The Silent (Marriage) Killer: Child Centered Homes

Every parent wants to see their child grow up to be happy and successful.  Parents want to teach their kids how to be independent and gain autonomy.  And no one wants to be the parent to rain on anyone’s parade, or feel like they are the responsible for the next household meltdown.  However, these fears and feelings can result in a child-centered household, which can be ultimately more damaging for not only your child, but your marriage as well. Below is a brief overview of what a “Child-Center” home looks like, the negative impact of a Child-Centered Home, as well as tips on how to avoid or fix a Child-Centered Home.

Evidence that your Household is Child-Centered

  • Your children feel comfortable coming into your bedroom anytime they want
  • You avoid discipling your children in fear that you will hurt their feelings
  • You are unable to carry on an adult conversation if your children are in the room
  • Your children talk-back, or resist your attempts to parent, correct, or discipline them
  • You pay your children to do basic chores
  • You cook different foods for your child when it is time to eat as a family
  • You struggle to say ‘no’ to your kids
  • Your children are constantly interrupting you when you are attempting to have conversations with another person
  • You avoid going out to eat, or attending events in fear that your children will not behave
  • Your house is covered in your child’s things, even sometimes to the point that you avoid inviting guests over
  • You ‘protect’ your children from experiencing the consequences of their own actions, or you tend to sugarcoat or avoid having difficult conversations with them

What is Wrong With This?

There are many parents who are probably reading these things and thinking “that sounds like our house, and we are doing just fine.” Maybe, but chances are if that thought comes to mind it is because you correlate a smiling child to feeling like you have done your job as a parent. Unfortunately, as wonderful as it is to see a happy and smiling child, are many issues with this type of home.  Below are some of the negative consequences of a child-centered home:

Children End Up Developing A Belief That The World Revolves Around Them, And Will Not Learn To Cope With Rejection.

They will not develop appropriate skills to cope with the consequences of bad behavior. Eventually they are going to experience life events such as a bad grade in school, or not getting the first job (or second, or third) that they apply to, or not making the sport team they want,  and they will have not developed ways to cope with rejection. In addition, by handing things to children without really making them work for it, prevents them from going after the things they want in life, like going to college, joining that club, applying for that internship down the road.  They will not get in the habit of seeking out opportunities.  Although it is important that children are encouraged to do and be their best, there is something to say about making it known that there is always going to be someone smarter, faster, better, etc., than them, and to be okay with that, and to learn to accept that everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses.

Children Will Struggle To Ever Leave Their Comfort Zones, And Will Fail To Learn How To Socialize Effectively With Others, Or Persist In Difficult Situations.

If children are constantly making the decisions in life, they are only going to choose decisions that they are comfortable with and that benefit themselves.  This results in a lack of ability to cope with difficult or uncomfortable situations. Children need to learn about things that they do not have interest in, and partake in activities that they dislike or bore them. There are going to be many instances in life that require that of people, and It becomes a very important skill to develop. If this seems silly, think about the last time you were speaking to someone and it became clear early on that they were not interested, and eventually cut you off. Do not let that become your child. Or better yet, think about the last time you talked someone’s ear off, and they were polite enough to listen, and how much you appreciated them listening. Instill that in your kids.

Marriages And Relationships Fail In Child-Centered Households.

It is just that simple. That may not mean that a couple is going to file for divorce (although that is very common) but it certainly means that spouses or partners are going to struggle to create deeper connections and maintain a sense of intimacy in their marriage. Couples also are likely to have tension build up over time due to placing children’s needs above their own, or will simply will lose the time and energy to focus on their spouse, as they spend too much time focusing on the children. Even things as simple as not being able to carry on conversations without being interrupted, or being able to go out for date night, can cause a serious strain on a relationship. The job and role of parents is to raise happy and confident children that are capable of becoming independent and self-sufficient adults. Your children will eventually move out of the home and will create a life for themselves. Your marriage is there to stay. Your marriage needs to be the priority.

How to Fix a Child-Center Home, or How to Avoid It?

  1. Sit down with your spouse, and have a serious discussion. Are things really ‘fine’? Ask your spouse, when you both got married, was a  ‘fine’ marriage, and a ‘fine’ family-life really what you had in mind? Does your spouse really think it is ‘fine’? It is time to make your marriage the priority again.
  2. Set boundaries with your children. These need to be clear. Label areas of the home as ‘off-limits’, determine what quiet hours will be, establish rules for putting toys away and cleaning up after an activity. Children thrive when there are rules and boundaries put in place.
  3. Promote conversations that are not child-centered. This doesn’t mean do not ask about their day, or things they did that were kid-activities, but make sure they are asking about other people’s days, and paying equal amounts of attention to others when they talk. Encourage them to bring up relatable topics.
  4. Make chores the prerequisite to TV or enjoying an activity and not the opportunity to earn money. If your children want to earn money, that is fine. However, allow them to earn money for doing household activities that go beyond daily responsibilities.
  5. Make completing homework your child’s responsibility, and allow them learn the feeling of accomplishment when they are able to complete it alone, or allow them to learn the consequences of not getting it done.
  6. Stop asking for your children’s opinions on decisions that affect more than just them. If you want to give your children a sense of autonomy, allow them to choose between two shirts to wear for the day. Allow them to decide if they are going to wear their hair up or down. Allow them to choose which craft to make. Do not let them choose if they make their bed before or after watching a show or cleaning their room before or after they play outside.
  7. Make it clear that what you as a parent says, goes and that a child does not get an equal voice in family decisions. Break the habit of continually explaining yourself to your child- once or twice is enough.
  8. Be kind when communicating these changes to your child. Although it is important to be stern with these new rules, communicate them kindly and patiently once. Ask questions and give examples to make sure they understand. After that, there should be no excuse for behaviors to continue, and be sure to enforce the consequences that you and your spouse agreed upon.

Final Thoughts

The point of addressing a Child-Centered household is not to put a damper on your child’s ability to be a kid, but it is to teach them that behind all success in life, there is going to be hard work involved. It is to teach them that earning things feels so much better than being given things. It is to teach them to become good listeners, and good friends. It is to teach them all the things you feel like your parents taught you, and most importantly, it will improve, if not save your marriage.