I asked my husband “What should a good parent’s priorities be?”
His first response was “The well-being of their children.”
Yet many leading experts say that a parent’s first priority should be to their spouse. Why? The reason is simple if you have a good marriage you are more likely to be a good parent. Counselor Peter Gerlach found that in consulting with over 1,000 couples that those who do not make their marriage a priority ultimately fail. We all know what divorce does to kids. So a parent’s first priority should be to their marriage.
Andrew Mullins, author of “Parenting For Character,” tells parents that they need to focus on three main things to keep their marriage strong.
First, “admire the strengths of your spouse and don’t get fixated on faults.” Never talk about your spouse’s faults in front of your children. You want your children to think that you are the best mother and father that a child could have.
Second, “never contradict or ague in the presence of children.” If parents do argue in front of their children make sure that they apologize and make up in front of them as well. When children see their parents arguing it makes them feel less secure and wonder if a divorce will occur.
Third, “create regular times you can get away.” Schedule time away from your children to discuss different issues in your marriage and reconnect as a couple. Discuss how you are going to deal with issues that arise with your children and reach a consensus. Spending time as a couple helps build up a “stock of happy memories to tide you through inevitable challenges.”
So a parent’s second priority should be their children right? Wrong again. A parents’ second priority should be taking care of themselves. At first glance this may seem selfish, but if a parent is taking time to evaluate herself then she will be a stronger parent. It doesn’t mean that you meet all of your needs first but that you are constantly evaluating yourself. Looking at what motivates you and how you are spending your time.
Children learn by example. Therefore you need to exhibit the characteristics that you want your children to possess. So working on those traits in your own life will help ensure that your children will do the same. Especially when it comes to religion. Andrew Mullins reminds parents that, “Children learn how to love God by looking at the lives of their parents.”
Every parents’ third priority should be their children. Notice that this comes before a job, social life, or any religious duties. Not that those things aren’t important and essential, but should not rank as a higher priority than ones children.
Children need unconditional love and encouragement. Children need someone who will truly listen to them and give them focused attention. But most of all children need time with their parents. Time spent as a family. Outside activities can be good, but they should not replace or take priority over family time. (See my blog on Making Time For Family Fun.) Make your home an enjoyable place to be. Andrew Mullins say, “Remember the habitual expression on a parent’s face determines the atmosphere in the home.”
Are your priorities in order?