Dear Rabbi Ross. Like many other people, I have been reading your column for a few years. There are times that I disagree with your thoughts, but by and large I like to think we’re on the same page. My question concerns my husband. He has a horrible temper, and frequently says or does things that are, to say the least, regrettable. We have four wonderful children, and although the oldest is only eleven, I worry about what will happen to them. Will they also develop his temper? Will they blame me for not intervening on their behalf? I really can’t stop him when he’s out of control. L. S. – Flatbush
I usually respond privately to these types of emails. Unfortunately, I have recently received a couple of similar questions and that is one of the criteria I use in selecting which e-mails to respond to in my weekly article. Therefore, somewhat against my better judgment, I’m going to reply to this question publicly.
Your email, like all the other ones on this topic, is missing a lot of crucial information. Nonetheless, I’m imagining that your spouse is a normal, fun person until something sets him off. I’m saying “him”, but it could also be the mother with the temper. However, in the interest of keeping this as simple as possible, let’s keep this about the husband.
First and foremost, you didn’t write what he does when he gets angry. If you ever feel that you’re in danger, you need to call Shalom Task Force at 888-883-2323. It’s completely confidential, and they can help you. There is no excuse for violence or abuse. This is the one time that I won’t suggest that you call your Rav. If you don’t get the help you need, you’re not only risking your own life, but the lives of your children!
As I’ve mentioned a few times over the years, I’m not a psychologist. I’m not sure how to deal with him or what to say to him. I would think that any discussion you have with him should be when he’s in a good mood and not feeling threatened. Then again, the real question is, does he want to change? The reason I ask, is because children are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. If he doesn’t really try working on himself, it won’t be very helpful. I have seen parents apologize for yelling, but then they yell again a day later. Your children see right through this.
You asked, “Will they also develop his temper?” Most children that have tempers begin to display them at a younger age. If your children are already anywhere from seven and up, maybe you got lucky and your children were not affected yet. However, I’m guessing that they will end up being affected one way or another. Here are my thoughts about what you can and cannot do.
Have a good Shabbos.
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a Rebbe and has been working with parents and kids for many years. You can read more about him in the "about" section.