Over a cup of coffee at Starbucks several years back, I asked Dr. Bill Dougherty one of the nation’s marriage and family researchers this question: “Bill if there is one thing that large family organizations need to focus on to really help families this century, what would it be?” He thought, thought, and thought some more. Then he said: “Helping the American public reconnect marriage and parenting (Fathering).” He went on to explain that our culture has separated, compartmentalized the two. Americans seem to be able to compartmentalize the two “My marriage stinks but I can still be a good parent” or “if I can’t be successful in my marriage I will put all my energy into being a good parent.” The problem with that Bill said was “all the energy then is taken up in parenting and none is left to restore the marriage so it just gets worse.”
We all know great single parents who do a wonderful job with their kids, but we are not talking about that. We are talking about a parent, fathers specifically in a struggling marriage. The truth is, marriage does affect your ability to parent your children. The family is a system. What goes on in one part of the system affects the other. It’s like a mobile hanging over your child’s crib. You disturb one piece, the whole thing is disturbed.
If a marriage is struggling in a home, you can be rest assured that the struggle trickles down to the kids. They know about it and feel it, at any age. Often as a therapist I see out of control behaviors in kids directly tying back to their parents struggling in their marriage. If parents can work on the marriage, they often help “fix” what’s going on with their kids’ unacceptable behaviors.
If you are fatherhood leader, let me encourage you to help Dads realize the connection between their role as a father and their role as a husband. The two go hand in hand. Maybe, the best thing we can do to help dads be better dads is to help teach them how to be a better husband?
Mitch Temple, Exec.Director, FCM
*For more articles to help marriages go here.