Babywise Week: Put Your Marriage First for the Child’s Sake

Does your child come between you and your spouse?

It’s Babywise Blog Network (BFBN) Week again! All week, we’ll be featuring blog posts from other Babywise-friendly blogs. The schedule is as follows:

This week, many of us are writing on the topic of child-centered parenting. It’s a basic yet fundamentally important principle of the Ezzos’ parenting ideals. They tell us that we are to welcome children into the family without making them the center of it. The husband and wife relationship must stay intact, and we should remain husband and wife even as we become mom and dad. I wholeheartedly believe in this.

First, let me grab a quote from Growing Kids God’s Way that tells you what the Ezzos say:

“We know the tragedy that can befall a family when basic principles of parenting are violated. We have counseled mothers and fathers who, with the best of intentions, started their parenting with love and nurturing only to see their dreams of a beautiful family reduced to a nightmare of survival…. There are two related evils that threaten successful parenting and lead to the demise of the family. The first is downplaying the significance of the husband-wife relationship in the parenting process, and the second is falling into the trap of child-centered parenting,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 31).

I don’t think any parent would tell you that parenting is a piece of cake. Sure there are kids who sleep well as babies and are innately obedient as toddlers, but even those kids require that parents change their way of life. And since parenting can be so difficult, it is bound to put a strain on the marriage. In fact, many times, parents believe that divorce is what is best for the child.

Let me insert a disclaimer: I believe there are many times when divorce is the only option. This is typically in the case of abuse, yet abuse takes on many disguises. If a parent is so beaten down, physically or emotionally, that he or she cannot live a healthy life, happy and secure in their own skin, then divorce may be the right choice. Even in this case, however, I believe every attempt should be made to improve the health of the marriage before seeking divorce.

Now, back to those of us who are happily married, there are many reasons why it’s important to put the marriage first. As already mentioned, chief among the risks of child-centered parenting is the damage it could do to the marriage. Another risk is that it can lead to self-centeredness. The Ezzos say, “The result [of putting the child first] is a society consumed with child-centeredness which is the precursor to self-centeredness,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 31). What’s more, by putting the child first, we aren’t modeling a healthy, happy marriage. It’s important for kids to see how two happily married people show their love for each other.

But beyond this, the main thought that I want to get across in this post is that putting the marriage first is for the child’s benefit. It may seem backwards, but putting the child second is actually putting him first.

I have a few Facebook friends who post inspirational quotes from notable people. I usually enjoy these quotes until they broach the subject of parenting. Often, these quotes say something like, “everything I do I do for my child,” or “my child is my universe.” These quotes get to the core of what it means to be child-centered. And though the people who post these quotes are well intentioned, I don’t think they understand that making their child the reason for their existence is actually detrimental to the child.

What a child needs most–in addition to love, care, and devotion–is a stable foundation. For all the reasons that we put our babies on routines, stability is comforting to a child. When two parents make their marriage the priority, the child knows that the foundation upon which his family rests is solid and secure. On the other hand, when the child is made to be the foundation of the family, life is on shaky ground. It’s anything but comforting for a child to be the ground on which the family rests.

The Ezzos explain it well. This is a lengthy quote, but it’s good, so bear with me.

“As professionals, we cannot overstate how necessary a healthy husband-wife relationship is to the emotional well-being of a child…. Strong marriages create a sense of certainty. When there is harmony in the husband-wife relationship, there is an infused stability within the family. A strong marriage provides a haven of security for children as they grow…. Children know intuitively, just as you and I knew when we were growing up, that if something happens to Mom and Dad, their whole world will collapse. If the parents’ relationship is always in question in the mind of a child, then that child tends to live his life on the brink of emotional collapse. In contrast, when a child has confidence in his parents’ relationship, he is emotionally free to get on with his life,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 37).

Now, I’m not saying that making the marriage top priority is easy, especially when our kids are little and demand so much of our attention. Plus, it’s fun to live life through our children’s eyes and give them all that we can. But it’s so important to keep this in check. Do whatever you can to promote the health of your marriage. Practice couch time, go on dates, and frequently tell your child that his request will have to wait while you tend to your spouse. Find opportunities in your day to make sure your child understands that Mommy or Daddy comes first. As you do so, remind yourself that it’s all in the name of stability and security for the child.

 

BFBN Graphic

Speak Your Mind