On a regular basis I will hear from a parent, “My child is disrespectful to me or to my spouse and I don’t know what to do about it.” Or I’ll hear this from someone, “I can’t seem to connect with my spouse. We don’t connect sexually. We don’t connect emotionally or relationally.”
What is going on? I’m about to pull my hair out. I don’t know what to do.
Your kids reaction to you is a mirror of how they see you react to your spouse.
Here’s an example.
I knew a couple who made fun of each other. It was how, they would say, “joked with each other.” The problem was, everything they said to the other person had a little bit of truth in it. “We’re always late because of this one” (laughter). “Wow, your husband does that, wish my husband wasn’t so lazy” (laughter). “Sweetie, look at what Joe got for Sue. Remember when you got me a necklace 5 years ago” (laughter). “So, you’re the couple that has sex 5 times a week. I’ve heard about couples like that. What’s that like?” (laughter).
Those are real lines that I’ve sat and heard a person say in front of their spouse and a group. Consequently, those aren’t even the worse ones.
Now, each time the whole group laughed (some nervously).
Each time and don’t miss this: There was truth in each statement.
Couples use joking and making fun of their spouse as a way of communicating truth. Now, this is a destructive and unhealthy way to communicate truth, but nevertheless a powerful way.
The problem is that over time, it is disrespectful, it tears the other down and it does not build oneness in your marriage. Eventually, the only communication that happens in your marriage is nagging, nitpicking and making fun.
Because your spouse will reciprocate.
If you have kids, this gets magnified.
Your child will see how you tear down your husband, how you make fun of your wife and do you know what they will think? That’s how I communicate to mom or dad.
The respect a child shows a parent will always be less than the respect a husband gives his wife, or a wife gives to her husband. Always.
So, back to the statement at the beginning.
Every time I hear those statements, my heart breaks. It means people are miserable. It means that the picture of the gospel that marriage is supposed to be is broken to the world around it. It means couples aren’t communicating well. That couples aren’t fighting well.
It also means that as children watch, the cycle will most likely continue. They will see how to relate to their parents (in an unhealthy and disrespectful way). Boys will see how his mom treats her husband with disrespect and condescension and think, “If I want a woman to respect me, I need to dominate her, I need to be rough with her” instead of loving and serving her. Daughters will watch her father disrespect her mom and think, “that is how men treat women, they make fun, they put down, they do not show love and respect to women.”
When moving from this, when a child disrespects a parent, it is best if the other parent correct the child. Simply saying, “That’s not how we talk to daddy, we talk to him with respect.” If the child is older and responds with how disrespectful you are. Take the opportunity to admit your sin to your child and apologize. Yes, be angry at their sin, but realize their sin is simply from watching you.
If you are not proactive, this cycle will just continue and that is disastrous to your marriage and family (and one day to the marriage of your child).
If you aren’t careful, this is the one thing that will destroy your marriage (and your family) and there is a good chance you don’t realize it.