One night after my daughters were arguing, I asked one of them, “Why can’t you and your sister just be nice to each other?” Her response? “Dad, haven’t you ever noticed that when you and Mom get along, we all get along?” Ouch! That hurts; but, she’s right. When my wife and I are short, harsh, and argumentative, our kids are, too. When my wife and I are treating each other with patience, kindness, and respect, our kids seem to get along much better. You’ve probably heard the expression: Children learn more from what’s caught than taught.
It made me think, What are Susan and me modeling to our children? Well, over the years, I do believe we’ve modeled some very good things, but I also know that there have been times when we’ve modeled things I hope they don’t take into their marriages…things like being impatient with one another, being critical and being harsh, just to name a few.
If you want your child to have a thriving marriage one day, you need to think now about the example you are setting for them today in your own marriage because they will take that with them. That means much of your marriage is likely to show up in your child’s future marriage. Here are some traits in your marriage worth thinking hard about, along with links to some helpful blog posts for further consideration:
- Our Words: Do I hope they talk to each other the way I talk to my spouse? Whether it’s the techniques you use or the things you say, your words are shaping what they think it takes to communicate well.
- Our Actions: Do I wish they’ll treat each other the way I treat my spouse? Especially for men, in a society where chivalry seems dead, What we DO is often more important than what we say. And our kids are watching us.
- Our Ongoing Pursuit: Do I want them to invest time in ongoing dates the way we do? Dating is crucial to a healthy marriage. The pursuit can’t end at the altar. Creative dating and creative flirting set the kids’ expectations for their marriage, too.
- Our Teamwork: Do I hope they form the kind of team that we have become? A couple that acts more like a team than enemies gets noticed…by the kids first and foremost. Remember, your spouse is not the enemy, and your kids will get the message.
- Our Conflict Resolution: Do I want them to react to disagreements the way we do? Conflict in marriage is unavoidable. Handling it poorly is avoidable. The way you handle those disputes will impact their future quarrels, too.
- Our Commitment: Do I hope they carry the same level of commitment to marriage that I hold? The biggest obstacle to a loving commitment is the selfish heart. Children need to see parents who put their marriage above themselves.
- Our Emotions: Do I wish they’ll respond to the hurts and worries of their feelings the way we have? Empathy and kindness are crucial skills to build in a marriage. Handling your spouse with care teaches your kids how to do the same.
- Our Hearts: Do I hope they fill each other’s heartfelt needs like we’ve done? Wives have specific heartfelt needs from their husbands. Husbands do, too, in ways that only wives can meet. Kids who see their parents understand and meet those needs are better equipped to do the same.
Of course, there’s a lot that goes into a marriage that is setting a good example. And there are no such things as perfect marriages. Every marriage faces common struggles. Even if you see through this exercise some areas you need to work on, just remember…your marriage may be better than you think it is.
Whether you feel great about the marriage modeling you’re doing for your child or you realize there’s work to be done, don’t lose heart and don’t give up. It’s worth the effort.
Do you think your marriage will impact your child’s future marriage? Did your parent’s marriage help or hurt your marriage? Sound off in our comments section.