As soon as my son was born, I wanted nothing else than to be a great dad. As all parents quickly realize, the pressure to raise our kids to the best of our ability can be immense. No one has kids with the hope of ruining them. We want them to grow up happy, healthy, and totally in love with Christ.
And so as new parents, my wife I made the subtle mistake most new parents make – we began to prioritize our parenting over our marriage. This seems like a natural, loving thing to do when you have kids. Ironically, however, as we realized the hard way, when we placed our parenting over our marriage, our parenting and our marriage both suffered.
The two toughest years of our marriage took place during the first year my son was born and then during the first year my daughter was born. The temptation of having a brand new human in the house was too much. We prioritized our kids over our marriage each time they were born, and in the process, we were hurting rather than helping our kids; because my wife and I were spending so much negative energy battling each other since we were neglecting our marriage, we had less energy to positively parent our kids.
You can’t be the best parent possible if you are not a good spouse. If we love people more than God, we will in the end not love people or God very well. The most loving thing we can do for people is to love God more than them since this will enable us to love others to the best of our ability. The same is true in our parenting and marriages. The best thing we can do for our children (besides loving God most) is to love and respect our spouses first, which will enable us to love our kids more, not less.
1. Healthy Marriages Create Healthy Kids
The love relationship with our spouse is what brings about our children. Therefore it should be no surprise that if we allow the children to replace the love within the marriage, the children will suffer too.
This is very similar to ministries and churches which were birthed through valuing above everything else our relationship with God. When we love God above everything else, this love always overflows into helping other people. All kinds of good is birthed out of the loving relationship we have with God.
But what happens when a church or a ministry takes God’s place in our hearts? The very testament to our love with God now becomes a temptation to that love. The ministry or church always suffers when it takes God’s focus in our life. Our ministries will only flourish when we continue to value our union with God above everything else.
Children, like ministries, are supposed to be a living testament to a greater love that birthed them. They are not to take the place of the marriage, but rather be a reflection of those from whom they came. Raising a child can either make or break your marriage. Our kids will either be a testament to the love we have with our spouse, or they will become a temptation to that love. The health of our marriage (and Marriage) will be reflected in the health of our offspring.
2. A Kid-Centered Home Creates Runaway-Children
Ideally, parents have children out of the fullness of love that already exists within the marriage. Like God who made humans out of the love that already existed within the Trinity, parents are supposed to have children out of a desire to give love rather than need love from the kids.
Now, when a couple tries to have children as a way of getting the love and fullness that their hearts are lacking, this creates a pressure on the kids they were never meant to bare. Because the children know they can never fill their parents’ emptiness, they run away emotionally and sometimes even physically. They know they are not the perfect God their parents are asking them to be, and so they rebel to prove their point.
A healthy marriage produces healthy children because the kids grow up feeling and knowing that there is something bigger in the house than themselves – mom and dad’s marriage (and ultimately mom and dad’s commitment to Christ). Imagine growing up in a world where you felt you were the biggest, most important being in the universe. This would not bring comfort but fear. As humans, we want to know that Someone is out there that is bigger than us, that has this whole thing figured out.
Kids don’t want to be the center of their parents’ universe. They want to feel safe under the canopy of their parents’ love. The fear caused by living in a world where God was not supreme is how children feel when they grow up in a home where their parents do not prioritize their marriage. An unstable marital love creates a poor foundation in the home for parenting.
3. A Kid-Centered Home Creates Spoiled, Rotten Adults
If the children don’t respond to being the center of the home by running and rebelling in an effort to buck the pressure placed on them, then they will most likely grow up to become self-centered, spoiled adults who think everything really does revolve around them.
Sometimes kids grow up believing they really do have the power to make everyone happy because their parents have given them this feeling. Then they use this power to get what they want. They give and withhold “love” based upon what others are giving them. They learned to manipulate their parents because their parents did anything to get the child’s love. Now as an adult, this person uses the same tactics as a way of interacting with others.
Healthy marriages, however, allows for lavish parental generosity while also being a selfless discipliner who places the child’s well being over the parent’s desire to be liked in the moment. Healthy parents can discipline their children and teach the kids that the world does not revolve around them because the parents don’t allow their children to have that much power over their self-worth.
Ironically, not only does the marriage begin to weaken with every degree the focus turns towards the children, but the children suffer too, needing two strong parents far more than they need to be the idol of others.
What About Single-Parents?
So if you are a single-parent, does this mean since you are unmarried, you are missing the most important parenting tool God has given humans?
Absolutely not! Marriages are not the most important factor in raising healthy children – your relationship with God is. While we must not deny the fact that God designed children to be raised by a healthy husband and wife, we must not neglect the fact that God can always make up the difference through his amazing grace.
One way a single-parent can create an environment that fosters Christ-loving children is by being a person who honors your child’s mom or dad, even if you are no longer in a relationship with him or her. Respect always says more about the person giving respect than the person receiving it. If your children see you respecting their mom or dad, your children will know there is a bigger love that you are governed by – the love of God.
Loving God Is Always Most Important in Parenting
Of course all that has been said here is in the context of loving God above everything else, including your marriage. But the principle seen in our relationship with God can be seen in our relationship with our children. The more we love God, the better equipped we will be to love the ministries that were birthed out of that love. And the more we love our spouse, the better equipped we will be to raise the children which were birthed from that love.
Raising kids is hard. And while they may demand more time and attention (especially when they are young) than we can give our marriages, this does not mean we should allow the kids to usurp the importance of the marriage in our homes.
When a couple is secure in the love between themselves (and ultimately in God’s love), they will not have less love to give their children but more. Out of the fullness of love within the marriage can flow a selfless love into the parenting.