Tag Archives: Parenting

Is your parenting style destroying your marriage?

mom daughter morguefileParenthood in America has become more of a religion than a relationship with our offspring, argues Dr. Danielle Teller, a physician and researcher, in an article called “How American parenting is killing the American marriage.” Dr. Teller explains that in the last generation, being a parent has required complete devotion above all else, something akin to a religion.

The kids come first. Period. That’s what we see if we watch families today. Kids know it, and parents know it, even if they think they don’t agree with it. My kids’ activities are prioritized above my own, for instance.

In America, we are not allowed to say our marriage is more important than our relationship with the children, but if we do our jobs right, the children will be gaining independence and confidence at each stage. With gray divorce on the rise, it’s clear that many parents don’t have much to say to one another after the kids have left the nest.

In making another religious comparison, Dr. Teller explains parents are not allowed to speak poorly about any aspect of their children or their behavior; that would be considered a heresy. Parents of young children often excuse poor behavior by saying they are tired or hungry. Parents of school-aged children no longer believe the teacher’s word against their child in the classroom. Instead, children are treated as mini-gods who can do no wrong.

Mothers are often called to a higher level of devotion and focus than are husbands. They are to look for any and all beneficial opportunities for the child—academic, athletic, musical, social or cultural growth opportunities that may give him or her an advantage in this highly competitive world. Not surprisingly, we may feel challenged balancing the demands of the marriage and family, careers, hobbies and exercise regimens. However, it’s expected that parents keep up the pace, even if sacrifice is required.

This isn’t an argument for not having kids, it’s simply an argument to give some perspective to the vocation of parenthood—what should and what should not be expected as we attempt to rear healthy and well-adjusted people.

Some pitfalls of this common parental philosophy include:
1. Children think they are the center of the universe, because parental words and actions have demonstrated their importance. Kids can become devastated when they experience failure or when they realize that others’ needs are just as important as theirs. It’s harder to learn to share and compromise later in life.

2. Parents who are unable to speak honestly about their feelings (of struggle, worry, despair, anxiety, exhaustion, resentment as well as joy and success) and are unable to have their own important needs met are less likely to resolve problems at home and less likely to be the best parents they can be.

3. The marriage weakens with little time and attention to devote to it. Children may miss out from the great benefit of two parents who love each other and who prioritize the relationship. A neglected marriage will negatively impact the children.

“We choose partners who we hope will be our soul mates for life,” says Dr. Teller. “When children come along, we believe that we can press pause on the soul mate narrative, because parenthood has become our new priority and religion. We raise our children as best we can, and we know that we have succeeded if they leave us, going out in the world to find partners and have children of their won. Once our gods have left us, we try to pick up the pieces of our long neglected marriages and find new purpose. Is it surprising that divorce rates are rising fastest for empty nesters? Perhaps it is time that we gave the parenthood religion a second thought.”

What do you think about this concept of parenthood as religion? Do you think parental expectations have gone too far or not? Is your marriage getting the time and attention it needs?

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 19 years. She is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.
Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

Simple Solutions for Busy Families—Get Back Hours a Day Starting Today!

Even with the school year winding to a close, most of the families I know are struggling with lack of time to do all they would like to do, or even all they feel they must do. It’s such a pervasive issue that affects marriages and families of all ages that it’s worth spending some time to see if there are solutions.

I was prompted to write this from a couple of things I’ve read recently, the most recent of which was a blog post by Kathleen Quiring on “The Importance of Not Being Busy.”  She makes many good cases for striving to be less busy, including the fact that busy people are less likely to give their time to help those in need. (FYI, this isn’t just her opinion; it’s been shown in research.)  Also, busy people are more likely to get into accidents, to sleep and eat poorly, to yell more, and to waste more resources in the name of convenience.

Yes, these are all important reasons. I think even more important is the fact that your family needs you to be present and available, and to do that you need to have time to give. Most of us don’t even have wiggle room in the schedule. When we are rushing from one event to the next, it’s hard to be present and loving—let alone patient and kind. A marriage needs time to be nurtured. We need time to go on dates, or even to watch a movie at home together. We need time to talk and to make love. For those of us with kids, we need time to have real conversations, not just discussions of homework and the schedule of supervised activities or sports. I read a stat today that I seriously hope is wrong that says the average number of minutes per WEEK that parents spend in meaningful conversations with their children is 3.5. I wonder how many minutes per week we spend in meaningful talks with our spouses.

Is there a way out of this busyness trap? Of course. But when I said the solutions were simple, I didn’t say they were easy. They are doable! What would you do with an extra 20 to 30 hours a week? Would it fall through the cracks or would you spend it with your husband, wife, friends, sleeping, or enjoying your hobbies? Could you use the time to better organize your home or family so life doesn’t seem so chaotic? First decide what you would do with that time so you have the motivation you need to make changes.

Today I’ll focus on the absolute biggest time waster for the average American family, then I’ll add some additional tips later in the week.

