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.
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