Tired after a stressful day at work, my brother Wil walked through the front door to greet his wife and little girl. As Kathy finished dinner preparations, little Rachael’s negative behavior began to escalate.
Wil thought about how to deal with this. Should he offer his daughter loving attention? Should he correct her?
In a flash of inspiration, he walked over to his wife, put his arms around her, and held her for a long moment.
Almost immediately, their little girl settled down.
Here’s what that incident years ago illustrated: When children know that Mom and Dad are doing well, they feel secure and have no need for acting out.
That’s counter-intuitive in today’s culture, isn’t it? We think our children will feel secure if we put them first.
We’ve been told we should sign our kids up for all kinds of activities, and then go cheer them on at their games and recitals. We’re supposed to argue with the teacher about their poor grades, as if this does them a favor.
We’re supposed to make sure they’re always comfortable, and we avoid hurting their feelings at all costs.
That’s what culture says, but biblically speaking, a home in proper order puts God first, spouse next, and children after that.
If you make your children more of a priority than God, they become your idols.
If you put them ahead of your spouse, your marriage will suffer and your children will act out due to insecurity.
(For single parents, make sure Jesus comes first. Do you get your God-time? Can you break away to be yourself outside of your role as Mom or Dad?)
It’s not like we scramble our priorities on purpose. We intend to keep things in the right order –it’s just that life gets in the way.
Children have needs. They’re demanding.
Not only that, many voices shout a message that good parenting means pouring constant loving attention onto our kids, even if it’s at the expense of our marriages or our spiritual health.
Here are a few signs that you may be drifting into putting your children ahead of your marriage:
1. You haven’t gone on a date with your spouse in months, let alone a weekend away.
It’s critical that you nurture your relationship with your spouse with regular retreats from your parenting roles. You don’t want to wake up one day to an empty nest and a disconnected spouse, nor do you want insecure children now. Don’t let circumstances dictate this one. Make it happen.
2. You avoid disciplining your kids for fear of hurting their feelings.
God has given you parental authority, and he wants you to walk in it with security and confidence. In later years, you’ll get to be best friends with your child. Right now, your son or daughter needs you to be the parent.
3. You feel obligated to explain the “why” of everything you require.
Problem is, children lack the reasoning skills of adults, and they want to wiggle out of responsibility due to their sin nature. Children need to trust and obey. After all, God is not in the habit of explaining his commands to you, is he?
4. Your kids have free access to your bedroom 24/7.
While there are varying philosophies on sleeping arrangements, it’s a good idea to establish early on that Mom and Dad’s bedroom is for them, not for the children. Make sure there’s a lock on the door, and use it.
This puts concrete boundaries around your relationship and ensures adequate privacy for intimacy. You’ll strengthen your kids’ security a great deal by putting this in place as early as possible.
5. You are unable to carry on an adult conversation if your kids are in the room.
Kids are smart. They quickly figure out how to get Mom or Dad to drop everything and pay attention to them. Don’t allow their every question, conflict or sudden “need” to derail your conversations.
Enjoy friendships with other adults, and teach your children that life does not revolve around them.
If you’ve drifted in your priorities, there’s good news: all it takes is intentionality and a bit of readjustment to get right back on track.
Mind if I speak a blessing over you?
May your home be well-ordered and at peace. May your spiritual life flourish, may your marriage and friendships thrive, and may your children’s hearts be deeply secure. Amen!