Your TV May Be Stealing Your Family Life

Nielsen surveys say that say the average American watches four hours of TV per day. That adds up to two months non-stop in a year, or nine years of your life up to age 65. Nine years! The TV is on for six hours and 47 minutes a day in most American homes. And about half of Americans say they think they watch too much TV. Two-thirds watch it while eating dinner.

The average adult male watches 29 hours of TV per week; the average adult female watches even more–34 hours per week. And remember the kids having less than four minutes a week having real talks with their parents? They watch an average of 1,680 minutes of TV a week. When I shared this with my son, he said, if that’s the average, then lots of people watch even more than that! My daughter chimed in, “I’m glad we’re not average.”

I’m not saying TV is terrible in itself. But it’s what we are giving up to have so much of it. What is the opportunity cost for you? What could you accomplish with an extra hour or four extra hours a day? You get to choose what you think is most important in your life. In my experience, TV shows can feel pretty addictive. We get into patterns and they are hard to break. We think of the characters as friends, even as we neglect our own friends. Even the marketing campaigns convince you it’s “must-see” TV. But if you stop watching the new shows, they can’t pull you in.

During the last few years, my husband and I have drastically cut down on TV time. Even when he is traveling on business, he only watches TV if he’s in the exercise room working out. I enjoy a few minutes with Matt Lauer in the mornings, and TV helps me pass the time on the treadmill, but most evenings the TV is not turned on.  I’ve used my extra evening time to write a book (see the end of this post), read many great books, take tennis lessons, and enjoy more time with my family. And I often write this blog in the time that used to be eaten up by TV. I do sometimes miss a show I wish I’d seen. But by the miracle of the Internet, if I really want to see it later, I can watch it commercial- free online. I’m not a fan of TIVO, because I think it encourages more TV watching. My kids watch less than an hour a week and don’t seem harmed by it in the least.

If you and your spouse enjoy the same show, at least you can enjoy it side by side and maybe trade back or foot massages. I cringe when I see that often one spouse watches one TV while the other watches something else in a different room. Every night.

OK, my last point is regarding TV in the bedroom. I’ve said it before, but research shows couples with a TV in the bedroom cut their sex life in half. An Italian study showed having no TV in the bedroom doubles the couple’s sexual frequency.

I can hear people saying, “but TV relaxes me” or “I need to veg out after a long day of work.” But it’s just a habit that’s been formed. You could just as well relax by taking a walk or having a glass of wine with your honey on the porch. What new habits could you form that would be fun for you and would benefit your family?

If you’re not a big TV watcher, first ask yourself if that’s really true or if you just aren’t adding it all up. But if TV isn’t an issue or you aren’t willing to cut back, stay tuned for other solutions this week.

Please share if you have found cutting back on TV helpful for you or your family—as well as other solutions for your busy life.

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available  at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Photo by Ambro courtesty of freedigitalphotos.net

4 Tips to Strengthen Relationships with Your Children

I realize this is a blog on marriage tips, but since many of you have children, I thought I’d share a guest post I recently provided to Moms with Grace explaining how some of the marriage research we discuss here can also boost your relationships with children.

Moms with Grace has the following philosophy:  Motherhood comes with mistakes, mysteries and moments of pure bliss. Explore them all while keeping your dignity firmly intact. Dignity and grace are two things we can all use more of in our families, so explore her new blog–a mommy blog with positive energy.

Photo Credit: ©PhotoXpress.com

Putting Kids First in Families Harms Children

Making time for the marriage when you have children is a constant battle for many parents. It is for me. Whether you have kids or plan to in the future, the following may help guide you. A new book suggests putting the kids first not only harms the marriage, it also harms the children. And putting the marriage first not only benefits the marriage relationship, it also benefits the children.

“To raise healthy kids, simply put your marriage first and your children second,” says David Code, author of To “Raise Happy Kids, Put Your Marriage First” in a Boston Globe interview.  (Read the full interview here.) Code adds that many individuals escape from their marital problems by focusing on the children. “The truth is, we often find it easier to be with our kids than our partners,” said Code. “This seems child-friendly, but we don’t realize we’re using our kids as an escape from our spouses.”

A minister and family coach, Code found couples coming to him to save their marriages when they were already on their way to divorce court. Others wanted him to fix their children, but he saw it was the household that needed repair.

The biggest myth of parenting, says Code, is that the more attention we give our kids, the better they’ll turn out.  He says we’re killing ourselves to create perfect childhoods for our kids. “Where are the results? Studies show today’s parents spend more time with their kids, and yet…they seem more troubled, entitled and needy.”

How does this slide happen? Children’s needs seem more urgent and constant than the marriage, which is important but not urgent. Little by little, parents pull away from the marriage to focus on their needs. The damage is done slowly, often without even realizing it. “Not only do we lose our marriages, we set a poor example for our children’s future marriages, and we also create highly anxious households where our kids soak up that anxiety and then act out,” said Code.

Code suggests overparenting can lead to anxious children who are over-praised, over-protected, and under-developed on skills of teamwork and cooperation. They’re less happy, and they’re less successful. Kids need to learn how to self-soothe, how to deal with setbacks, and how to be resilient. These skills train us for adult life.

