Dr. Meir Wikler, a psychotherapist and family counselor, speaker, and author, shared an important shiur for the Chinuch Vaad in Lakewood on Sunday, August 29. His speech was based on a question posed by a husband and wife who argued a lot and wanted Dr. Wikler’s opinion. The mother felt that it’s okay for parents to fight in front of their children when they disagree, as this will prepare them for real life, and the father felt that disagreements should not be aired in front of their children.

Dr. Wikler then answered this question. The Gemara in Sanhedrin teaches of the din of a rebellious son. If a mother and father are not an equal voice, a child cannot have the din of a rebellious son. The pasuk states, “He doesn’t listen to our voice.” Voice is singular, so according to Rashi, it leaves the impression of one voice. What does one voice mean? Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch explains that a child cannot have the din of a rebellious son if the father and mother have one voice. This means they have equal authority, equal dignity, and the same ideas and wishes. Only then can they say that it’s not their fault. Dr. Wikler explained, “If there is not complete agreement between the parents, then failure of the child is no proof of moral badness of the child’s nature.”

Dr. Wikler then emphasized: “Complete agreement among parents is the preliminary factor in bringing up children.”

The Gemara teaches that there never was a rebellious son and there never will be. So, then what is the purpose of this law? Rav Hirsch teaches that it is there to teach us that parents must be in total agreement. It doesn’t mean that they can’t disagree, but they should work on a disagreement privately and not in front of their children.

Dr. Wikler then shared a story that happened with clients who had severe disagreements on many issues including parenting. They came to his office and shouted so loudly that he was afraid his family might think they were threatening him and call the police. That was how loud they were. This affected their children. One of their children became so depressed that he killed himself. Dr. Wikler concluded, “That is how severely a child can be damaged from an open display of hostility.”

He once met a Marine veteran who served in Iraq. This man had witnessed men being killed, and he had killed men. Nevertheless, he shared that the most frightening experience of his life was when he was a child and he heard and saw his parents fighting in front of him.

Dr. Wikler shared how he had recently worked with a single man with severe depression who felt suicidal at times. His parents didn’t get along with each other. Dr. Wikler told him the above story about the Marine who served in Iraq and this man said this story helped him to not feel depressed, and it took away his suicidal feelings.

Dr. Wikler pointed out that a marital therapist should not take sides. He shouldn’t be an arbitrator but rather he should be a mediator. However, in his role as a parenting consultant and guiding listeners with this talk, he said that he would have to agree with the father who said that disagreements should not be aired in front of the children. “If you have a disagreement, it should be dealt with privately. You shouldn’t argue in front of your children. Your presentation to your children has to be unified. This is necessary for their healthy development and for how you parent your children.”

These wise words should be absorbed and help all parents in the new year to create a united front and to build beautiful homes where the Sh’chinah dwells and children feel happy and secure.

 By Susie Garber