At two recent Build Your Marriage conferences we were asked the same question: “How do you keep children from negatively impacting your marriage?”
We get it. We love our children like crazy and are so pleased with the man and women that they have become. But this was an area of struggle for us. We made plenty of mistakes along the way. Here are three ideas from our marriage to help you stay connected and unified in your marriage as you parent:
1. The first 20 minutes
We learned early on that when Brad came home from work, every child wanted his full attention. But that left Heidi disconnected from him until the children were in bed. By then both of us were too tired to really debrief the day or make any household decisions.
We decided to give the first 20 minutes at the end of the workday to each other. So when Brad would come home he would greet the children and then tell them, “Mom gets my first 20 minutes. When we’re done talking I’ll come and find you.”
We would then talk in the kitchen or sit down and debrief the events of the day. Setting aside the first 20 minutes not only helped us stay connected, but it communicated to our children that while they are important, mom came first in their dad’s life.
2. Be a united front
When it came to consequences, we decided privately what those consequences would be. Usually we would pull away into our room. Behind the closed door, we would negotiate the best consequence. Generally one of us was a stronger disciplinarian and the other more lenient, but together we would be united to our kids.
When we came out of the room, Brad would be the one to communicate the consequence and make sure it was enforced. This protected Heidi from being “the bad guy” in the home.
If a consequence had to be given when one of us wasn’t home, the other would fully support it in front of our child. If we had questions about what happened, we would talk about it privately.
3. It’s OK to delay
Like most two-parent homes, we had the occasional, “Just wait until your father gets home!” moments. That would be followed with texts and perhaps a call or two between us until Brad came home from work. Those delays gave us time to communicate, clarify, and unify before dealing with the situation.
Other times we would be too angry to be rational or loving regarding a child’s negative behavior. We learned that it’s alright to delay meting out the consequence for a few hours. Telling a child, “We don’t know what your consequence is going to be, but there IS one coming and we’ll tell you tomorrow morning!” was a good thing. It gave them time to consider what they had done and often brought a spirit of repentance. Delaying like this actually helped our child accept our discipline the next day as something we had carefully considered.
No doubt you have some helpful ideas as well. Please share them below! These are just a few of our thoughts to help you stay united in your marriage as you parent your children and build your marriage!