(Adapted From Aish Ha’Torah Series & Edited With Additions By Rabanit K. Sarah Cohen)
There are times you’ll find yourself struggling with your child against your husband. You may even feel alone as your husband and child form an informal “pact” together. That is a very challenging circumstance. When one parent aligns himself with a child, it creates an unhealthy bond. This environment can develop into a disrespectful circumstance as the seeds of chutzpah are sown. A child who learns that parents are not on the same page sees an opening to degrade a parent and cast his/her opinion aside. Parent and child together as a team versus the other parent is a recipe for dysfunction and a lack of marital harmony.
One woman complained that her husband is notably harsher with their son than with their daughter. He expected more, demanded more and corrected him on the smallest errors. Somehow it felt as if the children were suddenly in competition with one another. And they were! They were actually competing for their mother’s alliance.
The mother was asked what her reaction was when these situations took place.
“I tell my husband that he’s being too hard and he should just let things go. After all, he is the father and he needs to act like the adult.”
“And do you say all this in front of your son?” asked the therapist.
“Well, I do try my best to whisper. But I guess I’m whispering loud and he hears it all,” replied the mother.
The therapist assured her that not only did her son hear, he understood quite clearly that he discovered a powerful wedge between his parents. Anytime in the future that he had the slightest issue with his father, he now felt that his mother as on his side. His relationship with his father will eventually suffer as he grows into his adolescent years. The relationship between husband and wife will also suffer since now a question of loyalty, trust and parenting on common ground has surfaced. Parents who display favoritism for a child over a spouse create resentment and anger in their marriage. A father and mother must stand united; not the child and parent.
Certainly there are times that one parent is much too hard on a child or being unreasonable. How do we resolve this type of situation and stand together with strength so that our children see and feel a safe and secure home?
The resolve is very important. When children see parents behaving lovingly and respectfully with one another, they feel as if they are in a stable and enduring home. A firm and steady foundation offer our children the sense of stability they need in a chaotic world. Children also learn to respect parents when parents display respect for each other. When we cast our spouse’s opinion aside thoughtlessly, or when we are disparaging and treat each other with a disrespect, it only hurts us, the parents. Children are sensitive to these disrespectful cues and then act the very same way towards us. This creates a no-win situation.
When there’s an obvious clash between a husband and wife, it harms the marriage and the children. As a Jewish parent, we are required to set our egos aside, and start focusing on the emotional health of our homes. Our children need leader who will guide them into a stable future based on mutual respect and dignity. Children who see parents aligning together understand that theirs is a home filled with love and wisdom.