When Your Spouse Is A Bad role Model…
Everyone knows parenting is hard work. I mean, raising the perfect child is no child’s play. However, ‘hard work’ becomes a lot harder when your partner – the co-parent involved – sabotages the very values you are trying to pass on to your child(ren).
At this junction, I imagine many moms will feel like screaming, ‘preach on, sister’ as they recall frustrating situations such as…
…When they are trying to teach their sons respect only for their husbands to keep throwing large doses of disrespect around the home.
…Or perhaps they are trying to teach ‘responsibility’ to children who have drunken fathers or fathers who consistently get home at ‘unholy’ hours or fathers who have refused to work or fathers who never bring out the money to take care of the family.
However, don’t let us get it twisted by turning ‘this’ into a gender war because there are many fathers who are getting just as frustrated as the mothers. Yes, there are working moms who, through their choices, teach their children that there is no such thing as ‘work-home’ balance. There are moms who dress in ways that discourage their daughters from respecting their bodies. What about the moms who ‘show’ their daughters that it is the 21st century and husbands are no longer heads of homes?
Okay, I guess you catch my drift. Bottom line is that there are many frustrated parents who are trying to teach key values which their partners tend to contradict – not necessarily through words alone– but through their actions as well.
So, how do such aggrieved parents handle their frustrations?
Well, it is not uncommon to hear them badmouthing their partners to their children and in such situations, I ask myself, ‘Is that what these little ones need to be hearing right now?’ As in, how helpful are you being when you tell a very young child things like ‘Don’t mind your mommy…she has no sense at all…’ or ‘That your father is a useless man…you better don’t be like him’ etc.
Now, I am not saying that you should pretend that bad adult behaviour is not going on around the home. Neither am I saying that you should endorse such ‘bad’ behaviour in order to maintain a united front with your partner. On the contrary, my advice is that you make it about the child and not the parent. I will explain what I mean with two simple examples…
Example 1: You are a daddy who is trying to teach your daughter the importance of decent dressing. However, her mom is in no way leading by example and your daughter asks why she has to ‘cover up’ since, after all, mommy doesn’t. You could begin your reply with something like this, ‘Sweetie, please let’s focus… you know we are talking about ‘you’ and ‘not mommy’. Remember you are my little princess and how do all the princesses from the far, far away kingdoms dress?’….
Example 2: You are mommy who is trying to teach your son the importance of getting involved with house chores. However, because daddy never helps with anything around the house, your son challenges you. You could then reply with something like this – ‘Please don’t make this about daddy. We are talking about you. Now, tell me, is it or is not nice to lend a helping hand? If you are working really hard, wouldn’t you love some kind of help from the people around you? Can’t you see your sister has been on her feet since? You would save her a few minutes if you go and help her. Besides, I’m sure she will appreciate your company as she ‘works’’
From these examples, I hope you can see how the focus has been taken off ‘mommy’ and ‘daddy’ by making the conversation about the child.
I hope you can see that without badmouthing your partner, you have subtly let your child know that his/her exhibited behaviour is wrong.
I hope you can also see that you are teaching your child to be his/her own person. That is, they do not have to do stuffs because other people are doing them. Instead, they do ‘stuffs’ because it is the right thing to do.
So, yes, I am not one of those who support spouses bringing the attention of their children to the faults of their partners. You know abusing their partners, referring to them in condescending terms and painting them as the forbidden ‘behavioural’ fruit. Doing this puts the child in some sort of emotional turmoil and may make him/her unable to receive the ‘little’ good the erring partner has to offer. In addition, this child may also suddenly turn against you because you are seen as the one trying to drive a wedge between him/her and the beloved parent. So again, yes, don’t make this about your partner. Let the focus stay on your child and in your own quiet corner, keep ‘praying’ and ‘working’ on your partner. When you do this, perhaps your spouse will eventually ‘change’ before your child is old enough to, on his/her own, sadly understand that super mommy is in reality a naughty woman or macho dad, a bad man.
Image courtesy of smarnad at FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Image courtesy of aechan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net, http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/princess-photo-p331375