Youre passionate about raising your children in the best possible way. Youve attended parenting classes, read parenting tips, and have been conscientious about being a good mom or dad. Theres one key ingredient that you might have forgotten, and thats the relationship with the one who helped make you a parent in the first place: your spouse. Working on your marriage may be the most important thing youll ever do to ensure the emotional health of your children.
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1. Structure and stability: Children need structure and stability. They have special antennas to pick up tension. When they sense you arent getting along, they wont tell you directly, but theyll be sure to act out. Your children need to feel taken care of and protected. If your relationship is chaotic, youll create a home environment of chaos. A stable marriage provides a comfortable framework, where your kids can focus on being kids and not be distracted by the anxiety that something is wrong at home. Children actually think they are to blame for your upset. They wont realize that your bad mood is because you arent getting along with your spouse.
2. Parenting on the same page: Parents need to show a united front. If you dont get along with your spouse, it will be quite a challenge to work together as parents. When you have diverging views on raising your kids, the children get stuck in the middle and wind up taking sides. In most relationships, one parent assumes the role of disciplinarian while the other is more laissez-faire. Parenting tip: If both parents work together, they can parent in a balanced way. If they cant, they risk making one parent the bad guy and undermining the parent-child relationship. While even the most connected couples may have a difference of opinions on child-rearing, theyre able to work through their differences and parent effectively. Learn how to work together so you can be on the same page for your kids.
3. Modeling healthy relationships: History repeats itself, and this is certainly true when it comes to relationships. I have seen many young couples experiencing the same relationship breakdown they saw in their homes. Parenting tip: More important than any book or speech is how we model to our children. The relationship your children witness in your home will be the factor that impacts most in how theyll conduct themselves in their own relationships. Most parents wish they could leave their child an inheritance. Even if you have no money to leave, you can give them the gift of seeing a loving, stable marriage. If you are suffering in your marriage, you surely wont want your kids to experience what youre going through. Work on your relationship so you can spare them the grief and provide a model they can look forward to.
4. Accepting your child: The best way to practice being a good parent is to learn how to be a good spouse. Parenting tip: When you employ relationship skills with your spouse, youll have a much easier time applying them to your children. One of the greatest challenges in any relationship is fully accepting the other. As you learn to exercise your compassion muscle by listening to your spouse without judgment and making space for him/her, youll find it easier to do so with your kids. When you accept your children by validating their feelings without reacting, you help build their self-esteem. Even when you disagree, you can assure them that their feelings make sense. Working on your marriage gives you invaluable experience. By the time your children grow old enough to articulate themselves, youll be prepared to be there for them in a caring and empathic way.
5. You wont lash out at the kids: Children can be quite a handful at times. If youre feeling overwhelmed and have no help, your real anger may be with your spouse, but the immediate victims will be the kids. Being more irritable in general, youre likely to yell at them when they get too hard to handle. Theyll bear the brunt of issues that you could have worked out with your spouse. When youre feeling good about your spouse and have an open line of communication, your stress threshold will be lower, and you are less likely to lash out at innocent bystanders.
You owe it to your children to make your marriage great. A vibrant marriage will help provide structure and stability for your kids, enable you to parent them on the same page, model healthy relationships, learn relationship skills that will help you accept your children, and make sure your frustration doesnt come to hurt your kids. If after reading this article you realize that you want to improve your marriage at least for the sake of your kids, Take action today and take a look at our self guided marriage course or learn more about the marriage counseling services that we offer.
With best wishes for your relationship success,
Shlomo and Rivka Slatkin