Children learn from their parents how to act, treat others, be kind, confident and the fundamentals of relationships. Kids are always watching and observing, even when you think they are tuned into the TV or playing nearby, they watch how you interact, your body language and inflection of your voice.
We spend a lot of time teaching our kids verbally, but powerful lessons are also are taught through our actions. When you put in the work to keep your partnership you teach your kids about correct communication, handling conflict, how to compromise, what positive intimacy looks like and striking a balance between family, work and home.
Modeling healthy behavior is not only good for children, but essential for a strong marriage. This is a training ground for children to have their own healthy relationships.
1) Communicate Well & Fight Fair
The way in which you speak to one another, resolve conflicts and talk through everyday life events, teaches children how to express their own feelings and thoughts. It also models fighting fair.
Kids benefit from seeing their parents disagreeing – note, this doesn’t infer yelling or screaming – where they present their own sides to the argument, together work towards a resolution and reach a compromise.
Adversely, if children grow up in a home where disagreements are hidden behind closed doors or compromises are never reached and one person always submits to the other, they’ll learn you must always be agreeable. When they have their own relationships later, they may think something is wrong with them when they argue or have disagreements.
Teach kids what fighting fair means. Fighting fair has ground rules – no name calling, yelling, screaming or walking away without reaching a compromise. The last is especially important when your kids are nearby. Fighting fair teaches it’s OK to have different opinions but you can come back together peacefully.
2) Speak Kindly To Each Other
Modeling a healthy relationship means teaching your children kind ways to speak to one another and be supportive. Compliment your partner each day, say thank you for little things they do, and apologize to them when you are wrong.
Teach children how to communicate kindly, but also take care of one another with your words.
3) Show Affection
Children who don’t grow up in a house where parents share affection – hugging, kissing, holding hands, saying “I Love You” – may be uncomfortable with intimacy in their own relationships later on.
Kind, loving and tender relationships teach children what is acceptable, but also, what is not. If they grow up in a loving house, then they will understand the difference between right and wrong treatment in a relationship.
4) Share Responsibilities
Running a home and parenting children is much like a business. It simply cannot be done by one person alone, it requires divvying up responsibilities and taking care of one another.
Domestic duties are the responsibility of both men and women which means stereotypical chores can go right out the window. Dad can fold laundry and cook meals and Mom can mow the lawn and help fix things around the house.
Need proof? Scott Coltrane, Ph.D., a sociologist at the University of Oregon and author of Family Man: Fatherhood, Housework, and Gender Equity writes that school-age children who do housework with their father are more likely to get along with their peers. They are also less likely than other kids to disobey teachers or to become depressed or withdrawn.
When children see their Dad performing domestic duties, this teaches democratic family values and cooperation, instead of stereotypical role assignments they might see in movies or on television.
5) Prioritize Your Relationship
Sometimes caring for children and running a household doesn’t leave much extra energy for dating your partner.
The fix? Date Night.
At least once a month, if not more, prioritize your relationship with your partner to get out of the house kid-free (or wait until they’re asleep in bed) to eat an adult-only meal without talking about the kids, and focusing on your relationship. Children want to see their parents in love and being together because it provides them with a sense of security.
…But it’s good to connect with the person you’re in the trenches with. You were in a relationship before you had kids and as you know, children change the entire sphere of your relationship once you become parents, but it’s healthy to make each other a priority often.