This probably isn't something many parents think about when they are raising their children, they are more concerned about teaching them to walk, talk, dress themselves, say please and thank you, etc. But teaching and modeling skills that will show them how to make a relationship last is essential for their future success with a significant other. So by showing our children at a young age some basic skills will hopefully make their relationships stronger when they are adults.
The Dreaded "Chores"
My generation, for some reason, has stereotyped so many of the basic household chores. Women do the cooking, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, and it goes on and on. But many years ago, many of the women did not work outside the home, they had a "fulltime" job just keeping up all the household duties. But times have changed. You find very few couples that don't have both of them in the workforce outside the home. And men are doing better in the housework department - the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research reports the amount of housework done by women has dropped since 1976, as more women have gone to work and men have doubled their time doing chores at home. Yet there's still a gender divide. For instance, husbands create an extra seven hours a week of housework for wives - but men spend an hour less on chores weekly after getting married. So discussing the division of labor early in your own relationship can head off resentment and will also set an example for your kids. Just because a spouse may work fulltime and the other may stay at home, chores should still be divided evenly. Kids won't have any bias about certain jobs being male or female, and this will teach them that all family members work as a team.
Teaching and Modeling Respect
We all dread seeing couples who criticize each other about everything from snoring to driving skills. The cornerstone of a good marriage is respect for each other, and modeling that for your children gives them a better shot at forging happy adult partnerships. We like to think that we can relax and just be ourselves at home, as long as we put on our best manners in public. But what your neighbors think about how you treat your spouse is actually a lot less important than what your kids think.
Amy Ames, of Raleigh, North Carolina, teaches her two sons how to respect others by treating her husband respectfully - and her children too. For example, if she wants to use the family IPad and one of her sons has it, she asks for it politely rather than telling him to turn it over. "Even when my boys are with their friends, I expect them to speak and act nicely," she said. In my own marriage, my husband and I strive to stick to this simple rule: No matter how tired or cranky we are, we keep the eye-rolling and sarcastic remarks to a minimum and try to treat each other the way we'd treat our best friends."
The Value of Conversations
Being able to talk constructively about everything from grooming habits to mortgage refinancing is key to a good marriage. If you can air your disagreements, you have a better shot at resolving disputes - and growing together instead of apart over time.
To help children learn to converse in a meaningful way, teach your kids how to listen to others by listening to them. When your child comes to you with news about her friends or a toy that she wants, stay in the moment, don't think about the work you left at the office or the dishes you need to wash. Try to focus on listening to your child without interrupting. Then ask a few questions or make a comment to show her that you've paid attention and what she's said is important to you. This will help teach her to be a good listener. Take away the video games in the car and have a conversation with your child instead, you may find that you have a lot to chat about:)
Ask a boy about his day at school and he'll probably say, "It was fine." Ask a girl and she'll be more likely to say that her best friend didn't sit with her at lunch, she's happy she got a part in the school play, or she's nervous about her math test. Indeed, researchers have found that men are typically less able than women to identify their emotions and empathize with others. This inequality starts early on. Parents tend to comfort little girls who cry but are more likely to tell sons to "man up" and stop sniveling. Men who were taught to suppress their emotions as children often become husbands whose wives complain that they can't open up. How do you teach kids (boys and girls) to be emotionally engaged? You can teach this by just doing a few simple activities with your child such as pointing out a cartoon character's feelings and expressing your feelings using words such as frustrated, worried, happy, sad, embarrassed, loved, etc. Teaching all children that it's OK to share how they are feeling will lead to adults who can express exactly how they feel, which will lead to better communication with your partner and a much healthier relationship.
So, as your child is mastering such things as walking and talking, think about what kind of partner you would like them to be someday and try these suggestions. You will find they will be more respectful; are willing to share responsibilities and chores; and are able to have open and honest conversations with the partner they choose:)
Information taken from Parents.com June 2012 article.
Sue Junge is an Early Childhood Support Specialist for the Iowa River Valley Early Childhood Area and is a Thursday columnist for the Times-Republican. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don't necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. For more information, please visit www.marshallempowerment.com.