Stop Putting Your Kids First

stop putting your kids first

Imagine this: A man proposes to the woman he loves. She excitedly accepts. But just as he’s about to slip the diamond ring on her finger, he says: “I think it’s only fair to tell you as soon as we have a child, I’m moving you down the ladder of my affections. Enjoy top rung while you’ve got it. Depending on how many kids we have, you could lose big; but don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.”

Do you think that woman would be so excited to accept a ring after that speech? Not if she’s smart. But women do this, essentially, to men all the time. Worse, they don’t warn them it’s coming.

It’s not right or fair. When a man and a woman marry, their relationship must remain primary when children come. And it’s very important it does for at least these reasons:

  • It’s the parent’s responsibility to model a healthy husband/wife relationship to their children. Your home is where they learn how to be a loving wife or husband.
  • When children realize they rank higher in importance than their father, they learn to work it. Mom is manipulated and Dad is marginalized.
  • When children usurp a husband’s place in the priority of importance, affections, and attention, the marital relationship is the loser. There’s a reason so many divorces take place after the children grow up. It’s hard to make love last when you’ve put your kids first.

I’m not saying infants and little toddlers aren’t exhausting, high-maintenance people. Their needs are paramount because they can’t do basics for themselves. If you don’t provide all they need, you go to jail. I raised infants and toddlers. I get it.

What I am saying is children need to know, as soon as they can know it, that they may be your little prince/princess, but they are nobody’s king/queen. Your home is the best place for them to learn their place because as soon as they step outside your walls, no one else will treat your kid like a monarch. The world has a word for kids who haven’t been taught they’re not the center of the universe: brat. You’ve known brats. The world has a word for kids who haven’t been taught they’re not the center of the universe: brat. Click To Tweet

A practical example

So here’s an example of what I’m talking about looks like in everyday life. The other day my daughter was cooking supper in the kitchen when her husband walked in, scooped her close, and began to dance with her. Their 6-year-old son came up and hugged both their legs – wanting to join in. The kid’s-come-first crowd would think: “That’s great! Let the kid have what he wants and bring him into the circle of love.” But my son-in-law recognized it as a teachable moment for his son. He shooed him away declaring: “This is daddy’s time with mommy!”

Was the 6-year old disappointed? Yeah, a bit. But what did he learn? He learned he’s not king. He learned dad values and protects his share of mom’s attentions and affections. And he learned that if dad honors mom with value, dad probably expects he should too. (And if it had been his mother that shooed him away, he’d have learned the same things from her angle.)

My grandson probably couldn’t verbalize all that, but it’ll process in his mind. Any temporary disappointment pales in comparison to the emotional security gained in knowing his parents are primarily devoted to each other. Besides, he knows it’s not an all or nothing deal for him. A child can cope with the idea they’re not loved best if they still know they’re loved well.A child can cope with the idea they're not loved best if they still know they're loved well. Click To Tweet

The added challenges in blended families

The temptation to put children first is higher in blended families than homes of origin. Parents who bring children into a second marriage can also bring feelings of guilt (regardless of their divorce circumstances.) They fall into the trap of overcompensating and convince themselves putting their kids first is the noble thing to do. And yet, it’s even more critical to stop putting your kids first in a subsequent marriage.

I’ll write about why and what it takes to successfully navigate this trap in my next post.

kids first

  • I really like this perspective. I am not a mom but I feel like myself and a lot of others would struggle to implement this but I definitely like it and think it is very important!

    • Alexandra T Armstrong

      Your instincts are good, Jill. It can be a struggle at times – like when you think your husband is being a jerk, it’s easy to escape into your relationship with your children (especially young ones) who think you’re pure goodness. Not enough women have the fortitude to resist that temptation because it’s never good for the kids in the long run. Thanks for your insightful comment!

  • Great perspective! It’s not good for them when we hover and don’t have a normal adult life outside of them!

    • Alexandra T Armstrong

      Thanks, Allison. You’re right. How are kids going to make mistakes (and learn from them) with helicopter parents? 😉

  • I love this perspective. I haven’t ever really thought about this before because I’ve seen so many mothers put their children first, and fathers too, that the relationship between the spouses struggle. I think this is so good to remember, and I hope to do this when I have children in the future.

    • Alexandra T Armstrong

      Yup, it sure can be fathers too, Taylor. But since my blog is called Wife Sense, I don’t assume too many men read it (besides my Gary who is obligated to) so I usually address women. 🙂

  • There are many schools of thought on this topic. I tend to agree with this one more, though… the reason being – if you stop what you’re doing with your spouse when your child demands attention, they’ll always expect it… and your spouse will start feeling slighted. This WILL cause problems for everyone in the future.
    Great article! Thanks for sharing your perspective!

    • Alexandra T Armstrong

      You’re right about there being other “schools of thought”, Patrick. But I’ve seen too many marriages crumble from neglect because the kids came first. There’s too much at stake to try to appease the climate of our culture. Thanks for your comment!

  • This post came in handy just in time for me. We are expecting our first child in just 3 weeks.

    Amanda ||

    • Alexandra T Armstrong

      Congratulations to you and your husband – what an exciting time!

  • I couldn’t agree more. This is advice that all parents should listen to carefully, especially in this age of entitled children.

    • Alexandra T Armstrong

      Thank you, Jackie!

  • I love this and am so glad you wrote about this topic! I couldn’t agree more!

    • Alexandra T Armstrong

      Thank you so much, Jehava! Blessings to you.

  • When kids enter a relationship it gets challenging to maintain the usual way of life. It’s important to put yourself first or you run the risk of losing sight of yourself and your relationship.

    • Alexandra T Armstrong

      You’re right. You start out with that man, you want to end with that man. 🙂

  • Such a great post and something I need in my life. I guess as moms, it may be hard to realize that we are all putting our kids first and our husbands second. This is a great reminder that we shouldn’t.

    Belle | One Awesome Momma

  • james pruett

    Its also important to downsize so they can’t move back in

    • Alexandra T Armstrong

      Yeah, about that…we downsized 2 years ago and 4 months later, in moves our daughter’s family of 5. Still with us! (Son-in-law graduates from seminary in May – Thank You, Jesus!)

  • Stephenie – Blended Life Happy Wife

    I don’t think it has to be all or nothing either way. I think you can find ways to prioritize your spouse at the right times and your children at the right times without ever leaving anyone behind or feeling less. We have managed in our blended family to treat all the children the same, but my husband and I are agreed that the children need to come first at times and our relationship is strong enough to handle it. My first marriage it wasn’t handled so well and it indeed was a major cause to the failure of that relationship. I feel fortunate that it works well for us in this marriage . Thank you for a very thought provoking post,and linking it to the #allformamas link party it is a subject that can go very bad it not handled well. I’m sure many moms will benefit from reading this post. I will pin and google + this post