As your children shift into the school age and start interacting with children of the opposite gender, they will implement what they have learned at home about male-to-female relationships. Your children have been paying close attention to how you treat the other parent, your spouse.
If your relationship with your spouse has been shaky, your child will take that with them to school. What do I mean by shaky? Well, I mean that there is a lack of trust, little responsibility, and a lot of unnecessary time spent apart, your child will have a likely chance of seeking out relationship companions that are not trustworthy, don’t own up to responsibility, and are physically detached.
Let’s also think of if you have yelled or even threatened to hit your spouse. Even if you didn’t do this in front of your children, it still has an influence on them if they are present, say in their bedroom. If this is the case with your relationship with your spouse, your children, especially your daughters, will lean towards males who are verbally, emotionally, and physically abusive.
If your relationship has been following the “Gottman guidelines” of at least three positive acts for every one negative, your children will have noticed this. If you have been taking your spouse out on dates, buying them flowers, remembering your anniversary, among other things, your children will be more likely to seek out respectful partners.
Of course, there will be the situation where your child gets themselves into an unhealthy relationship, despite your example. Just know that you are their first exposure to a male-female relationship, and despite a poor choice, they will one day come to the realization and desire the relationship that their father and mother had.
We also need to be aware of other influences on the male-female relationship. One cannot omit the outside forces that come into our homes. What kind of shows and movies do you watch in your house, and how are women treated in them? What kinds of video games do you play, and how are the women treated or portrayed in those? How about your music, what do the lyrics contain about relationships? If you view pornography, think of how that will influence your daughter and son of how women should be treated by men. Take all of those into account. Even if you treat your spouse with the utmost respect, but then listen to a song demeaning your relationship to them, there will be a conflict in the messages you are sending to your children.
Make your home and your relationship with your spouse healthy, so that your children can see, hear, and learn how they should be treated. It will greatly affect her relationships for the rest of their life.
***This same article is also found on Essential Fathers and Notes on Parenting.