Trickle-Down Parenting: Your Marriage and Your Toddler
- Lee Wilson Family Dynamics Institute
- 2004 12 Mar
Did you know that according to marriage experts the first major crisis in many marriage relationships is a the birth of their first child? With all the stresses of caring for a toddler, it's easy to see why trouble could erupt. To keep your marriage out of crisis, several things need to be considered.
Who's Your Baby?
I heard Joe Beam say the following at one of his Love, Sex, and Marriage seminars: "Why is the birth of the first child often the first crisis? Because mama has a new baby."
Before her child's birth, her husband was her baby. She woke up early to cook breakfast for him before he left for work, she paid close attention to him to ensure he was happy and comfortable and she planned her schedule around him. But when Heather's new baby, Tanner, was born, she altered her focus almost entirely.
When Jason got home from work, Heather hardly noticed. After a hard day of changing diapers, cleaning spilled milk off the carpet and listening to Tanner cry, her nerves were shot. Her exhaustion carried over to the bedroom, where the two hardly made love anymore.
Though Jason loved his son, he occasionally had feelings of resentment toward him.
What could this couple possibly do? They certainly would not ignore their child. But they would decide to ensure that they remembered their vows to each other.
Jason and Heather recommitted to making sure the other felt fulfilled and happy. They decided to reserve one night for the two of them to relax at home or go out for dinner. That night, a baby sitter whom they trusted would keep Tanner. Also, during Tanner's daily naps, Heather would nap. This way she could catch up on some of the sleep she lost from nursing Tanner during the night. After work, Jason prepared supper for Tanner and fed him while Heather cooked their supper. The two noticed a drop in stress simply because they refocused on each other.
After some time passed, Jason and Heather had raising a baby down to an art form. Though it was very hard work, they both felt a sense of pride in being parents and had renewed feelings of closeness and warmth for each other. However, the eye of the storm gave way to disaster when Tanner became a toddler.
Tanner learned that occasionally Jason gave in more than Heather. When Heather would put Tanner in bed for the night, Jason would often allow him to get in their bed. Heather did not like the loss of intimacy that resulted in Tanner sleeping in their bed and didn't appreciate Jason ignoring the rules she made for Tanner.
As Tanner began to learn he could go to "daddy" for a "second opinion," he would cry to Jason after Heather had said, "no." One day, when Heather went shopping, Jason kept Tanner. Tanner began asking Jason for a marker so he could draw. Both Tanner and Jason knew that Heather did not allow Tanner to play with markers. But Jason didn't think it would hurt anything.
When Heather came home to find the walls covered with scribbles, she was very upset. Jason hadn't noticed when Tanner snuck away from him.
The little guy had learned to manipulate Jason and Heather in order to get what he wanted. It wasn't because he was a bad little boy. It was simply because two-year olds live life only to please themselves. He would grow out of it in time, but until he did, Jason and Heather would have to set some more guidelines in order to protect their marriage.
They decided that they would determine rules together. And if one of them set a rule for Tanner to follow, that rule would stand simply because of the loyalty that existed between Jason and Heather.
It took a while, but Tanner learned that "mommy and daddy" were united in parenting. If one said no, the other did as well. This was difficult but Jason and Heather were determined to be just as focused on each other as they were on being parents.
To Be Good Parents, It Takes A Good Marriage
Though it's tempting to nurture our children above our marriage, statistics tell us that children in homes with parents in strong marriages are more successful, mentally stable and have more self-esteem on average than children in homes with parents in weak relationships.
In our make-believe scenario, everything worked out nicely for Jason and Heather. That isn't always the case. Therefore, I can't stress enough the importance of focusing on your marriage relationship just as much as you focus on being a good parent. By working to improve your marriage, not only are you helping yourself, you are helping your children.
If you have a son, he needs to see his father treat his mother with compassion, respect and love. If you have a daughter, she needs to see her mother treat her father with the same compassion, respect and love. Not only will it help them in the future, but it provides them a pleasant home and a healthy attitude toward God's institution of marriage.
So practice the "trickle down effect" with your family. The good things in your marriage will usually trickle down to your children and, hopefully, to their children and generations to come.
© 2003 Family Dynamics Institute
Lee Wilson is on staff at Family Dynamics Institute, a marriage and family ministry that trains church leaders, counselors and lay couples to lead marriage-enrichment classes. You can visit their web site at www.familydynamics.net or call them at 1-800-650-9995.
If you are interested in working with married couples at your church, ask for Lee.
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