Like most contemporary women, I wanted my son to grow up to respect his wife. He was going to be an equal partner who was considerate and kind. One who didn’t have sexist notions. Imagine my chagrin when I called him to the dinner table only to be told by my four-year-old child, who pointed his finger on the coffee table in front of him, “Bring my food here, like daddy’s.”
It was football season, and my husband wanted to eat most of his game-time meals in front of the TV. If I wanted my son to learn to be an equal partner, I realized that I’d better stop playing the subservient wife in front of him. The good ol’ days for my indulged husband were over. “What are we modeling to our son?” I said to him. “He’ll never find a good wife today who will wait on him hand and foot like I do to you. Do you want him to be single for the rest of his life, live in our basement when he’s in his 40s while playing World of Warcraft with 12-year-olds?”
The image must have frightened him because he began to eat at the table and even do the dishes. There is a truth about parenting: Children will do as you do, not as you tell them to do. Your behavior is the most effective teacher. So, if you want your child to have a happy marriage, be a good role model.
Marriage Skills to Model to Your Children
Here are the top healthy marriage skills to model for your children to strengthen their ability to create and maintain strong, loving marriages in their future.
Model loyalty: Don’t bad-mouth your spouse to anyone, including your children. Don’t keep secrets from your spouse either. Let your children see that you and your spouse are a devoted team. If you have issues with your spouse, settle it privately between the two of you.
Model how to argue fairly. No name-calling or belittling. You don’t like your child to name call, why would you do it? Shouting? Use your rational voice. Swearing? What does a curse word communicate? Allow both sides to explain themselves and listen closely with respect. Accept that two people can hold differing opinions and still coexist peacefully and respectfully with each other.
Model unconditional love. When parents threaten divorce, it sends a message to kids that love comes with strings. It says, “Unless you behave in an acceptable manner, we will not love you anymore.” How can kids understand that parents have unconditional love for their children, but not for each other? There is no difference in their minds. Show your children that you can love a person without loving their behavior.
Model commitment and teamwork. Don’t run when times get tough. Show your children how to negotiate, how to resolve problems, and how to keep your word. Teach them that being in a marriage and family is like being on a team with members that don’t quit on each other. Never say, “That’s not my job” but instead do whatever it takes to help each other out because you’re on the same side with the same goal: a happy marriage.
Model self-respect and self-love. Giving, cooperating and self-sacrifice are important keys for a happy marriage, but it doesn’t mean a partner should allow himself to be used or abused. You must model a healthy state of mind, and a person with a healthy state of mind helps his mate without enabling unhealthy habits. If you want others to respect you, you must respect yourself first.
Good news for my son: he found a great girl. Just like his dad did 25 years ago. If I do say so myself. :)