Ask Wendy

Jewish World Review Feb. 7, 2003 / 5 Adar I, 5763


Collective punishments; too much for a mother-in-law?


By Wendy Belzberg

http://www.jewishworldreview.com | Q: What is your opinion on collective punishment in schools? In my son's school, the entire eighth grade was punished when some notebooks were stolen and no one confessed. Isn't there a better way?

A: A polygraph test could be administered to every child in the class or children could be interrogated until the culprit reveals his or her identity. I think you will agree that neither is a better alternative.

Punishing an entire class for the transgression of one child may seem harsh, but it teaches a critical lesson in a world that places more value on the individual than on the group. It has become increasingly difficult - and vital - to demonstrate to our children that they are part of a community. How often does any of us feel responsible for our fellow human beings? Shouldn't we appreciate a little help with this lesson?

Your child may well be beyond reproach. However, by letting him know you object to this form of punishment you risk planting the notion in your son's head that he is an island. Don't reveal your qualms about this one, and do what you can to enforce the idea that we don't want to live in a world where our neighbors look the other way when something untoward happens. All of our greatest heroes are the men and women who didn't, as any grade-school student could remind us.

Q: My ailing mother-in-law lives on the opposite coast from her daughter, two grandchildren and myself. We have been encouraging her for many years to come live near us so that we can be together and she can enjoy her grandchildren. She does not have close friends or established support systems where she now lives. But despite our repeated efforts we have yet to make any headway. How can we help her to make this transition?

A: You want to be close to your ailing mother-in-law and want your children to enjoy her company while she can still enjoy theirs. I have the perfect solution: You and your family should move cross-country to be closer to her. Some people might think that a major move - particularly in one's old age - would be difficult and disruptive and would read your mother-in-law's lack of headway as a clear message. But not you, apparently. Since you don't seem to think a move is too much to ask - and since you do have youth on your side - you should relocate. If you are not prepared to call the movers, it may be time to accept that long-distance phone calls are as close as you're going to get to daily contact with your mother-in-law.



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© 2002, Wendy Belzberg