“You let me stay up past my bedtime last night so why can’t I do it tonight?!” “It’s not fair! I just want 10 more minutes on the computer and you let Susie have more time so why can’t I have more time!”

Do you have children that drain the energy out of you? Do you feel like a lot of your time is spent correcting rather than spending quality time with them? Well often their behavior may be related to some things you could be doing differently!  Below are some ideas that may seem simple and obvious, but many of us need this reminder.

Here are four keys to happy, healthy children:

  1. “Do As I Say Not As I Do” | Structure – “I don’t know what the big deal is, everybody’s smoking, it’s not like I’m gonna kill myself or anything! Besides you smoke and you’re fine. Why can’t I?” Raising children puts an enormous strain spiritually, financially, emotionally, intellectually, and physically on a couple (Friel, & Friel, 1999). Parenting is a game, and it has rules. Both parents and children need structure in order to maintain sanity and direction. Parents must admit problems of their own; otherwise they will unconsciously be controlled by them. It is better to enforce rules consistently, without abuse, rather than inconsistently with abuse. Parents need to have balance between praising their children and letting them struggle with their own problems.
  2. Top Down Principle | Balance – “Tom, you’re always on the computer working or out with the guys, why can’t we ever go out on a date? Well Mary, you’re always doing something with the kids and I feel shut out all the time so why should I bother!” Some parents have a very tough time separating from their children, and make their marriage a sacrificial lamb. Conversely, some parents put their own individual needs ahead of the marriage, believing that if their own needs are met, they will be happier. Parents need to be mindful of their marriage, feeding it with emotional food to help it stay alive. According to Friel and Friel passion, chemistry, and sexuality are all ingredients, which are essential for the marriage to prosper. Top Down Principle – A healthy marriage is a key step to being a better parent!  When the kids see two loving parents they often feel emotionally stable and it will improve their love and respect for their parents.
  3. Love – “Oh come on mom, why can’t I go out? Dad said it was fine. He always says you’re too hard on me! I’ll just be out for a little while and I’ll do my homework later, I promise!” Love can be seen in discipline. Being consistent, setting a good example and parenting are very important aspects of love. Parents should never put their love for each other last. Children need to see that the parents love each other, because this will let them be children and not emotional wrecks. Parents must consistently set and enforce rules. The best way to teach children is to have self-control yourself, thereby modeling behavior.
  4. Recognizing Warning Signs – There are a host of ways to find out if your marriage has become a martyr. A few of them are a poor sex life, co-dependent children, and confused boundaries in the parent-child relationship, and others to name a few.

So the next time you discipline your child, stop and think. Am I providing structure and direction, or am I contradicting myself? Is there a “united front” approach, or am I trying to get my own way? Am I teaching my child through example or “Do as I say, not as I do?”

Following these 4 tips can help you as parents achieve a healthier relationship with your kids and your marriage.

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Orlando Family Counselor & Author: Greg Nute, LMHC