How to Help Your Spouse Be a Better Parent


Today I’m excited for Dr. Meg Meeker to share with us about how to help your spouse be a better parent. The daily demands of life often distract us from helping others, especially our spouse. I’m paying close attention. Also, be sure to connect with Meg on Facebook or Twitter.

Many relationship advisors tell us that we can’t change our partners. While we can’t overhaul their personalities or change their biochemistry, we certainly can exert a profound influence over their lives, which can lead to changed behavior. I have found this to be especially true when it comes to mothers and fathers. A mother can influence how her husband parents and vice versa—even if they are divorced. So if you would like your husband to be a better father or would like your wife to be a better mother, read on.

Think about the one or two people in your life who had an impact on the person that you have become. They made you better because of how they related to you: they made you feel capable, valuable, and strong. Chances are they were respectful, encouraging, and spoke affirming words to you. If they had criticized you and continued to point out all the things that you were doing wrong, you would have listened and felt poorly about yourself as a man or a woman. And you would be different today.

In those past relationships, we find the keys to unlocking the greatness of our spouses—particularly when it comes to how they parent. If we apply some of those same principles to how we relate to our spouses (or ex-spouses), we will find that we can exert the same positive effects on their parenting. (Unfortunately, most couples do exactly the opposite. We uncover the mistakes our spouses make with our children and then hammer on them to change, threatening them that if they continue their mistakes, they will ruin “our” children. We need to stop this.)

Here’s where we must start:

Give random words of praise. When your spouse does something nice for anyone, tell her that she’s kind or that you admire her. Encouraging words repeated over time change how a loved one sees herself. This requires self-discipline to extend to others.

Never criticize him in front of the kids. A man who is cut down in front of his children loses on two fronts. He feels worse about himself, and equally damaging, the kids lose respect for their father and treat him differently. These two are very destructive to effective parenting.

Pull out the duct tape. When you are ready to take a swipe at your spouse and “point out” how she should do things differently with the kids, hold your tongue. I visually put duct tape over my mouth. If you really have an issue, wait two days to discuss it, and I guarantee that your tone will be very different.

Stop complaining. We all find fault with our spouses, and we complain about them. But doing this accomplishes two things. It makes us over-focus on our spouses’ faults, and it makes us more negative people. Complaining never leads to anything good.

Extend grace. When we focus on our spouse’s attributes rather than their faults, we appreciate them more. When we appreciate them more, we speak more kindly and they feel better about themselves. When this happens, they parent better. Every parent makes mistakes—including you. So be more forgiving and give your spouse a break.

If you really want to help your children grow up to be solid and successful adults, give them one of the best gifts that you can: help their other parent. They need a strong relationship with that parent, and you can do a lot to make that happen.

Pediatrician and mother Dr. Meg Meeker is the best-selling author of six books, including the well-known Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters. This spring, Dr. Meeker releases a DVD study for small groups, based on the popular bestseller. Married to Walter for 30 years, Dr. Meeker has three daughters and one son. She has practiced pediatric medicine for 25 years.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on which of these 5 action steps is most difficult for you and how you are working to improve in that area. Please share your thoughts with me below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Doing these things will not only make your spouse a better parent, but you a parent and peraon as well! Good stuff!!

  • Keith Earles

    Yes Mark, complaining would be the action step I need to improve on. I am complaining to myself, not to her or to friends. But complaining none the less. Nice post.

  • Amy

    What great advice. We have a friend of our sons’ who uses every drop off/pick up as an opportunity to badmouth his spouse. It is so inappropriate and unfair to his wife. People need to think about how their complaints affect other people, as well! By the way, what advice would you have Meg for getting him to stop?!

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  • Tracy

    Very good points for me to read daily. They are all challenging but not criticizing is my hardest.

  • Jo Ann Alafat

    I certainly needed to stop complaining after a few years. When I began to focus on All the great ways he was parenting and the important things he did do, like just one was having a regular Bible study every week-day morning I knew I was blessed beyond belief! Excellent Wisdom! Thank You Sir!

  • Good for you Jo Ann! I agree Dr. Meeker nailed it.

  • Domino

    Perhaps a sixth way is to promote spouse/child time. Moms can help it happen by scheduling it into the family calendar or just with encouraging words when Dad is running to Home Depot and could take a child. My spouse is helping our teen daughter with her golf game and I love to hear all about it when they come home.