Time and time again I am amazed by how observant children are. My son is 4 and I am often stunned by how much he pays attention to all the little details. His attention to detail is remarkable and I know it really helps him figure out his place in the world and understand how relationships work. His attention to detail also makes me far more aware of how I interact with my husband and others when my children are present. My behaviors are shaping his views.
Most parents strive to raise children that are kind, generous, encouraging and supportive. We want our little ones to have our best qualities, while ignoring the worst in us. If it were only that easy, though. Unfortunately, there is no way to have our children observe our day-to-day interactions and only pull the good from it. It just doesn’t work that way.
And it’s important to understand that how we treat each other in our marriage is not just influencing how your children will behave when they interact with others, but it will also have an impact on their opinions about love and marriage. When children become a part of our lives, we have to remember that our romantic relationships are shaping their perspective on what relationships look like and it can have an impact on them years down the line.
Here are 5 things I think all married couples should let their children see in their relationships. I try to let my little ones see these things when I interact with my husband. My hope is that by doing this I can have a positive impact on how they view love and marriage.
- A healthy disagreement. I don’t believe that children need to see perfection because it’s not realistic. It’s important for them to see that their parents can disagree without ever getting nasty with each other. You have to establish a healthy way to manage a disagreement in front of your kids. Even if you are fuming, at minimum you have to develop a healthy way to walk away from the discussion so you can revisit the issue when your children are not present.
- Displays of affection. Children should see their parents display affection towards one another. It doesn’t need to be much. A kiss, a hug, a rub on the back when the other seems stressed—all of these things matter. If a child lives in a home where their parents never, ever touch or express affection, it sends them a message about how their parents feel about each other. Children need to see their parents greet each other with a kiss, or hug. The little things really do matter. The easiest way to raise kind children is to show them what kindness looks like at home.
- Random acts of kindness. Be kind to one another. Help your spouse out without being asked. Wash the dishes even if it’s not your turn. Offer to help each other out whenever you can. The easiest way to raise kind children is to show them what kindness looks like at home.
- Consistent respect. Good luck having your children respect you as parents if they see you disrespect each other. It won’t work out well. We all want respectful kids and frankly, the best way to make that happen is to always respect each other. Respectfulness is a not about always agreeing. It’s about treating the other person decently, even when we completely disagree with them.
- Maturity. Ignoring your spouse, dishing out the silent treatment, not fixing them a plate at dinnertime because you are mad; they are all immature moves. And even if you think your kids don’t notice, they do. Be mature at all times. Your children need to see it more than you know.