Happy Marriage Tips

Five Ways We Shape Our Kids’ Understanding of Marriage

Without realizing it, we teach our children far more than the importance of twice daily tooth-brushing and the five food groups. In the way we live our lives and interact with our spouses, we teach our children what a marriage is, and what level of effort and care it deserves. Is your marriage one that you’d be happy to have your children mimic one day? For better or for worse, what they observe in your home during these formative years is a major factor in how they’ll approach their own marriages one day. Consider these areas where your kids learn by example.

1. Respect.

Do you and your husband consistently show one another respect in your actions, attitudes and words? Most parents would tell their children that respect is vital to a successful marriage, but an example of how to do this—even when it’s hard—is worth far more. Even more specifically, young men learn how to treat Mom like the lady she is, and girls learn how to love and esteem a gentleman in the way their parents treat one another.

2. Conflict Resolution

How do you settle disagreements with your spouse? Is it with an attitude of compromise and mature understanding, or with anger and volatile words? Again, more than what we say to our kids, what they observe will go with them into their adult lives as a model of how to negotiate conflict.

3. Mutual Helpfulness.

One mom shared a story recently about her daughters playing “house” with a couple of friends, with each child having designated roles of mommy, daddy, child, etc. When the child playing “Daddy” popped a plastic casserole into the play oven at mealtime, the other children laughed and said, “Daddy doesn’t cook!” With this, the mother realized that her daughters had learned that idea from the fact that her husband enjoys cooking and routinely helps out in the kitchen at meal time. They had come to expect to see their parents working together to meet the needs of their family. Whether you cook or cut grass, it takes a lot of work to keep a family and a household going, and your children are learning how to be a team player—or not—from the way the two of you pitch in to get things done.

4. Faithfulness.

In a culture where ideas like “forever” and “until death do us part” are rapidly becoming mere words, it’s up to you to teach your children what it is to be faithful and true to one person. Whether that’s by example or by discussing with older children the heartbreaking consequences of unfaithfulness, they’re counting on you to be the last bastion of truth. Don’t let them down.

5. Friendship.

Are you and your husband friends? Can you still make each other laugh? Do your children get to see you flirt and play and have fun together? If so, bravo! Giving your kids a front row seat to the deep, lifelong friendship and marriage can be is a tremendous gift, and will give them hope that they can one day enjoy the same, regardless of the statistics.

Is there an area of your marriage where you know you’re sending the wrong message to your kids? If so, resolve to work on it together with your spouse. Learning to admit what’s broken and working to improve upon it is an important marital lesson, too! If the problems are significant, take the rough spots in your relationship behind closed doors until they’re fit for an audience of little eyes. One day, their spouses will thank you for it.

© 2011 iMOM. All Rights Reserved. Family First, All Pro Dad, iMOM, and Family Minute with Mark Merrill are registered trademarks.

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  • Jen

    And what if your husband wasn’t all these things and is gone? How do you help girls then?

    • Katie

      Jen, you could have them around friends who do have a healthy relationship. My husband gained a great deal from the parents of his friends, his own parents did not have a good relationship. The husband of the couple he looked up to actually performed our wedding ceremony!

  • Sad

    This is a timely post. I was convicted about something I was complaining about the other day. I’ve been reading a lot of marriage blogs, and they all claim that men look at other women because they were created that way, and wives shouldn’t take it personally. My question is, if men have this uncontrollable inbred desire to look at and think about other women, then no man truly loves his wife, and why do they even get married in the first place. If they stayed single, they could look and drool all they want to without hurting anyone. I wonder what men see in marriage if the grass is always greener. If we are on a family vacation and a young attractive woman in a bikini walks by, of course he will notice. But when he can’t help but notice again, and again, I want to leave. Why are you even with me when you so desperately want said bikini girl? What is the point of marrying a wife when you still want to look around? Of course my husband says he loves me and wants only me, but his eyes tell me differently.

    • CarrieAnn Cleveland Jones

      I can’t help but notice a good looking guy, either. I may be a late 40’s mother of 5 with with a physique proudly bearing those battle wounds…I am not dead. That doesn’t mean I love my husband less, he knows who’s in bed next to him every night. Wink! We playfully comment on those bikini clad women and svelte muscle bound men and say things like, “they probably snore, chew their toenails, or snort when they laugh.” We enjoy adding our own comentary to Dancing with the Stars sexiest scantily clad cast members. Moral of the story, it’s excusable and human to notice when someone attractive walks by. It’s not acceptable to go looking for someone attractive to gauk at in person, in a magazine or online. That is just plain disrespectful and wrong!

  • Hester Crow-Christensen

    I have always enjoyed IMom and will continue to support your ministry, but I must say I’m a little disappointed this morning to read your five tips, as great as they are and very true, but there’s not one mention of God.

    The most important way we shape our kids understanding of marriage is by instilling in them a biblical worldview of marriage – a covenant relationship between man and woman reflecting Christ’s love for His church (and so much more). In order to confront the pagan culture we live in we have to renew our minds and be transformed in our thinking – we cannot do this without knowing the Truth of what God says about marriage – and teaching all of these truths to our children all of the time.

    With love and grace,
    Hester Christensen

  • Jenny

    I believe God calls some people to be single. I am happily married with children, but I don’t think you have to be married to be happy.