Having shalom bayis when your children fight

(Fotolia.com)
(Fotolia.com)

Are your children fighting all the time, with you or with their siblings? Do they disrespect your rules and wishes? When your children are acting out and misbehaving, it can drive you and your spouse up the wall. Whether your children are younger or older, screaming, being defiant, or crying “but he started it!”, this can make you feel like screaming – and possibly blaming your spouse for their lack of disciplinary skills.

Being blamed, or blaming your spouse for your children’s behavior can cause resentment and anger, and doesn’t help your children behave any better. When your kids are running wild five minutes before Shabbos begins, and you and your spouse are giving them different commands (“Go to your room!” “Leave your brother alone and get ready for shul!”), it not only confuses your kids, but can also cause a painful rift between the two of you.

Disciplining together

It can be challenging to manage your children’s behavior with structure and discipline, and even more so if you want to raise your children differently from how your parents raised you. If you were raised in a dysfunctional home, or even just a home with harsh discipline, chaos, or other circumstances that felt oppressive, you have likely decided to have different rules and boundaries in your home. However, without a positive role model, you can feel lost as to how to do this in the best way for you and your family. If you haven’t discussed it with your spouse, clashing parenting styles can lead to misery all around.

If you have a child with a disorder such as ADHD, OCD, or anxiety, it’s especially important to know how to work with their individual needs. They may require a different structure or discipline than your other kids, but if you and your spouse aren’t working well together then providing a good environment for your child will be that much more difficult.

Can marriage counseling help you?

You know you’d both be happier if you sat down to work out your disagreements and misunderstandings, so why is it so hard? When resentments and arguments build up, you can come to feel that the divide is too great to cross. In this case, you can end up avoiding each other in order to avoid arguments, and communication becomes difficult. Eventually, every discussion you have ends up in a fight. The Shabbos table becomes an uncomfortable place to sit at for more than five minutes – for you, your spouse, and your kids.

Between the lack of communication and the lack of support and understanding for one another, you can find yourself facing a miserable household or divorce. Both of these options could be disastrous for you and your family.

Marriage counseling with a frum therapist can save your marriage. A frum therapist has the expertise and knowledge to help you work through your problems, and additionally understands the dynamics and structure of religious life. In counseling, you can learn to reopen the channels of communication. Being in a different, supportive environment can lend clarity, focus, and patience, helping you to express your opinions and understand each other. 

A marriage with shalom bayis doesn’t mean there aren’t any disagreements, but rather that you can use your differences to make your relationship stronger and work together as a team. A strong marriage, in turn, creates a stronger home for your children.

About the Author
David Lefkowitz, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist with two decades of experience helping clients gain self-understanding, get unstuck, and lead happier, more productive, and balanced lives. He sees clients in his Brooklyn offices in Flatbush and Borough Park.
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