Vintage Parenting 101: Want to be a great parent? Work on your marriage!

As a part of my efforts to increase the accessibility of my website, I am re-posting articles from my old Parenting 101 page as stand-alone blog posts on the main site.

November 27, 2007 – “Want to be a Great Parent? Work on Your Marriage.”

Q – Sure, everyone would like to have a great marriage, but what does that have to do with parenting?

A – One of the most essential elements of life for children to grow up healthy and competent and responsible is a sense of security. Security is a foundational need for children, teens, and adults. We all need to know there is some sense of predictability to the world, and that we are not vulnerable to every bad thing that could happen. For children, there is no more significant source of either security or insecurity than the relationship between their parents (or those who are actively raising them). When children know in their hearts that Mom and Dad are connected, stable, and have a loving, cooperative relationship, they can go to bed at night and wake up in the morning with a basic level of security. “Problems may come, but at least I know Mom and Dad are together, leading and taking care of me and our family.” However, when chaos, distance, or disrespect are the adjectives that best describe the relationship between a child’s parents, step-parents, or other primary caretakers, they live in a state of anxious insecurity. Not the best climate in which to grow up!

Q – OK, so maybe I should work on my marriage a bit more, but my relationship with my child is still the most important one, right?

A – Wrong! Sure, having children brings tremendous responsibilities into our lives, as well as tremendous joys and tremendous challenges. And we should live with a willingness to work hard to fulfill our responsibilities to our children, to the best of our abilities. However, when we allow our relationships with our children to take a higher priority than our relationships with our spouses, everyone loses. In the short term, our kids may be thrilled with their top position, and we may enjoy the feedback we get from them more than the challenges that come through sharing greater intimacy and energy with our spouses. In the long term, however, this can lead to a weakening of the marriage (stressful for everyone) and to an attitude and lifestyle in our children that they are the center of the universe (I’ve created a monster!). As destructive and unhealthy as this pattern is, it has somehow become the norm of American culture, as parents feel more and more pressure to give their kids everything they want and to basically orbit their lives around their children. It’s not working, folks!

Q – Keeping my children as a high priority but moving my spouse into a position of even higher priority sounds like a lot of work and stress. Where am I supposed to find more time and energy?

A- Once you put your marriage relationship in its proper place of priority above your children, I believe you will begin to find yourself feeling more energized and less stressed, especially as you and your spouse work together with a greater partnership as parents. Test me on this for three months and see whether or not I know what I’m talking about here. For more help with this challenging, rewarding work, give me a call at 225-333-1582. I also highly recommend “ScreamFree Parenting” (book) and “ScreamFree Marriage” (cd) by Hal Runkel, both available at www.screamfree.com, and “Parenting by the Book” by John Rosemond.

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