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The Risk Rabbi - Every Kid is a Kid at Risk

REFRAMING

BLAMING

   

I

f the “explosionâ€? hasn’t happened to you, it has happened to someone near and dear—and it is a little too close for comfort! Monday, one a.m. The phone rings, jolting the father rudely out of his slumber. “Hello,â€? he says groggily. “Tatty, it’s me, Yitz. Listen, I just got thrown out of yeshiva.â€? “You what?â€? Instant consciousness. “What for?â€? “Well, I was talking in learning after night seder until really late. We were really hungry, so we snuck out after curfew, and...it was just our luck that the rosh yeshiva walked past the pizza shop and saw us there.â€? Father’s stomach sinks to somewhere around his ankles, held down by nauseainducing anchors. My son, thrown out of yeshiva? My intelligent, independent son, who ORYHV WR OHDUQ ZKR KDV Ă€UP \LUDV 6KDPD\LP can’t make it in yeshiva? As he struggles to maintain his HTXLOLEULXPĂ€YHWUDLQVRIWKRXJKWUXQRQ parallel tracks in his brain, wrench his insides and grip his heart in a vise. 1. What kind of a parent are you? (Blame) 2. What kind of an idiot did I

raise? (Blame) 3. The rosh yeshiva is destroying my son. (Blame) 4. I am a failure and my child is a failure. (Shame) 5. This isn’t supposed to happen in families like mine. (Shame) In twelve years of working with kids at risk, one of the greatest obstacles that we have encountered is the tendency for children, parents and well-meaning onlookers to play the blame game and WKHUHE\ GHà HFW DQG GHUDLO GHDOLQJ ZLWK the situation. We have thus chosen to reframe the blame game before delineating any of the other factors affecting youth of today. By breaking down this obstacle, we will all be better equipped to deal with the challenges life throws us, thereby lifting up those sinking stomachs and clearing those befuddled brains.

The Fault Line Blaming is a natural reaction to a VLJQLĂ€FDQWO\ QHJDWLYH event or experience. It permits the victim, those closest to him and the onlooker to escape into the comfort zone of denial. Finding a culprit makes sense of the state of affairs. If we can decide that

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VRPHRQHRUVRPHWKLQJVSHFLĂ€FLVDWIDXOW 1. The child, parent or educator won’t feel obligated to deal with his or her situation if the responsibility lies elsewhere. 2. The onlooker is comforted that the phenomena are explicable, predictable and less of a threat to him and his or her family. Blaming oneself is also counterproductive, since this blame comes from those gnawing feelings of shame and guilt. Self-assigning oneself as the “culpritâ€? can be so overwhelming and guilt inducing that he or she will be paralyzed from taking any reparative action. Since blaming is generated by fear, fury and guilt, the choice of culprit will not be based on logic and a thorough understanding of the situation. The yetzer hara has won before he has started E\VLPSO\GHĂ HFWLQJXVIURPDGGUHVVLQJ the real issues at hand. Since we are now ZRUNLQJ´RIĂ LQHÂľDVLWZHUHWKHUHLVQR connectivity—to ourselves, our families and to the situation. Refraining from assigning blame, however, causes the onlooker to revisit that terrifying reality once more. How are we to make sense of children who were

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