A Caring But Negligent Husband

Honorable Rabbi and Dr. Twerski,

My husband is a capable, intelligent, talented young man. He is a Ben- Torah and a yiras shamayim. He doesn’t need much for himself, but will go out of his way to do chessed for another yid. He seems to have a very good self-esteem and is not a people pleaser at all.

What bothers me a lot is that with out own children he doesn’t spend a lot of time at all. And when he does, which is mostly Shabbos and Yom Tov he is very impatient with them.

Small trigger like swinging with a chair, or jumping on the couch cause him to raise his voice, criticize, yell, and sometimes hit. He can even hit in the face once in a while. On the other hand, my husband b”h rarely raises his voice on me or criticizes me. We b”h have a very good marriage where there is respect, loyalty and trust. I am concerned about the effect this can have on the children since he shows very little love to them. I’m also worried about the chinuch of our children if their father frequently yells nu…nu…! in middle of bentching. I gently pointed out to him several times that I want our home to be a happy and relaxed place. I shared your anger management column with him. He doesn’t seem to realize that he has a problem. Is it because he is not sensitive at all? Does he just have to work on his middos; how could I convince him to work on himself? He is too easygoing and negligent. He feels that I am too serious and sometimes overdo things. There is a personality clash here. Please guide me. Thanking you in advance.

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In Zeria Ubinyan B’ Chinuch, Harav Shlomo Walbe says, “The damage done by hitting a child to discipline him is immeasurable.” That sounds like an extreme term. Harav Walbe explains that the oft quoted verse in Mishle, “He who abstains from chastisement hates his child” (Harav S.R. Hirsch translation) is not referring to physical punishment. Children who are hit by parents may develop resentment toward their parents and are at risk of turning against Yiddishkeit.

Obviously, when a 2-year old runs into the street, one cannot reason with him because he cannot understand the danger of traffic, and one may have to give a patsch to the part of the anatomy designed for it. Even then, a patsch should never bruise, nor need it hurt. It is the action of thepatsch that should be effective. But when the child reaches the age of reason, there should be no need for a patsch. In those instances when a patsch is justified, it should be out of consideration for the child’s welfare, and not a manifestation of the parent’s anger.

As harmful as hitting a child may be, Harav Walbe says that shouting at a child may be even more harmful. Zeria Ubinyan B’ Chinuch (available in English—Feldheim) is mandatory reading for all parents. When we bring children into the world, we must give them the best opportunity to develop a healthy personality. Doing something which is harmful to the child is an unforgivable sin. Parents must learn that there are ways to discipline children in ways which are not harmful. It is an awesome responsibility to raise a child, and one must learn how to do it. If a child needs an operation, a parent would not allow someone to operate who never went to medical school and thinks that he just knows how to do surgery by himself. Nor should a parent think that he or she can be a proper parent by instinct. We must learn how to parent, and there is no excuse for parenting by instinct.

As a parent, you have the responsibility to protect your children from all harm. Harav Walbe is authoritative. Show this to your husband, and suggest that you read Zeria Ubinyan B’ Chinuchtogether.

If your husband refuses, talk to a Rav about calling him in. If your husband damaged another person’s property and did not want to make restitution, he could be called to a din Torah. It is no different when he is harming your children. You have every right to call him to a din Torah.

You may say that such an approach can disturb your shalom bayis. As important as that is, you cannot allow your children to be harmed. Remember Harav Walbe’s words: “The damage done by hitting a child to discipline him is immeasurable,” and shouting at a child may be even more harmful.