of it. When you have peace and are physically aligned in body and heart, your understanding seeps into the mind of the other. This is the way of our sages; when they wanted to strengthen some aspect in the home, they would learn the subject themselves, and that was enough to affect change. There is more to explain on this topic, but for now, we'll stop here.

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