Raising Children in Harmony

Raising Children in Harmony

Marriage is for growth. By its very nature your marriage will continuously give you opportunities to develop your character. The more challenging one’s marriage, the greater the growth possibilities.

The mitzvah (commandment) to develop our character is a mitzvah to walk in the ways of our Creator. Viewing events and situations in this light will elevate the mundane, for in the ultimate view of life nothing is mundane. Every moment presents its unique, once in a lifetime, opportunity. By acting and reacting in ways that are kind, compassionate, understanding and sensitive, you emulate the Creator and bring the Shechinah (Divine Presence) into your home. No accomplishment could be greater.

Many people tend to speak of marriage as if it were the same for everyone, rather than the unique experience it is for anyone who is married. Since every individual is different from any other individual who ever was or ever will be, every marriage partnership is inevitably one of a kind. Marriages range from being a source of great joy to being the source of much pain.

Children can be a parent’s greatest source of nachas (pride and joy) or the greatest source of pain. In ideal situations children can bring a husband and wife closer together. Parents have a common life’s goal of raising children to serve Hashem. Both mother and father love their children and work in harmony to teach and train, to inspire and encourage, to nourish and support. Even if parents disagree about specific details, they both respect the positive intentions of the other.

But children can be a source of stress, and the focal point of strife and dissension. They can be the topic of arguments and quarrels, and the victims of power struggles. If parents don’t get along, children are likely to suffer.View your children as the greatest gift your Creator has given you and the greatest responsibility as well. You have an obligation – for the spiritual and emotional welfare of your children – to treat their other parent with respect. Every time you speak to your spouse in front of your children you are teaching them lessons about marriage, about putting Torah ideals into practice, about ways of communicating, about middos (character traits), about who their parents are, and ultimately about themselves.

Be careful not to take out your frustrations with your spouse on your children. Part of growing from your marriage is growing from raising your children. Your children will test you in many ways. They will supply you with innumerable opportunities for personal growth and for developing your middos. Learn from your mistakes and constantly upgrade the way you talk and act. Clarify the internal resources and attributes that will help you interact at your best with your children.

Learn from your own best moments. Remember the times you reacted to difficult situations with love, patience, compassion and respect. Let these memories empower you whenever you feel tempted to react with frustration or anger.

Pray for Hashem’s assistance to act wisely when you need to make difficult choices about a specific course of action in a given situation.

Wife’s version: “My husband is too strict with the children. He isn’t realistic about his demands and wants them to be perfect angels, all the time. He has no patience when they misbehave. Also, he punishes them in a way that is a bit cruel. He learns with our young son much too long for his age level and refuses to ask anyone about what the proper amount of time would be. During the Shabbos meal, if a child acts even a little wild, he is sent to his room for the rest of the meal. I think that a five-minute time-out would be sufficient to get the point across. My husband feels that most other people don’t really know the right way to discipline children.”

Husband’s version: “My wife is too lenient with the children and lets them get away with murder. If they are not taught how to behave when they are young, they will grow up thinking that improper behavior is all right. They are able to accomplish much more than my wife thinks. I would be doing them a disservice if I let them do less than they are really capable of. I look around and don’t like the way most people are raising their children. I want my children to be great, not mediocre. I know that I am right and don’t want anyone to give me another opinion”.

Even among the greatest people, there are many different approaches to disciplining children. Shlomo HaMelech (King Solomon) (Proverbs 22:6) for example, tells us to raise each child according to his nature. Husbands and wives can easily have different ideas about what is too strict and what is too lenient. When in doubt, they should consult a recognized Torah expert on raising children. If either the husband or wife refuses to consult anyone, this indicates fear of not finding anyone who agrees with him or her. With minor disagreements, maintain a united front, regardless of whether it is slightly too strict or slightly too lenient, but if you are afraid that a major error might be made, speak to a knowledgeable Torah authority about the best thing to do in your unique situation.

Reproduced from "Marriage: A Wise and Sensitive Guide to Making Any Marriage Better", by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, with permission of the copyright holders, ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications, Ltd

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