10 actions that children learn from their parents’ marriage

[In a week where we're focusing on Marriage and promoting our "Refreshing Your Marriage" Conference, I thought I'd re-post my most popular post (which has blown-up thanks to Pinterest). Another marriage post that has recently gotten a lot of traction is, "Size Matters...25 ways to go small in marriage"]

When I speak on marriage, I’m always asked if I intentionally taught my kids about marriage.

The answer is yes… and, no.

Yes, there are times when we’ve talked specifically about marriage (either ours or ones that our kids have observed). But, for the most part, Cathy and I have been wise enough to know that our kids are constantly watching and learning from us without us having to do a lot of talking. Our actions (both good and bad) are always teaching them about marriage.

I would be thrilled if my kids had a similar type of marriage that Cathy and I share… it’s definitely not perfect, but we’re both very proud of what we’ve developed over 27+ years.

Here are 10 actions that I know my kids have observed from us over the year:

1. Affection: Cathy & I are very affectionate and I like having my kids see me holding their mom’s hand, hugging, kissing, cuddling, etc… as often as I can.

2. Saying “I’m sorry”: I want to be quick to use this phrase and I want my kids to hear me say it (and I have to say it a lot more than Cathy).

3. Affirmation: this is my primary love language so it’s easy for me to dish out encouraging words. My kids get a lot of verbal affirmation, but they also hear me directing it toward my wife (which is really easy).

4. Attraction: I think Cathy is hot… and, I make it known around our family. I’ll regularly say, “Isn’t your mom beautiful?”

5. Time: our kids know that we like to spend time together. When they see us steal time away to sit in the backyard and talk, or go in the hot tub, or go on a date night, or sneak away for the weekend…that’s a good message I want them to see.

6. Laughter: we laugh a lot in our house and my wife’s cute sense of humor cracks me up. I like having my kids see that my wife makes me laugh.

7. Respect: opening the door for Cathy, saying “thank you” and “please” and showing her simple signs of respect.

8. Faith conversations: we’re not always praying in front of our kids, but they hear and see our faith conversations and know that we’re always talking about Jesus and what it means to be a follower.

9. The value of friends: our house is well worn from the traffic of friends in/out of our house. We love having people over and the Fields’ house is a regular hangout for some incredible friends.

10. Servanthood: I know my kids have had a better example in Cathy than with me because she’s the ultimate servant. Always asking, “How can I help? What do you need to make life better?” Serving one another is seen in the daily, little things and there’s many opportunities to serve.

Kids are always watching their parent’s marriage and yet too many marriages underestimate the power of modeling! Children are taking daily recordings of what a marriage looks like and those recordings are definitely influencing and shaping their view of marriage.
Question: Do you have intentional actions that you’re modeling to your kids? Do you have some actions that are different from the ones I’ve listed? If so, share them here.

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  • http://www.smarterym.com/ Aaron Helman

    Apologizing in front of your kids is HUGE… especially if you fight in front of them.

    • dougfields

      strong!

  • David Hertweck

    This is a great list Doug and such an important topic.

    I’m working on creating a home that is “gospel-fluent”. A place where we can all speak the Gospel to each other and to ourselves so that we can fully recognize the profound need for Jesus and celebrate the ongoing work of God’s grace in each of us individually and as a family.

    • dougfields

      that’s beautiful… you need to let us know how you do that.

  • Ana

    Great list!!! I would also add honesty. Sometimes we don’t realize but even in the most miniscule little while lies such as having the kids say “Mom is not here” when someone calls on the phone or the usual “Don’t tell Mom” or “Don’t tell Dad” stunts place children in a conflict a) do they dissappoint/disobey you or b) do they lie to ther other parent?

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