Dear Rabbi Menachem Bluming: I have a dark secret… I have an anger problem. And I never knew it until I became a parent. Because the only people I take my anger out on are my own kids. I never had a temper before, but sometimes when my children misbehave and I am at my limit I just explode and lose control. I don’t like myself at those moments and know it is wrong. And yet I haven’t been able to control it. Any pointers on how to not lose it with my kids?
Your dark secret is the dark secret of every parent. We all have our weak moments, when a combination of lack of sleep, pressures of life and our imperfect hearts conspire to make us lose it. And who are the poor victims of our fury? Those we love the most, our children.
If it is happening frequently or if you are really harming your kids, you need urgent professional help. But if you are overall loving and good to your kids, just now and then you snap, then you are human. That doesn’t excuse your behavior, it just means you need to work on yourself like everybody does.
Here are some wise words the Rebbe offered to a father who held the same dark secret.
The Rebbe asked, “If your neighbor dropped off their kids to your house to look after while they went out, and during that time the neighbor’s kids misbehaved, would you lose your temper with them?”
The father had to admit that no, when it is someone else’s kids misbehaving, we don’t allow ourselves to lose control, because they are not our kids. How could we face our neighbor when they return to pick up their kids, only to find them crying and hurt? We don’t feel free to lose ourselves when the kids aren’t ours.
“Well,” continued the Rebbe, “your children are not yours either. They are G-d’s children. He has entrusted them with you for a while to take care of. And you are answerable to G-d for how you treat them.”
This simple but profound insight redefines the parents’ role. Children are not our property; they do not belong to us. They belong to G-d, and we have been honored with the heavy responsibility of caring for them in their young years and guiding them for their future. If we’d be embarrassed to return our neighbor’s children having hurt them, then how much more should we recoil from the thought of hurting G-d’s children.
Menachem (Mendel) Bluming and Rabbi Moss