When our children are small, we parents do our best to teach them good habits and to develop positive character traits– though most of us would admit we sometimes take our eye off the ball and fall back into “getting through the week”, our spiffy parenting plan and anemic intentionality going out the window. My husband and I were certainly like that. We did what we could to teach good habits and shape our children’s character but were hopelessly inconsistent and often fell short.
Now that our children are grown (one is married, the second, getting married this year, and the last one soon to graduate from high school), we find ourselves wondering if we did all we could to prepare them to be the kind of marriage partners who will go the distance. Don’t get me wrong, we are very proud of our kids and are so blessed that they all know the Lord. They are smart, kind and caring individuals and we love them dearly, therefore, we want God’s very best for them.
We pray for our children and their marriages nearly every day– that our kids will have what it takes to remain happily married. You see, both my husband and I were married once before. We know how hard it is. We know what a clever trickster satan is and how he loves to destroy families. We know how weak we, as human beings, are when it comes to perseverance, selflessness, and sacrifice. And second marriages are certainly not a walk in the park either. You see, marriage is made up of two disparate, sinful individuals (we’re all sinners according to God’s Word, right?) trying to get along and function as one productive unit. It’s hard!
So, is there anything parents of young children can do now to equip them for marriage success later?
And, what exactly does it take to not just persevere but to thrive in marriage?
First of all, a good marriage partner will have a forgiving spirit. No marriage can survive without both parties being willing to forgive when the occasion calls for it and believe me, it will call… again and again, and again! Teach your littles to forgive, and to seek forgiveness, as well. Raise them not to be easily offended nor to take every little thing personally.Have a forgiving spirit yourself and try to never hold a grudge or go to bed angry. The littles are watching.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues, put on love, which binds them together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV)
A good marriage partner is kind, helpful, and considerate. Begin early to instill these characteristics in your children. Considerate children and teens will most likely become caring and considerate partners. (“Please”, “Thank you”, “Can I help you with that?”, “No, you go first”, etc.) Scores of women have left long-time marriages due, in part, to inconsiderate and unkind spouses who did not have enough respect for their wives to show common courtesy or to lift a hand to help. I sometimes think common courtesy and basic manners are fading into oblivion in our culture. Don’t let that happen in your home. Teach your children to be kind to others– in the home, in the classroom, and on the playground–especially to those who can’t do for themselves. Teach them good manners and respect for others.
Possibly the most important trait of a good marriage partner, male or female, is humility. A humble person is willing to serve their spouse, and in marriage, mutual servanthood and self-sacrifice is the ultimate goal. There is no room in a godly marriage for an air of superiority or an attitude of condescension. So, as you raise your children, temper the praise and adoration with the idea that they are not superior to others and should be willing to serve–their friends, their siblings, and their fellow-man. Excessive pride in one partner or the other is a dangerous thing in marriage, often leading to one party thinking they’re too good for the other and eventually leaving the marriage. Have we taken the self-esteem thing too far in our culture today? Are we putting our kids on pedestals of praise? (hmm…something to think about.)
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interest of others.” Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)
And finally, no marriage can survive or thrive if it does not have Jesus Christ at its center. After all, marriage, as an institution, was actually created by God himself! All marriages face challenges, both large and small, and when those challenges come, both partners need to be able to seek God for wisdom and guidance. So, what does that mean for parents of young children? Raise your children to know and love the Lord. Let them see and hear you and your spouse going to God when you face various issues in the home. Teach them to pray. Drive home the point that the answer to every problem can be found in God and His inspired Word.
If my husband and I could do it all again, we would certainly be more intentional about our parenting. And we would parent with an eye towards the future, keeping in mind the fact that we are raising somebody’s future spouse! I hope you will begin today to do just that.
“But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made the woman from the rib he had taken out of man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman for she was taken out of man.’ That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Genesis 2:22-24 (NIV)