Should we put our children first?

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-27-1998
Should we put our children first?
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Tue, 04-07-2009 - 12:40pm

http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0826/p09s01-coop.html



Put your marriage before your kids
It's the key to raising a healthy family.
By David Code

from the August 26, 2008 edition


















Monitor Opinion Editor Josh Burek discusses the importance of marriage with David Code.



State college, Pa. - American parents shoot ourselves in the foot by making our children the center of our universe. And we certainly don't help our kids, either.


Child-centered families create anxious, exhausted parents and demanding, entitled kids who act out. Schools are overwhelmed by children's special needs and a spirit of community is draining from our neighborhoods. As these self-absorbed kids enter the workplace, America's global leadership and ability to compete will be seriously compromised.


But we can create healthy families and raise tomorrow's leaders – if we focus on our marriages instead of our children.


In my pastoral counseling as an Episcopal minister, I share people's joy at their weddings and baptisms, as well as the agony of their divorces. Today I see more kids acting out, more parents turning to medication, and more single parents in serious financial difficulty.


The intact family is an endangered species. The odds a marriage will eventually end in divorce, according to studies at the John Gottman Institute, are cause for concern. For example, a couple married in 1950 had only a 30 percent chance of divorce, and couples married in 1970 had about a 50 percent chance of splitting. But a 1990 marriage has a 67 percent likelihood of ending, and the divorce rate continues to climb. People are losing faith in love.


As I visit so many households full of misery, I see good, committed couples with the best of intentions end up either fighting or fleeing each other, like wild animals. That flight-response seems to control much more of our behavior than we realize.


There are many subtle ways we avoid our spouses every day. Our distancing behaviors may include staying at work late, or switching on the TV, or making our children the center of our universe.


Most of us would never dream that putting our children before our marriage could be a flight response. We often believe we just don't have time for our spouse. But the truth is, we often feel more love for our kids than for our spouse. When two parents drift apart from each other, often one parent will drift closer to the kids.


We parents convince ourselves that putting our kids first is child-friendly, but we make two main mistakes by doing so.


First, it becomes harder to respect and enforce the boundaries that shape a child's character, so he simply badgers his parents until he gets his way. Future bosses and spouses may not be so patient with this behavior.


Second, we put tremendous pressure on our children to fulfill our emotional needs, which may lead to the child acting out. This draws even more attention to the problem, as parents anxiously seek a diagnosis and physicians increasingly rely on medicating children. What had been a molehill suddenly becomes a mountain, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy that can cripple the child's development and the future of our citizenry.


So here's the solution: To raise great kids, focus on your marriage. There are three keys to a successful marriage and family:


1) Recognize that we've already chosen the perfect spouse. No, we would NOT choose better next time;


2) Recognize how often our fight-or-flight instinct overrides our passion in marriage. To create a happy marriage, we need to go from the fantasy, "It's his/her fault that I'm unhappy" to the truth, "I wouldn't do any better in my next marriage, so I might as well give 100 percent to this one;" and


3) Recognize that if we build a great marriage, we create a great role model for our kids, and they learn self-reliance and cooperation in the process.


As long as you believe your life is your spouse's fault, a new partner will always seem attractive. But once you begin to see your role in the ongoing, lifelong problems of your marriage, you'll recognize that if you started over with a new partner tomorrow, you'd still be carrying all your personal baggage into that relationship.


And that's where accepting our spouse creates a positive chain reaction. Commitment forces us to be more forgiving because we have given ourselves no choice but to work things out. It also forces us to be more outspoken and negotiate a relationship we can live with.


Thus, we can accept arguments as the natural storms they are, rather than as a harbinger of divorce. A nun once told me that marriage is like tying two donkeys together at the neck: All that rubbing together irritates the burrs on their flanks; but over the years, those burrs eventually rub off.


In the end, the greatest gift we can give our kids (and ourselves) is to become citizens of honor and loyalty in our own marriages. That way, our kids can grow up with a model of what marriage can be. The second bonus is that when kids are no longer the center of the family, they can learn self-reliance and cooperation, and become citizens instead of consumers.


Instead of trying to create perfect childhoods for our kids by making them the center of our universe, we should focus on creating a good marriage. Then the rest falls into place.


• David Code is an Episcopal minister, family coach, and founder of the Center for Staying Married & Raising Great Kids.


http://blogs.wsj.com/juggle/2008/09/08/put-your-spouse-first-have-happier-kids/


PumpkinAngel

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iVillage Member
Registered: 01-15-2006
Mon, 04-13-2009 - 10:21pm
model,kathy ireland has a book out.

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-15-2006
Mon, 04-13-2009 - 10:13pm

bits of pre cana comes to mind there.

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-07-2009
Sun, 04-12-2009 - 1:12pm
ITA
iVillage Member
Registered: 02-05-2009
Sun, 04-12-2009 - 12:07pm
It takes two to make a marriage work. But it only takes one to make a marriage NOT work.
iVillage Member
Registered: 06-27-1998
Sat, 04-11-2009 - 7:11pm

Very good points and I agree with what you are saying.


PumpkinAngel

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-07-2009
Sat, 04-11-2009 - 6:33pm

The issue I have with articles like this is the theme of "If you just do every thing right there would be no reason for divorce".

That is not always true. We only have control over ourselves not our spouses. A person could be the absolute best spouse ever but that does not help if their spouse is a jerk. Putting the marriage first only works if both halves of the couple are doing so. That can lead to a lot of guilt for those that did do "everything right" and still have a marriage fail. Sometimes you do choose better the next time.

Avatar for rollmops2009
iVillage Member
Registered: 02-24-2009
Sat, 04-11-2009 - 5:24pm
Good point. I have also come across a couple of situations, in which the parents were so in love and co-dependent that there really was no room for the kids. The kids were/are not abused, but they were/are neglected and abandoned to some extent.
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Sat, 04-11-2009 - 5:15pm
This is all true except when it isn't. Whenever people trot out the line that you should put your marriage before your kids, it is with the assumption that both partners are basically good parents. But some horrific tragedies do spring from people putting their marriage before their kids. I'm talking about the spouses who look the other way when their spouse is abusing the children because they don't want to rock the marriage boat. They have put their marriage before their kids with tragic results. Of course this particular, common tragedy isn't what the writers of these articles are talking about. Maybe they just assume that anyone who reads the articles will figure that an abusive situation is an exemption from this general rule. But I don't think that's a safe assumption and I would like JUST ONCE for the writers of these articles to acknowledge that this situation exists and no spouse should put their marriage so literally before their children. There are people who need to hear that and trotting out the old saw that it should always be marriage before children isn't helping those children any. Even if all people think they are
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-27-1998
Fri, 04-10-2009 - 7:09pm

Amen to all that! It should be 1) God and 2) your marriage and 3) your children.

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-20-2001
Thu, 04-09-2009 - 1:11pm

Living with my best friend 35 years, married for 32 - priceless.

 

Linda - wife, mother, grandmum                     &nb

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