FOUR REASONS WHY NEGLECTING YOUR MARRIAGE IS BAD PARENTING (…in case you’re so devoted to your children that only inducing parental-guilt will help you realign your priorities!)
The American trend to be over-indulgent parents at the expense of self and marital-well-being is in fact, a gross disservice to everyone. Why?
1) Kids are already prone to entitlement in our culture. Do they really need us fortifying their egocentrism by making them the gravitational center of our universe?
2) Everyone, especially children, develop the most resilience and resourcefulness NOT when everything’s going their way, but when frustrating tension exists between how they want things to be and how things really are. We mistake parenting kids well with keeping kids happy. Only in being thwarted do children develop “frustration tolerance,” that singularly crucial capacity to bear disappointment and cultivate resources to overcome obstacles to fulfillment. Placing marital priorities ahead of kids’ whims creates opportunities for kids to struggle with the frustrating reality of not being the center of the universe. (See my blog post entitled “So What’s So Hard About Setting Limits With Our Children?” at Parent-Child-Problems-Doctor.com or at MontclairPatch.com
3) We delude ourselves if we believe our kids don’t discern our marital dissatisfaction. Children are keenly attuned to their parents’ emotional states. Just because we don’t speak openly about our discontent does not mean our children don’t see, sense and hear, with nuanced accuracy, what we really feel. Children, are Geiger counters for parental truths. Their sense of all being well in their world pivots completely on the sense of our parental peace and contentment. Where they sense a discrepancy between what they see and what we parents “present,” children will tend to believe they are the unspoken cause of parental distress. They then suffer a disturbing sense of intrinsic, diffuse “badness” that may show up as acting out behavior requiring discipline. This is how children’s problematic behavior can be, at core, reflections of marital turmoil.
4) Here’s a scary thought: we are modeling what kind of marriage our children should emulate in their adulthood. Are we showing them a marriage that is mutually nurturing or mutually dismissing? When Mom chronically tolerates shabby treatment from Dad, she’s modeling to her daughters how they should expect to be treated by men, AND she’s modeling to her sons, how they should expect to treat women. Similarly, when Dad chronically tolerates shabby treatment from Mom, he's modeling to his sons how they should expect to be treated by women, and he's modeling to his daughters how they should expect to treat men.
“Shabby” happens, of course. We’d REALLY be messed up if we didn’t mess up. Making mistakes and apologizing for our misbehavior is rich territory for positive parenting lessons to our kids. Shabby treatment is problematic only when it’s unapologetically chronic, but is always remediable with sustained caring effort (i.e. replacing that bad habit with a more benign, respectful, loving one.)