Children begin to emulate their parents practically from birth. And from the day a child is born, we begin teaching him/her the life skills — safety, nutrition, hygiene, etc. — needed for a long and healthy life.
We spend hours drilling our children on how to brush their teeth. We lecture them about not talking to strangers. We insist they always wash their hands.
As fathers, we don’t just teach; we also try to model good behaviors for our children. And why? Because we know our children are watching our actions. If we tell them broccoli is good for them, but only eat burgers, our words are less convincing.
In the quest to get everyone potty-trained and properly socialized, we can forget that our kids are also watching for direction in one other crucial area of life: love. Our children are watching our marriage. They are looking to us for cues as to how communicate, how to interact with the opposite sex, and how to navigate conflict.
As dads, our responsibility is not merely to feed, clothe, and protect our child from physical danger. Our responsibility is also to model healthy relationship skills and protect them from deep emotional harm. Research shows that being a good husband can have as much impact on our child’s well-being as simply being a good father. Children whose parents are in healthy marriages are:
- Healthier, both physically and emotionally
- More likely to succeed academically
- More likely to attend college
Modeling a healthy marriage for your child can also help him/her avoid negative life experiences. Children whose parents are in a healthy marriage are:
- Less likely to attempt or commit suicide
- Less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol
- Less likely to be a victim of physical or sexual abuse
- Less likely to be raised in poverty
- Less likely to cause or experience teen pregnancy
A healthy marriage makes children feel safe and gives them confidence that they too can have positive relationships.
So how do we, as men, respond to problems in our marriage? First, don’t simply roll over—children need to see strong role models, both male and female. Don’t sit idly by and watch your marriage fall apart. And don’t just grit your teeth and endure marriage “for the sake of the kids.” Instead, work to make your marriage what you want it to be. We invest in our marriage because we understand this investment has the potential to become our child’s emotional inheritance.
How to treat your wife in a manner that benefits your children
Respect your child’s mother
When children see their parents treating each other with respect they will be more likely to feel accepted and show respect to others.
Make time for your marriage
Remind yourself — and your wife — that a thriving marriage is one of the most important gifts you can give your children. Carve out time and space for your relationship and romance. Your wife may feel guilty about breaking away from the children, even for a little while. Find ways to support her emotionally and logistically so she has energy to invest in your marriage.
Show affection — in front of the kids
You may not be comfortable with public displays of affection. But despite all the protests of it being “gross,” most kids secretly like it when their parents are affectionate in front of them. It is reassuring to a child that the two people he/she depends on most still like each other. Be tasteful and age-appropriate, but don’t be afraid to show a little verbal or physical affection toward your wife in front of the kids.
If your marriage isn’t strong today, don’t despair. While you can’t always control your wife’s behavior, you can command your own. And positive adjustments in your actions and attitudes, over time, may very well influence the overall tone of your marriage.
When times are really rough, try to remain fearless even in the presence of those most-dreaded-of-words, “couple’s counseling.” Marriage and relationship education classes can also help strengthen your relationship. Leverage all the tools available to help you build a strong, fulfilling marriage.
Make time for your family
How you spend your time reveals what you value most. Spending time with your family often means sacrificing other things, but it is essential to maintain the health of your marriage and your family bond. Yes, being a husband and a father can be hard work. But it can also be a blast. Seize every opportunity to have fun together—a family that plays together usually stays together.
No family is perfect — aim for healthy and loving instead. Your marriage and family life will have ups and downs. But by consistently treating your wife with respect and kindness — even during hard times — you teach your children the skills they will need to form healthy relationships themselves.