Society tells you that you should put your kids first. Parents who don’t are considered selfish, even negligent.
If you want to raise your children to be capable adults with healthy relationships, you need to re-evaluate the example you set by putting them ahead of yourself and your marriage. My parenting advice to you is – Don’t put your kids first.
What Happens When You Put Your Kids First
By doting on your child, all their physical needs will certainly be met. But are you really helping their emotional and psychological needs? Let’s consider the effects of putting them first.
It Throws Off the Balance of Authority
When you put your children’s wants and needs before yours, you create an authority imbalance. Once you establish a pattern of putting your children first, they become the leaders and you become the follower.
Children lack the experience, wisdom, and capacity to live independently. Why then, would you put them in charge of our household? Your job is to teach them how to become responsible adults. The best way to do this is leading by example. They will only follow your example, if they regard you as a leader.
It Creates Unrealistic Expectations in Your Children
Outside of your home, how many people will treat your children like they are the center of the universe? Not many.
When your kids get to run the show at home, they often struggle with adjusting to social situations outside the home where they aren’t automatically highly regarded. Sometimes they will learn to adjust their behavior, but other times they become outcasts, or bullies, or they battle depression because the world doesn’t meet their expectations.
It Threatens Their Future Relationships
In a home where mom is constantly putting her own needs behind everyone else’s in the family, children are raised with the belief that sacrifice is a mother’s duty. Do you want to raise daughters who will seek out relationships where they are undervalued? Do you want your sons to seek wives who they can control?
Ideally, your children will pursue relationships that lift them up and are mutually rewarding. To do this, they must seek partners with whom they share mutual respect and admiration. They should be equals, not a superior and a devotee.
What To Do Instead
When I say that you shouldn’t put your kids first, I don’t mean that you shouldn’t tend to their needs at all. THAT would be bad parenting. Your children should still be a priority, just not the TOP priority.
Take Care of Yourself
Make your physical, mental, and emotional health a priority. Not only will this put you in better shape to be a great wife and mother, it will set a good example for your children.
Your children will learn to take care of themselves without waiting for someone else to do it. They’ll also learn to value themselves.
Nurture Your Marriage
The single best way to ensure your children’s current and future happiness is to nurture your relationship with your spouse. Your home environment will be happier and you’ll be setting a wonderful example of healthy relationships for your children.
Notice that I used the term “nurture your marriage” NOT “take care of your spouse.” Putting your spouse’s needs and desires ahead of your own creates many of the same problems that putting your children first does. Instead, show your children what a relationship of mutual respect, commitment, and affection looks like.
Care for Your Children
You can lovingly care for your children and provide for their needs without letting them run your life. Provide for their needs and make time for them so that they know they are loved and valued.
If you’re confused about the difference between caring for your children and putting them first, consider these examples:
- At mealtime, a caring mother makes sure she provides a healthy meal for her family. A mother who puts her children first, caters the meal to their demands.
- At chore time, a caring mother assigns chores and checks on family members to ensure they are done well. A mother who puts her children first, either doesn’t assign chores (since it’s “her job” to do them) or let’s the kids get away with doing them poorly.
- When a child forgets his assignment at home, the mother who puts her child first cancels her plans and rushes the assignment to school while the caring mother let’s her child bear the consequences for his mistake.
What is right for one family isn’t always right for another family. This article isn’t intended to shame any parent or condone your behavior. Instead, I hope it opens your eyes to the possibility that your actions might have different results than you expect.