In today’s culture, it’s pretty common for people to put their kids’ needs above their own. Whether we consciously realize it or not, we invest a lot of time and energy into our roles as parents. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But if you’re so focused on your kids that your marriage is taking a back seat, there might be a problem.
It might seem counterintuitive, but prioritizing your marriage above your role as a parent is actually one of the best things you can do for your kids. We know it might sound crazy! After all, we have a natural instinct to protect our kids—and that means always keeping them at the forefront of our minds, right?
But here’s the deal. Your goal shouldn’t be to raise good kids; you’re trying to raise good adults. If you want children to grow up understanding what a healthy and godly marriage looks like, they need to learn that from you. Kids are like sponges, and the way you treat your spouse shapes the way your kids are going to view their future relationships.
With that in mind, here are four things your kids can learn from watching you model a godly marriage.
1. The Art of Teamwork
There are a lot of different ways kids can learn about teamwork. That’s one of the reasons we sign them up for sports, after all. But when it comes to relationships, there’s no better way for our children to start learning what it means to work as a team than by watching how we interact with our spouse. Marriage requires a lot of give-and-take, and we often have to put the other person’s needs in front of our own. Your kids will learn the art of compromise by watching how you handle your marriage.
2. How to Fight Well
This goes hand in hand with compromise. Despite how Hollywood makes it look, marriage isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Marriage is hard work! There will be times when things are going really well, and there will be times when you want to pull all your hair out. It’s in the hard times that your kids learn how to handle conflict. One of the best ways you can set your kids up for successful relationships is to model how to fight well. That means no name-calling, no throwing your spouse under the bus, and no venting to your kids about your spouse.
3. The Importance of Affection
The way you handle your spouse’s emotions speaks volumes to your children. For example, if you dismiss your wife’s emotions, your son will learn that it’s acceptable to dismiss the feelings of other women—not to mention his own mother. But if you model for your children that emotions are valuable and important tools we can use for empathy and compassion, you set them up to embrace vulnerability with open arms. The way you treat your spouse, especially in this area, can create a generational domino effect for better or for worse.
4. How to Show Respect
Respecting your spouse is one of the greatest life lessons you can pass onto your kids. Your daughter is watching the way you treat your husband, and your son is watching the way you treat your wife. The way you talk to each other will provide a guideline for how your kids treat their future spouses. If you respect one another, your kids will grow up knowing what is healthy and acceptable—and they’ll know not to settle for someone who isn’t going to show them the respect they deserve.
Raising good adults isn’t easy. It requires a lot of intentionality and hard work. But by stewarding your marriage, you can teach your kids a lot about relationships. You're not only loving your spouse well by practicing teamwork, working through conflicts, offering affection, and showing respect. You're also modeling for your children what to expect in their future relationships.