Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Sylvia Smith of Marriage.com.
Fact: Children mimic parental behavior.
This is amazing if you and your spouse regularly show love, respect, and admiration for one another. But, if the way you and your partner treat each other could use a little work, you may be setting a bad example.
Your successful marriage is the first model your children will see that teaches them how they should be treated, how they should treat others, and how to navigate challenging peer relationships. This makes it important for you and your spouse to set a good example in showing respect, fighting fairly, and what behavior is unacceptable.
What are Challenging Peer Relationships?
A challenging peer relationship is a friendship your child has with someone who has a negative impact on their life. This could mean a friend who pressures them into smoking, drinking, stealing, sex, or lying. It could also be a friend who does not have their best interest at heart. A challenging peer relationship could even be the relationship your child has with a bully at school or online.
Healthy Marriage Tips that Teach Children
Can the example of a successful marriage really help your child to make wise friends?
By setting a good example of a successful marriage, you will teach your children to treat others how they would like to be treated. You also show them what is and isn’t appropriate behavior in a friendship. Here’s how.
1. Be Yourself
One of the best healthy marriage tips is to be yourself. When a child hears the phrase “Now that your father’s gone I can finally ___!” or “I’ve been waiting for some alone time so I get to ___” it sends the message that you are not entirely comfortable with your spouse or that you do not enjoy one another’s company.
Opposite of this, if a child grows up seeing their parents laughing together, sharing hobbies, and embracing each other’s quirks they are being taught never to hide their true selves. Not only will this give them a confidence-boost about who they are, but it also teaches them to accept others for their differences as well.
2. Teamwork is Important
From early on in life, children imitate modeled behavior. This makes it important for you to show your child what teamwork is all about. Couples can show teamwork by helping each other around the house, consulting each other before making decisions, and picking up hobbies together.
By watching you and your spouse show loving teamwork, you teach your child prosocial behaviors of cooperation, sharing, and kindness. These qualities will then attract like-minded children to your child.
Cooperation and teamwork will help your child to navigate difficult peer relationships with their ability to show patience and to cooperate with a troubled child instead of lashing out aggressively.
3. Learn to Fight Fair
Children learn a lot about argumentative behavior by observing their parents. That can be a scary thought!
Knowing that little eyes are watching, couples should never take enjoyment in arguing with one another. Instead, they should listen, empathize, communicate, and compromise. By fighting fair with your spouse, you are showing them respect. You are saying that you want to attack the problem at hand, not each other.
By watching you handle disagreements with respect, tact, and care, children will learn to emulate your problem-solving abilities.
It also teaches your children that name-calling, storming off, slamming doors, yelling, and other forms of disrespect are simply not acceptable behaviors when dealing with someone that you care about.
4. Learning to Forgive
It is never encouraged to have unruly arguments in front of your children, but a little public spat is bound to happen every now and then. If your child observes you arguing or disagreeing in a matter, be sure they see the resolution of the issue as well as the conflict.
By watching you forgive each other openly, your child will be encouraged to forgive others as well. Forgiveness also teaches your child about humility, accepting responsibility, and apologizing when they are in the wrong. These can be excellent qualities to have when dealing with their peers.
5. Show Love
One of the best healthy marriage tips you can model for your little ones is by saying “I love you” to your family daily. A 2010 Duke University Medical School study found that babies who had affectionate mothers grew up to be less anxious, happier adults than those who were now shown affection as children.
The study, which followed the infant participants until they were 30 years old, reported that in adulthood the children who were showed more affection as children were less likely to report distressing social interactions, were less hostile in nature, and showed lower levels of stress.
Showing love regularly to your spouse and your child makes them feel comforted, confident, and appreciated. These feelings can cause them to have higher standards for the friends they choose. It also teaches them to be kinder to the friends they do have.
6. Defend Each Other
One tip for a successful marriage example is to defend each other and to always speak well of your spouse. When your child sees that you never trash-talk your partner to others and that you go out of your way to defend your mate against disparaging comments, they will learn what it means to be a true, loyal friend.
The way you and your spouse treat one another has a direct effect on how your children will treat their future friends and romantic partners.
Set a good example of a healthy marriage by teaching forgiveness, fighting fair, displaying teamwork, and setting a standard for your children of how they should be treated. This will help your child foster positive friendships and learn to navigate challenging peer relationships in the future.
About the Author: Sylvia Smith is a relationship expert with years of experience in training and helping couples. She has helped countless individuals and organizations around the world, offering effective and efficient solutions for healthy and successful relationships. Her mission is to provide inspiration, support and empowerment to everyone on their journey to a great marriage. She is a featured writer for Marriage.com, a reliable resource to support healthy & happy marriages.