Marriage IS Parenting: Show them how to be a pro: Part 2
Leveraging Healthy and Unhealthy Parenting Examples
If you read Part 1 of this post, you know that personality type always throws a wild card into the mix. So now you have the wild card of your personality and the wild card of your child’s personality, which are often very different. Sometimes they are the same, which can complicate things in a different way. Almost any mixture of personality types can make it extremely difficult for a parent and child to connect on the same level during a disciplinary interaction.
If you missed the last post, I would encourage you to invest in The 5 Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. While this book is written by a Christian author, the concept of the love languages can apply to anyone of any faith or no faith at all. I can’t tell you how knowing my children’s love languages has helped me connect with them in discipline, in affection, and in many other areas in a very meaningful way.
But personality type is not the only thing that can contribute to good parenting. An unhealthy marriage isn’t an island and it’s effects are not isolated from parenting. Anything (positive or negative) that happens in a marriage will have some kind of indirect effect on children. If you and your spouse are in conflict, you are demonstrating how to handle that for your young audience.
Having a stellar example of a healthy marriage helps to avoid having to climb out of the pit a bad example can build around you. I’ve told both my parents many times that I am so grateful to them for showing me such a wonderful example of what a healthy marriage should look like. Their example has helped me to know how to respect my husband and in turn, demonstrating for my daughter how to be a good wife.
Often I think of how it will make my husband feel if I say exactly what I’m feeling at the time. I’ve found that I must take a time out and not speak to him at all. I have to roll through (in my head) blaming him, feeling sorry for myself, and then letting the thought that he meant to hurt me (when I know he really didn’t) fizzle out in my mind before I start talking. Once I’ve cooled down, I can speak to him gently so that I can communicate how he made me feel and remind him that I know he didn’t mean it that way, but it’s how I heard it.
Obviously, this technique heavily leans on my firm belief that he loves me and would not have intentionally hurt me that way. I realize not everyone is in the same boat there. Everyone has to find their own technique to cool down and then attack the problem. Otherwise, you will either sweep everything under the rug for years to fester and infect, or you will explode so many times in front of everyone that no one will trust you to stay cool in the midst of conflict, and lack of trust does not build a healthy marriage.
I use this technique with my children as well. If I am really upset with them, I usually send them to their room for two reasons: so they can cry out their feelings and think about what happened and so I can cool down and carefully consider how I am going to speak to them and whether or not I should punish them. A great example of this is describing in my Note-Passing post. (this last line can be added later once I get the note passing post completed)
Okay, you say, so you had a healthy example. Good for you. I had a terrible example, so why should I keep reading? Well, having a bad example does not automatically lock you into being a bad parent. It’s true, you may know a lot of people who mirror the bad example they had as children, sometimes not even knowing they’re doing it. But what about those who were so negatively affected by the bad example that they did a 180 as parents themselves and are being a good example for their children? You might know a few of those too. Ironically, I married one!
My husband came from a family who did parenting much differently than mine. I won’t get into specifics, but I don’t think there was much talking about respect, rights and wrongs, and considering others’ feelings. There was even talk of divorce when my husband was in middle elementary. Sometimes I look at him now and how calmly he discusses things with our kids and wonder how he turned out to be such an amazing father when he grew up with an example of what not to do. My husband deduced how to be a good husband and father by doing the opposite of the things he experienced that were negative.
Yes, an unhealthy example can collapse on top of you and keep you buried in the mess of bad parenting even into your own parenting life, but it doesn’t have to. Even now if you realize you’ve been parenting like your parents did (unhealthy), it doesn’t have to continue that way. You can turn the cart around any time you want. How? I know it seems daunting right now. But here are two things from The 10 Greatest Gifts I Give My Children book that will help you gradually turn and you won’t easily forget them:
- Take the high road – Steve talks about the high road and low road in his book. There’s always a key moment when you stand at the fork in the road and decide to turn to the high road or continue on the low road. Maybe you overacted to spilled milk; apologize to your children with no justifications. Maybe you overreacted to your spouse not taking out the trash when you asked; apologize for it without justification. Demonstrating humility when you’re wrong goes a long way to building back trust and expressing your desire to be a good parent/spouse.
- Ask wise questions – asking wise questions accomplishes two things: it leads them to discover for themselves a better decision instead of the poor one they made. It also allows them to take pride in the fact that they figured out the right decision instead of being told what it is.
If you didn’t know, these techniques can be used with your spouse too and I suggest you try it. Although, I would add that maybe instead of asking wise questions (in the interest of not sounding condescending with your spouse), make meek statements of your feelings. Meek is a very misunderstood word, so let me help. The top definition of it on dictionary.com is humbly patient. Be humbly patient in your discussion with your spouse and gently share with them how their words or actions made you feel. Doing this also shows your kids something about parenting, because what is marriage but indirect parenting.
Don’t be afraid to study your own experience with your parents and learn from them. Learn from the negative memories and the positive memories. It is all good information to help you be better on your own parenting journey.
Look for Part 3 of this post soon:
Marriage IS Parenting: Show them how to be a pro | Indirect Parenting