Have you considered the fact that marriage influences children? Sometimes it influences children for the good and other times it has a negative influence. But it DOES influence them.
We want to talk about this matter because we just finished celebrating Father’s Day here in the U.S. Maybe you did too where you are.
If you’re a dad, perhaps you got one of the traditional Father’s Day gifts: a necktie, bottle of after-shave, soap-on-a-rope, or a “World’s Greatest Dad” coffee mug. You may have had a special meal prepared by your wife and/or kids. And let’s not forget the Father’s Day card.
I (Steve) like this sentiment that I saw in a card: “Happy Father’s Day! Ok, ok so you were right about everything. Let’s never speak about this again, okay? Ever!” Men, don’t we love to hear the words, “You were right”? Any time Cindy or my sons say those words to me I’m certain I hear the angels in heaven singing.
Now, we want to interject here that while this Marriage Insight is directed primarily to husbands, it’s important to note that wives can learn and apply the same principles. That’s because the ways your marriage influences your children is of critical importance for both spouses to make these efforts.
First, here’s something for you to prayerfully consider:
“The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” (Theodore Hesburgh)
Marriage Influences Children As They Watch You
That’s SO true! He also needs to treat her respectfully so her children can more readily treat her that way too. And then of course, a mother is to treat her husband in respectful, loving ways, reflecting the heart of Christ.
Have you ever heard a parent say, “Do as I say and not as I do”? The truth is that our children learn from what we say AND from what we do. Something I heard Dr. Kevin Leman say a long time ago is that as parents we aren’t raising “children;” we’re raising “adults.” Stop and think about that for a minute. How our children see us interact with our spouse is teaching them how a husband or a wife should act.
If they observe us yelling, ignoring, or generally acting unkind toward each other that’s what they may grow up thinking marriage is supposed to be like.
As our sons were growing up, I wanted them to know how much I loved their mother. Something that was common was when I would come home from work I would walk over to her and give her a big hug. Often, when David or John saw us do this, they would come over and wrap their little arms around our legs. They would then give us a BIG “group” hug. What did this accomplish?
Small Gestures; Big Impact
Last week David and his wife, Kristina, celebrated their 17th wedding anniversary. He is very demonstrative in his love for her and his children.
We can’t say it’s all because of us and how well we treated and treat each other. But we CAN say that we have not been a hindrance. Additionally, we CAN say that we have modeled what a good marriage looks like. We can’t help but think that this pours into their lives in positive ways. Even small gestures can make a big impact. We can never minimize the impact of what our children see us live out—both in public and behind closed doors.
Men, when we love our kids’ mother it can accomplish a lot. Here are a few things to consider on this issue that come from the Bibleornot.org web site.
Demonstrated Marital Love:
– Provides a home built on love,
– Provides a zone of security and safety,
– Demonstrates daily what love is, and what it is not,
– Helps them to develop the capacity to love,
– Provides stability: emotionally, naturally and spiritually
If this isn’t enough motivation for you to take this seriously, here’s what Dennis and Barbara Rainey say:
“We have a generation of children today who desperately need to look into the eyes of Mom and Dad and see two people deeply in love with each other, committed to one another for life and honoring God in their relationship.
“If you have children, make sure your children know and see your love regularly. Make the marriage they see in you the same type of relationship they’ll want one day for themselves.”
If you’ve been a regular follower of our Marriage Insights over the years you know Cindy and I believe very firmly that the Bible teaches the husband to love his wife, as Christ loves the Church. (See: Ephesians 5:25.) We are taught in the Bible that love is to be unwavering, undying and sacrificial. If you, as a father, were to love your wife—the mother of your children, in this way, we wholeheartedly believe it will have a positive impact on them. (And the same is true of a wife showing love to her husband.)
There is Potential Harm If You Don’t Do This.
Alternatively, the Bible also teaches that God will “visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me” (Exodus 20:5). I don’t believe this means God places a curse on the children because of the sins of the father. But I do believe it means that the children learn by example. As a result they often become like the father (or mother), thus perpetuating sinful lives from generation to generation unless the cycle is broken, by some miracle.
So, I’ve built the case that the most important thing we can do for our children as a dad is to LOVE THEIR MOTHER. Now I want to give you some practical things you can do to live this out every day. First, I want to remind you that your marriage influences children, so:
Give Your Spouse Words of Encouragement, Praise and Affirmation Daily.
“Do you speak words of encouragement in your home? Do your children hear you praising each other, affirming your spouse’s great worth and value? Remember, if you don’t appreciate each other, you can’t expect your children to follow suit. Constantly speaking uplifting words to your spouse will provide your children with feelings of love and security. And it will remind you to speak similar phrases to them.” (Phil and Susy Downer)
It’s amazing how easy it is for us to fall into a pattern of “negative speak” without really being aware it happens. But you can count on the fact that your kids will pick up on it in an instant. That’s why it’s so important to “post a guard over your tongue.” By this I mean ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you any time you start to fall into a negative or hurtful speech pattern. I’ve found out through personal experience God is only too happy to help us improve when we’re serious about doing so.
