Translated by Rabbi Lazer Brody
Raising a happy and well-adjusted child depends on marital harmony. A child must hopefully have refined parents. A refined parent is one who speaks with respect, honors his/her spouse, always has a good word, is encouraging, patient in times of pressure, giving, benevolent, a good listener and more.
Children with parents who love each other and are "best friends" learn to emulate this characteristic of love and friendship. When children see mutual respect, giving and love; when they see their parents encouraging each other after blunders, not trying to break each other, but rather, strengthening each other because they love each other – they emulate this behavior. Children who see parents who are happy together and living life joyously according to the Torah's principles learn live life joyously too.
Every parent must do everything to ensure marital harmony. In our books on marital harmony (The Garden of Peace for men and Women's Wisdom for women), we explain how all abundance and blessings in both the spiritual and physical realms depend on marital bliss. We also cite the ability to educate our children well as one of the main fruits of parental efforts to maintain a peaceful and happy relationship.
Each parent should study the relevant book on an ongoing basis, and pray to fulfill everything that he or she has learned. This is completely obligatory. Nobody should fool themselves. As parents of children, we are obliged to learn the true foundations of marital harmony. Besides our obligation to each other by virtue of the marital bond, we also have an obligation to the pure souls that were deposited in our care. Parents must protect the tender souls of their children by avoiding marital strife.
Children who grow up in a peaceful home have a healthy emotional makeup. They're ready to take advantage of all their emotional powers to live a life of truth and faith. They absorb the positive qualities of their parents - all the warmth, love and friendship that the parents have for each other and for them. Children in such a home grow up with a joy for life and a desire to live, with tremendous power to truly succeed in the world.
Children from happy homes aren't generally influenced by negative influences from the street. They are so happy in their homes that what goes on outside doesn't attract them. And even if they do come into contact with negative influences, they sense the contrast between the negativity and the positive environment at home and discuss what they encountered with their parents. The parents can help and direct them, creating another deep and important stepping stone in the child's education; openness and direction based on love and understanding.
In order to understand the positive side of raising children on a foundation of marital peace, we must write about the negative side: What happens to children who grow up in a home that lacks marital harmony, G-d forbid?
The damage is great, unfortunately. Every affront to peace in the home scars the child's soul. The amount of damage depends on the sensitivity of the children. There are sensitive souls that are damaged even by subliminal tension. Other souls are damaged from small fights. It is clear, though, that every type of marital altercation creates emotional problems, trauma, scars, and mental illness in children. Tragically, we often meet people who grew up with damage to their soul caused by lack of marital peace between the parents. This damage is hard to rectify.
Often I meet parents and even grandparents who confide in me that they harbor hatred toward their father for making their mother miserable, or vice versa, they hate their mother for making their father miserable. They simply cannot forget and forgive their parents for the strife they saw in their homes. There are others who are incapable of marrying because of the sour marriage of their parents. There are other terrible consequences, all a result of what was imprinted on children's souls from the climate of tension and even outright hostility in the home where they grew up.
Dysfunction of the parents' relationship weakens children. They are frightened by the terrifying sights they see; grown people who in their eyes are giants, shouting at each other, threatening with scary faces and more. Perhaps the parents think that they are simply venting and they do not really intend to implement the threats and curses they thoughtlessly elicit from their mouths. But to the child, it sounds completely true and frightens him terribly. He begins to imagine bad scenarios. Who knows where his dark thoughts will take him, even from even the smallest argument? How much the more so when there is physical violence, Heaven forbid. This causes irreparable damage to the child's psyche.
We can write a thick volume on the types of damage that people suffer and the scars they're left from a childhood of having parents who couldn't get along. Before they allow themselves the "luxury" of losing their temper, parents must remember that their marital relationship has tremendous implications on the future of their children. Give peace and love a chance, for your children's sake.