The following article is adapted from Gary Sinclair’s book Turn Up or Turn Around Your Parenting.
Most parents really don’t think about or do anything intentional to teach our children what makes a marriage or family work. Maybe it’s because we were never taught, either. I know that we often felt inadequate, and we had pretty good models.
Nonetheless, while it would be nice to have supportive training outside of the home, the task of teaching our kids about how to raise a family should not be left up to others.
Our home is Marriage and Family 101 for our kids. Therefore, we need to take it very seriously and learn how to do it! This chapter can help you get started. Thankfully, teaching is, as they say, caught as much as taught. I’ll mention later a few specific things parents can do to show their kids how to be a great spouse or an effective parent.
But the nexus of this chapter will focus more on the importance of and power to teach and model our relationship with our spouse, even if that relationship is struggling or now in the context of a divorce.
For a number of years now I have been travelling to Russia as part of my pastoral ministry and have been trying to learn Russian. I have a long way to go to even be somewhat fluent conversationally.
The thing holding me back is not that I haven’t been working at it, studying and exposing myself to as much Russian language as possible. The problem is that the language is not natural to me. If I had grown up in a family where Russian was spoken all the time, I wouldn’t even have to think about what to say.
In the same way, we can teach our children principles and surround them with opportunities to learn the language and practices of a healthy home, but they will speak the language of marriage and family much better—fluently, if you like—if they just learn it naturally.
Natural Marriage Training
If you want to teach your kids how to be married, openly love and communicate with your spouse. Help them see the practices you would want them to implement in their own homes at work in yours.
There is no better training because, like language, they will learn it naturally, absorbing it rather than trying to grasp it later. How you and your spouse treat each other will be normal for them because they were immersed in a healthy and vibrant relational setting that the two of you cultivated.
In fact, let me give you one of my Top Five Marriage Hot Spots where your kids can naturally and powerfully learn from you while taking healthy behaviors and examples into their marriage someday as a result:
Spending time together. Too many homes today revolve around the activities and needs of the children. Parents largely play taxi driver,
Too many homes today revolve around the activities and needs of the children. Parents largely play taxi driver, enforcers, and bankers so that the kids can be in sports, attend school, and enjoy all the advantages mom and dad didn’t have growing up.
It’s essential, however, that our kids see us investing in each other too. My wife and I have pretty much made our time a priority for our entire marriage, nearing four decades now. Our children saw us drop them off every other Saturday for a time while we went out for breakfast. They saw us take trips together or their mom join me after a conference. They knew that we had a day off most weeks that was just for us.
If they merely see mom and dad serving the kids but not each other, they will likely do the same someday.
Grab a copy of Gary’s book to discover the rest of his “marriage hot spots.”