"I don't think you should scream at the kids," Miriam says to her husband, only minutes after he yelled at all three youngsters for not listening to him. She's not wrong, of course. Screaming at the kids is not a preferred method of education and guidance. It brings many risks, including the possibility of harming the kids and destroying the parent-child bond.

However, Miriam's husband, Aaron, isn't feeling appreciative of the parenting tip. "Don't tell me how to raise my children!" he shouts at her. Clearly, she hasn't yet cured him of his tendency to raise his voice. He's now yelling at her, as well as the children. An ugly argument ensues, traumatizing the children who feel guilty for "starting" it, and also harming both husband and wife. Everyone is upset. What went wrong here?

A Time and Place for Everything

Although Miriam's words were wise, they were delivered at the wrong time and in the wrong place. Therefore, the results were disastrous. Since Miriam and Aaron have been married long enough to have three kids, Miriam ought to know by now that Aaron is sensitive to criticism. She should also know that he hates when she criticizes him in front of his children. He feels demeaned. Although no one likes to be corrected publicly, many men are particularly sensitive to feeling a loss of status induced by rebuke. A father wants his children to respect him. When a wife corrects her husband's parenting technique in front of their kids, the husband may feel that he is losing the children's respect. Sometimes he'll flair up in anger, trying to huff and puff his way back to authority. Unfortunately, although this may win him the power of intimidation, it does nothing to increase anyone's respect for him.

Although one could say that the husband needs to toughen up and not be so reactive, there is another strategy more likely to succeed. Those who want to wait for their spouse to change often wait indefinitely. Instead, they can learn to work with their spouse's personality. They can learn to recognize sensitivities and, whenever possible, respect them. We certainly appreciate when our spouse recognizes our own sensitivities and is respectful of them. This is something that husband and wife can always do for each other.

In Miriam's case, she could have waited for a better time in which to help her husband with his parenting skills. Hours later, when he's calmer, would be more ideal than confronting him while his adrenalin is still running. She could have selected a better place in which to have the discussion – somewhere private, out of earshot from their children. Even when she chooses the right time and place, Miriam needs to learn the art of offering rebuke. The "sandwich" technique of "praise, correct, praise" works well in fulfilling the Torah mandate of not hurting someone while in the process of correcting him. Alternatively, beginning a rebuke session with an acknowledgment of the good intentions of the person and/or the difficulty of the situation, lowers defenses and helps them to be more receptive. For instance, Miriam could have said, "I know how frustrated you must have felt when the kids refused to cooperate with you. It's great that you're trying to train them to listen more – they really need that. I'm concerned, however, that when you yell at them to get your point across, they may focus only on your loud voice and fail to get the message you're trying to convey. I don't want them to start disliking you because you're a great father and they need you. Do you think you could address them in a quieter tone? Then you wouldn't have to get so upset and you could still educate them – maybe even more effectively."

Sure, this kind of communication requires restraint, thoughtfulness and planning. It's far easier to blurt out our thoughts and feelings as they occur. Yet we have a responsibility to not aggravate people with our communication. A little bit of thought can transform a harsh message into words of loving concern. As it states in Proverbs, "A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but harsh words break the spirit." We are supposed to think before we speak in order to use the power of our mouths for good. Pursuing a peaceful home is one of the highest goals to which we can aim.