Parents often take their child’s future college education very seriously. Toddlers spend beautiful afternoons touring the “right” college campus, particularly near the football stadium. Elementary students are admonished to study so they can have the grades to go to a “great” college. Children practice pitches from dusk to dawn so they can have the skills for a baseball scholarship to the “best” program.
How much time though, do we spend with our child pointing out the characteristics of the “best” husband? How often do we help our child practice his relational skills so he can have a “great” marriage? How much do we emphasize the importance of finding the “right” spouse to our child?
We will spend tons of money and hours of our time to insure our children are successful students, athletes or artists. Yet, the only guidance we give them on dating and marriage is often as they walk out the door for their first date or right before they walk down the aisle.
Our children are left with only what they have observed as their guide on love and marriage. Your child’s idea of a good marriage may be based more on the principles of a Hollywood writer than those of God. No matter how old your children are though, there are still some things you can do to teach your child how to have a lasting, godly marriage.
1. You are your child’s most important role model for what a marriage is supposed to be like. The best gift you can give your children is to constantly work with your spouse on having a strong, healthy marriage with God at the center. If you need help with your marriage, please do whatever you can to improve it. Christian counselors, preachers, elders and older Christian wives are great resources. If you prefer working in private, there are many great Christian books with practical ideas for improving your marriage.
2. Pray. This is one of those places where the “without ceasing” idea is important. Pray that your child finds a good, Christian spouse who will help her get to heaven. Pray that your child will also be a good spouse. As soon as your child shows an interest in dating, encourage him to start praying for God’s help in the dating and marrying process as well.
3. Use your family devotionals to discuss dating and marriage. Study the various families in the Bible. A lot of them are actually bad examples, but those can teach us lessons of what not to do. Study Song of Songs and discuss what true love looks like. What did the author mean? Read all of the scriptures on marriage and husbands and wives. There is enough material to study for quite some time.
4. If you haven’t discussed purity with your child, start now. It is amazing how early you can work in appropriate conversations about purity for even young children. Both boys and girls need to understand the concepts of protecting their bodies and setting appropriate boundaries for not only dates but to prevent other adults from possibly abusing them.
If the idea of discussing purity with your children makes you squeamish, that is fine. They will probably be squeamish too. Christian bookstores have quite a few books written for children and teens about purity. Feel free to use them to help you have the courage to address the subject with your child. Often once the topic is opened, you will be surprised at how much your child has heard and how many questions she has.
5. Constantly point out to your children the godly qualities in your husband. Tell them how thankful you are their father loves God. Let your children hear you praise your husband for providing for the family. Make Father’s Day a major celebration of the qualities that make your husband a great father. If there is not a godly man in your house, point out godly qualities in the other men in the lives of your child.
Hopefully, your spouse will also point out the godly qualities he sees in you. Your child needs to learn how to be a good spouse as well as how to choose a good spouse. If your spouse doesn’t participate in this process, point out the qualities you wish you had when you first married. Or tell your child the qualities you have learned were important for a wife to have in a marriage.
6. Try to model healthy conflict for your children. Children need to watch their parents disagree in a healthy way. If you never disagree in front of your child, he will be devastated the first time he disagrees with his own spouse. If you struggle with conflict yourself, admit to your children you are still working on it. Discuss the ways you wished you had handled the incident and what you will try to do better next time.
Help your child practice healthy conflict management skills. Using appropriate words, taking time to calm down before acting or speaking and avoiding physical conflict are important life skills. Even if he never marries, conflict management skills are important in many areas of life.
7. Watch television with your child. Instead of leaving the room when the set comes on, use the time to bond with your child and teach a few subtle lessons. Many family type shows give both good and bad examples of dating and marriage. Avoid preaching, but an occasional observation can lead to more in depth conversations.
8. Freely share lessons learned from your own dating past or what you have learned from others. My daughter will never forget the story of the “popcorn guy” and what I learned about the need to find an honest and generous man to date and marry. If you were less than godly in your dating past, you do not have to share every detail. You can safely make general comments without going into details about what you did or did not do yourself.
9. Finally don’t be afraid to use a technique known as “repeat, repeat, repeat”. Often called by slightly harsher terms, it is the secret weapon of most good parents. If your child has heard a pithy statement from you a million times, she will probably hear your voice in her head when the situation arises.
The longer explanation of the principles behind the pithy phrase should be given from time to time, but the key to success is to see how many ways you can work these important sayings into any conversation over eighteen or twenty years.
Get creative and use humor if possible. My parents’ favorites were: “Always date a Christian, you can’t control whom you fall in love with.” “It’s best to be friends first.” and the ever popular “Marriage first, kids second (and all that implied)”. It’s a little too early to judge how well I’ve brainwashed – I mean conditioned – my child. I can tell you though; I did follow my parents’ advice when it was time to choose my own husband.
We tend to discuss our child’s future spouse only when she starts bringing home serious contenders. We rarely think about our future grandchildren until our children are adults. Try to help the future generations of your family though, by spending the time now to train your child in how to have a godly marriage.