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 most, our children.

If it is happening frequently or if you are really harming your kids, you need urgent professional help. But if you’re loving and good to your kids overall, and you just snap now and then, you’re 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 had the same dark secret.

The Rebbe asked, “If your neighbor dropped off his kids at your house to look after while he 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 he returns to pick up his 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 to 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.

As parents, we need to discipline our kids—that is an essential part of our role. But that must come from a place of love, not anger. It must be deliberate and thought-out, not impulsive and reactive.

This is all easy to say when we are calm and well-rested. But what do you do when you haven’t had a good night’s sleep in weeks, and you haven’t had three minutes to yourself since your five-year-old was born, and there’s pressure at work, and your sister-in-law has been driving you crazy about her silly issues, and everyone is hungry, and dinner is late, and just then your little boy kicks his soccer ball (which he knows he isn’t allowed to do indoors), and it knocks the platter of chicken onto the floor, which was just mopped by the overpriced cleaning lady (who told you she’s not coming back, as she got a permanent job), and as it smashes into a thousand pieces, your daughter says, “Good, I don’t like chicken,” and your other son says, “Can we go out for dinner now?” What do you do then?

You say two words to yourself: G‑d’s kids.