He advises that parents need to make decisions about activities and priorities, saying, “Kids are too young to drink, vote, or drive, and they’re definitely too young to make decisions that will affect the rest of their lives.”

Couples need to address their problems directly, understanding there is no such thing as a conflict-free marriage. In addition to placing too much focus on the children, issue avoidance can also come in the form of working long hours, being involved in too many children’s activities, focusing on electronic devices (from TVs to iphones), and making up “excellent reasons why we never have sex anymore,” explains Code.

Code doesn’t see the issue as the spouse’s needs outweigh the child’s. Rather, he sees that prioritizing the marriage benefits the whole family in the long run, even when it’s not clear in the short-run.

Even small changes can benefit the family, he says, including making time as a couple to talk about your day’s highlights and lowlights, taking regular walks together, and making weekly appointments for sex. “I’m not about going from chaos to perfection,” Code says, adding a five perfect improvement can pay huge dividends. “Over a lifetime, that five percent improvement could make the difference between your child graduating from college, getting divorced, or raising a child with mental illness.”

Far from being a perfect parent, Code says his research has changed his parenting, saved his marriage, and made his children more self-reliant. If you missed it, read Who Gets More of Your Attention–Your Children or Your Spouse?

I think his points are on target. I’ve talked to a few people who admit their marriages failed because they became fully devoted to their children at the expense of their spouse and marriage. Kids are so loveable, so easy to forgive, and so willing to take all your time and adoration. Their futures seem so full of promise that we believe if we only do all the right things, they will be successful. Instead, helicopter parenting (hovering) stifles the realization of their potential. We need to create limits (bed times, time to be with just our spouse) and allow them to develop independence while reuniting with the person we married.

What are some ways you can achieve a five percent improvement by shifting attention from your kids or other activities to your marriage?

Better Listening=Better Loving

The last post shared thoughts on true connectivity. For this type of true connection to take place, you first need the time and space to connect. Couples can also benefit from the absence of some ubiquitous gadgets. For a true connection, another key is that both spouses should be active listeneners.

If you’re like many spouses, you hear your partner—sort of. You hear lots of words coming out, including requests to handle errands or tasks, or informational updates about the day. You may even hear some complaints or gripes or expressions of love or gratitude. While your spouse is talking, you are considering your response or planning what you are going to say next.

Even if our spouse is sharing his or her lifelong goals, we are often considering how those goals will affect us and our families. Or, maybe we’re preparing to offer them advice on how to attain those goals.

Most of us know at least one person who is an excellent listener. You may not even realize it at first, but you feel better about yourself when you are with great listeners, because they show so much interest in you, asking follow-up questions and responding enthusiastically to your good news. They are encouraging and will often call later to ask how something is progressing. When you are talking, they are very present and in the moment. In their listening, we feel we are being loved. Poor listeners spend a lot more time talking than hearing, and we often dread getting stuck talking to them for long.

Being present to our partner while really listening to him/her is a way we can show our love. It helps if we are not rushed or multitasking while trying to listen. (That’s why we may need to schedule some dedicated time for reconnecting.) We should refrain from making suggestions unless we are asked. Use eye contact. Listen to your partner fully; don’t interrupt. Ask questions to clarify, or rephrase what you are hearing back to them.

Active listening is not an easy skill, especially when we have trained our brains to be prepared and think quickly. I’ve heard several marriage experts say good listening could prevent many marital problems, including some affairs and divorces, by making spouses feel they are heard and understood. Relationships with children or friends can also improve when they feel we hear and understand them.

Does your spouse jabber on endlessly, or is he or she a great listener? Could you improve your listening skills or is it a strength? I’m listening.

How Can You Make an Impact?

Do you sometimes wonder whether it’s possible to make a significant impact on the world, or even on your own family? Do you feel like a grain of sand on the beach in the scheme of life? I’ve certainly felt that way, but have been buoyed by several concepts that show how broad each person’s reach really is.

  1. You’ve all heard of the “Six Degrees of Separation,” meaning six or fewer people separate us from anyone else in the world. As we become more connected virtually, I think it’s clear there is even less and less separation between us and anyone else. It takes literally no time at all to connect with people of common interest around the world. Your voice, your ideas, your money—they all travel faster and further than ever.
  2. Second, think about the happiness research that underscores that friends—and even friends of friends—are quickly impacted by your happiness. Happiness spreads faster than sadness, and close physical contact has more impact that distant communication. People are attracted to positive energy, a light in the darkness, a kind word or a friendly smile.
  3. Finally, I chuckled when I read a quote by business philosopher Jim Rohn, which states that you are the average of the five people with whom you spend the most time. Better start paying attention to who you are with the most. Hopefully, you are spending enough time with your children to have a significant positive impact on their development.

What kind of impact do you want to have in life? Take the time to reach out to someone—across the globe, across the street, or in your own family. Be aware that others may have a larger impact on your attitudes and behavior than you realize, just as you may have a large impact on others. Who and what is surrounding you, your spouse and your children?

How do you want to be thought of or remembered? How you live is how you will be remembered.