Now, you may ask:
Where Do I Start, Since It’s True that Marriage Influences Children?
Here’s what the Bible says about this: “Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3, NIV). The New Living translation words it this way, “Take control of what I say, O LORD, and guard my lips.”
For me, this doesn’t leave much room for debate. Let me suggest something. If you struggle in this area and you want to change your behavior, write this verse on a card. And then post it on your mirror where you can see it every morning. I also recommend that you then memorize it. And then start praying it back to God. There is no doubt that God loves it when we pray His Word back to Him. You can then ask Him to change your heart and your mouth.
When I first started implementing this Biblical principle years ago to change my “negative speak” to Cindy it didn’t come easily. I don’t know why I thought it would. It’s like any bad habit we try to break; it’s difficult, to say the least. They say it takes six weeks of intense practice of a new behavior before it starts to take hold. And I have no doubt that it takes every bit of that time to do so.
Today, if I find myself going into a negative “thought pattern” I apply the Biblical filter. And 99.9 percent of the time it stops it from coming out of my mouth. (Hey! I’m not perfect, okay?) ☺
Doing This Alone Would be Difficult.
I need more than God’s strength to help me to demonstrate my love to Cindy consistently. Thankfully, I am greatly blessed that Cindy wants to live out these same principles. But if she didn’t, I still need to show the love of Christ in my words and actions. I make it known that I am a Christ-follower. This means that I am accountable to God for my actions and my words. There is nothing in the Bible that tells me that I am to only demonstrate love if it is demonstrated to me. Cindy is accountable to God for her words and actions. And I am accountable to God for mine. And the same goes for you and your spouse.
Additionally, it’s important to always keep in mind that your behavior, within your marriage, influences children. It influences your children. And it influences other children who come in and out of your life together.
Additional Insight in the Way Marriage Influences Marriage
At this point, I (Cindy) want to say something here. That’s because your husband is not the only one who is influencing your children. And there are other children that may be longing to see a spouse who lives a “life of love” (as we’re told to do in Ephesians 5).
Have you ever considered the fact that you may be the only example of a good spouse that many children will ever witness? They may not have a great example living in their own home of what a good marriage looks like. And they may not know how a husband or a wife should treat the other. But you can show them by your words and actions.
Please know that you have a mission field in your marriage that can be a testimony, as you live out God’s principles. We are told in Matthew 5:16, ‘Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.’”
Is your light shining? More importantly, is God’s light shining through your good deeds? Yes, your marriage influences children. Are you doing your part to reveal and reflect the love of Christ within your marriage?
Displayed Love as a Pattern
And are you giving them a “pattern” to follow in how a husband and/or wife should act? I love what Tricia Goyer wrote because I believe it is true with my whole heart:
“Displayed love gives children a pattern to follow. Kids live what they see. They will approach relationships the way they see us approaching them. What does a healthy relationship look like? They will understand this by seeing it in us. Love—they will discover by watching—is more than just hugs and kisses, but also kind words, helpful gestures, and tender care in other numerous ways.”
Sure, children don’t always live what they see. I’ve seen some married couples that live out a life of love in front of their children. But for some reason, their children don’t live that same way within their own marriages. There are always exceptions. We all are given free choices as to how we live our lives. BUT something I’ve always said is that I don’t want to be a bad example to my children. And I certainly don’t want to be a “millstone” that influences any child in negative ways.
Our grandchildren have told us numerous times that they love how peaceful our home is. They have told us that they love how we treat them and how we treat each other in loving ways. I’m not saying this to brag. I’m saying this to point out that they notice the difference. They have told us of others they have been around where there is a lot of yelling, and negative things that are being spoken. Never, have they ever told these other people that this type of behavior bothers them. But it does—greatly!
Closing Thoughts on the Ways Marriage Influences Children
I want to close my portion of this Marriage Insight with a few thoughts:
• It’s important to note that, like radar units, your children see the health of your marriage. And it matters to them. Do what you can to proactively make your marriage as healthy as possible.
• “Don’t worry as much that your children never listen to you; worry that they’re always watching you. That’s because they are.” (Robert Fulgham)
In all areas of life, especially as it pertains to how marriage influences children:
• “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2) “This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
Leave a Positive Legacy
Lastly, I (Steve) want to say that even at this stage of our marriage of 47 years Cindy and I still want to be an example to our adult sons, their wives and to our grandchildren. Marriage influences children no matter what age they are—whether they live in your home or not. Remember, this isn’t a short-term ideal to implement. This is a lifelong commitment. It’s one that will potentially cause a ripple effect for generations after we’re gone. We just want to make sure that ripple effect is a positive one—not a negative one.
Please know that we have a lot of tools and helps on our web site to guide you through this journey. Look around and see how God can help you through what we provide.
We want to close with an important reminder from the Apostle Paul found in Galatians 6:7. It says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” We shouldn’t try to fool ourselves into believing this doesn’t apply to our marriage and how it affects our children. And we’re here to help you as we have a lot of tools and helps on our web site to guide you through this journey.
May we always endeavor to Reveal and Reflect The Heart of Christ Within Our Marriages.
Steve and Cindy Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
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