“The greatest gift a mother and father can give their children is to love their spouse.” I remember hearing that said by a wise, godly man, Jay Fesperman. We were attending a Christian Marriage and Parenting Retreat at the Inn of the Last Resort in Franklin, North Carolina. That phrase struck a chord with me because I had lived in just such a home growing up. It truly was a gift!
When I was seven or eight years old, I remember my mother crying one day after an argument with my father. When dad left the kitchen, I went up to mom and hugged her and said, “Dad is mean to you!” Through her tears her said, “No, Gayle, your Dad is right, I was wrong.” That sent a strong message to me about my mother’s respect for my father. Even when her feelings were hurt, she wanted me to know that my father was worthy of respect. Because of her love and respect for my father, I learned to respect my father and his authority in my life. I knew he wasn’t perfect, but through the way my mother talked about and to my father, I also learned to love and respect my father’s authority in my life.
How does this love and respect between parents affect a child? Why would it be a “gift” to demonstrate mutual love and respect? When children hear and see love and respect verbalized and demonstrated between parents, they are blessed for several reasons:
- children see that love is more than words, it is also demonstrated with actions
- children learn to emulate the respectful behavior of their parents
- children feel a sense of security that is a product of a nurturing, stable home
- children witness respectful conflict resolution
- children establish a sense of the value of healthy relationships
If my mother had put down my dad and spoken with resentment about him, that would have planted seeds of disrespect in my heart. It could have grown into distrust of my father’s love and concern for me.