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Mormon Parenting: Is 'marriaging' more important for children than parenting?

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 15 2013 6:55 p.m. MST

It seems to us that there are more parents who are working conscientiously on being good parents than there are those working with equal diligence and commitment on being good marriage partners.

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In a recent Deseret News article titled “Good romantic partners are likely to be good parents,” clear connections are made between how well people do in their marriage relationship and how good they are at parenting. The article references a British study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

"A father who has a good relationship with the mother of his children is more likely to be involved and to spend time with his children and to have children who are psychologically and emotionally healthier," said W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and one of that study's authors. "Indeed, the quality of the marriage relationship affects the parenting behavior of both parents."

It seems obvious when you think about it — someone who is good at one relationship is more likely to be good at others. But it is more than that. When a father and mother are in love and at peace with each other, and in sync in how they think about things, they become far more capable parents and far more enthusiastic and involved parents. The security of a good marriage relationship gives parents the confidence and clarity to develop great relationships with their kids.

And parents who are “on the same page” obviously are more consistent with their children and more in agreement on everything from discipline to motivation.

The thing is, as we observe families, it seems to us that there are more parents who are working conscientiously on being good parents than there are those working with equal diligence and commitment on being good marriage partners. It’s like “parenting” is some defined skill-set on which people can work and progress and constantly try to get better at, while being a husband or wife is just a role that is too often taken for granted and not developed or perfected in any conscious way.

And this is a problem!

It’s a little like when the flight attendant says, “Put on your own oxygen mask first and then assist your children.” Take care of your marriage first and then take care of your kids.

We love the old saying, “The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother, and the best thing a mom can do for her kids is to love their dad.”

Nothing gives children more security than seeing how much in love their parents are. If you want to see warm, secure, delighted smiles spread across your children’s faces, grab your partner and have a big, long kiss right in front of those kids.

Of course, there are wonderful, stalwart single parents doing a heroic and effective job of parenting, and in some ways the relationship between a single parent and children is refreshingly simple and straightforward — it is just that parent and that child, and often they are everything to each other.

But to those fortunate enough to belong to two-parent families, the relationship between those two parents is the most important relationship in the family, and how hard it is worked on is a huge factor in the well-being of the children, in the happiness of the parents and in the security felt by all in the household.

We like the word “parenting” because it implies an active effort to develop and work on a skill set. Maybe we need a similar word for our most important relationship. Maybe we should all work harder at “marriaging,” with the knowledge that doing well at that may be the key to doing well at parenting.

Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit them anytime at www.EyresFreeBooks.com or at www.valuesparenting.com.

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