In Parshat Lech Lecha, G-d tells Avraham to “Go from your land, from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you.”
Rashi says on this Pasuk:
From your land: Now had he not already gone out of there with his father and come as far as Haran? Rather, thus did He say to him, “Distance yourself more from there and leave your father’s house.”
In essence, we learn here that G-d wanted Avraham to leave the negative influence of his father’s house. Avraham needed to re-create himself in a new place, to shake off the any lasting impact of his previous culture and traditions that were so antithetical to serving a monotheistic G-d.
It is unfortunate, but there are times when it is necessary for people to remove themselves from their birthplace, their families so that they can flourish. This is certainly true for people who have been emotionally and verbally abused as children.
Emotional and verbal abuse can have long lasting impacts on a person’s self-esteem and can certainly affect the way they parent. It is important for adults who suffered abuse to find new and more effective ways to communicate with their kids. They need to separate from the language they heard as children and learn new ways to connect with others. Adults who grew up with excessive amounts of criticism, teasing, accusations, put-downs and name-calling will naturally gravitate towards this type of behavior in their relationships with their own children.
It is not easy but there are ways to change negative communication patterns.
Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, in their book “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen,” offer many alternative techniques. One tool that they suggest using is called “Giving information.”
Here are some examples of how it works:
Instead of name calling and criticism: “You are such a slob! Why is your room always such a mess?”
Give information: “Rooms need to be cleaned for Shabbos tonight.”
Instead of accusing: “I just told you that you needed to clean your room! Have you started yet? No! Of course not! You never do what you are told to do!”
Give information and ask for confirmation: “Rooms need to be cleaned by 9pm the latest. Can you let me know when you plan on getting started?”
Instead of teasing: “What a space-cadet you are! If you head wasn’t attached to your neck, you would lose that too!”
Give information and offer your help: “To keep track of important papers it might be helpful to have a drawer or a special folder. I have a couple of minutes to help you look for your stuff now.”
Instead of putting children down: “You always complain about everything! You never help out!”
Give information and validate feelings: “Cleaning rooms can feel overwhelming. Cleaning can be done while listening to music, or talking on the phone to a friend. I hope that helps…”
Learning how to change your communication patterns if you have been a victim of emotional and verbal abuse can be challenging. “Giving information” is just one great communication technique out of many that can help.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.