Arguing Over the Kids

I'm continuing a blog series (does that make this a "bleerie"?) on the subject of things couples fight about. This week's topic is "children".

I remember hearing Jay Kessler speak on marriage and family and Kessler remarked "Immediately after children are born, while they are in the hospital nursery and out of sight, someone comes around and whispers in their little ears, "Divide and conquer--divide and conquer!" Jay's right. There is something inherent in kids that seems to divide couples, causing the kid to "win". Whether it's arguments over bedtime, discipline, eating habits or dating, the fabric of our marriages can become frayed from the push and pull of children. Husbands and wives often have divergent views about how kids should be raised. The problems are compounded in blended families.

So here's my bottom line on how to minimize marital disruption in this area: make your kids second. Your marriage partner--and your marriage--should always have a higher priority than your kids.

The first time I mentioned this in an on-air television interview, the show host was incredulous. "You can't be serious!" she exclaimed. "If I did that I wouldn't be a good parent." I told her just the opposite was true. I said her kids would do better if they realized their parents' marriage came first. I related to the host how I used to tell my kids while they were growing up , 'I love you guys very much. You're about a 9.8 on a 10 point scale--but your mom is a "10." ' I also told the host when I got home from work I would always seek out my wife first, greet her with a kiss, then greet the children. It was just a way of reminding them(and her) who had first place in my heart. After telling the television host all this she remained unconvinced. But several years later I saw her again and she told me "You know, you were right. I started putting my husband first and it's worked out great."

I later discovered I was not alone in my opinion. Author David Code released a book last year entitled To Raise Happy Kids, Put Your Marriage First.

Writer Lylah M. Alphonse agrees in an article, "Putting your marriage first may be better for your kids."

So does New York Times writer Lisa Belkin, "Priorities: Children or Spouse?"

So I guess I can't be totally crazy.

Putting the priority on your spouse won't wave a magic wand of peace over disagreements with your spouse about your kids. You'll still have to work together and work through differing opinions about the "right" way to raise kids. But if you put your priority on the marriage relationship, the other stuff tends to fall in place easier. Make your spouse your priority. Make your kids (an important) second.

By Jim Priest

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