Here is one husband’s response to this post earlier in the week:
Thank you for this post. Your advice is spot on!
The thing that I want from my wife is input and cooperation, not demands, domination, manipulation or deception.
The former draw me to her, the latter drive me away from her.
I want to reiterate what you say about wives not undermining or overruling their husbands with the children.
The scripture is pretty clear that children are to obey their parents. When my wife overrules or undermines a decision I have made or a command that I have given, she teaches our kids that I am not a competent father and that I should be ignored. Rather than bringing peace and unity to our home, it creates conflict and strife. When I react to her lack of respect, then she goes into attack mode condemning me for my reaction to her sin.
The long term effect this has had is that my children stop listening to me. They just tune me out. I become more and more disengaged and leave the parenting duties to her. Then, when a child is not listening to her, she demands that I support her with the child so that she can regain control with her. My response to my wife is, ‘Why should I do for you, what you never do for me?’ This just invites attack and condemnation.
I don’t think most wives realize the long term consequences of undermining our husbands’ spiritual authority in the family. I know I didn’t until God opened my eyes to all of my disrespect, pride, idolatry of self and being in control, self-righteousness, etc… about 5 years ago.
My husband had become very unplugged with me and our children. I was constantly asking him to do more with us.
I had NO CLUE why he had unplugged. I thought he was just unloving.
Now I know, of course, that I had disrespected him and taken over control. Now I know I wouldn’t listen to him and wouldn’t support his parenting and thought I always “knew best” since I had read more books about parenting. It’s heartbreaking to me now to realize how destructive my attitudes, words and actions were at times back then.
When I began to learn about respect and biblical submission. I seriously felt like I was trying to learn Chinese or some VERY foreign language – without a teacher. That is how little it all made sense to me at first. It took me over 2 years of constant study, prayer and journaling to BEGIN to feel like I remotely had a clue what I was doing.
Soon into my journey into being a godly wife, I began to talk to our children (our son was 7 and our daughter was 2) and say things all throughout the day like:
– God made husbands/dads to be the leaders in the family.
– I was wrong to try to be in charge of things before. I am so sorry. I hurt you and I hurt Daddy by the way I treated Daddy. I don’t want to do that anymore.
– Daddy is in charge now the way God’s Word says he is supposed to be. We will all treat him with respect.
– Please use a respectful tone of voice to Daddy and to me. That wasn’t a respectful tone of voice. Please try saying that again respectfully.
– That was a disrespectful attitude. Please apologize for talking to Daddy/me like that.
– Obey Daddy and Mama because God commands you to obey your parents so that you can please God and you can have a long life.
– If one of us says no to something, don’t ask the other parent. It will be “no” from both of us.
– Your Daddy asked you not to jump on the couch. I know he’s not here right now – but we are going to honor him and obey him whether he is here or not.
– (If a child is slow to obey my husband) You heard what Daddy said. Please obey Daddy now.
– That decision is up to Daddy (for bigger decisions). We will honor whatever he decides. You may ask for what you want respectfully, just one time, and then please accept whatever he decides is best.
CHILDREN LEARN SUBMISSION TO GOD-GIVEN AUTHORITY FROM THE WAY THEIR MOTHERS TREAT THEIR FATHERS
I was shocked. Our children IMMEDIATELY began to be so much more respectful to both of us. It scared me. I finally saw that they imitate my submission to Greg – my words, my tone of voice, my attitude – all of it. That is how they will treat any God-given authority. I am teaching them to either respect and submit to God-given authority or to disrespect and rebel against God-given authority now and in the future by my level of respect and submission to my husband. YIKES!
Eventually, Greg started backing me up, too. Our children obeyed SO MUCH MORE READILY! The respect level went up even more. My husband began to correct our children if they were disrespectful to me. It has been THE BEST THING EVER!!! We are truly a team now. We are united. It has DRASTICALLY impacted our children’s attitudes and behavior. AND – my husband slowly began to plug back into the family. Now – he is such a godly leader and loving dad and husband. He had all of that in him all those first 14+ years of our marriage – I just didn’t understand that I was sabotaging him and our marriage.
“BUT I’M RIGHT!”
What I believe we as wives are doing in situations like this – is I believe we are focusing on the little issue. We believe passionately that we are “right” about whatever this particular little decision is. And we inadvertently make the decision more important than the big picture. We focus so much on the outcome and wanting to do what we believe is best – that we don’t notice how we are sabotaging our marriages, sabotaging our children’s understanding of spiritual authority, wounding our husbands with disrespect. (Submission is not about the husband always being “right”)
Many wives today have never seen a wife respect her husband and honor his leadership – even in the church.
Disrespect for husbands, men and fathers is mainstream today. Respect and biblical submission do not come intuitively to women, especially because we have been so poisoned by the worldly culture around us. We are also all daughters of Eve. We want control. We think we know better than our husbands, and, ultimately – we think we know better than God.
WHAT IF I DISAGREE WITH MY HUSBAND?
Whenever possible, speak to him respectfully in private. It is wise generally not to contradict him in front of the children unless a child is in extreme danger. As much as possible, bring up your concerns VERY respectfully away from the children.
Then, unless he is sinning against them or actually seriously endangering them – please try to support his decision.
Please keep in mind that fathers are often more strict and sometimes a bit more harsh than moms. That does not usually mean you need to interfere. One thing that helps me is to remember this story from someone in my extended family:
A dad told his elementary school sons to keep treading water in the pool. He had them treading water for a long time. Their mom asked him to let them rest after a few minutes. The two boys were getting really tired. The dad refused and kept making them tread water. The mom did not agree, but she did not interfere after that.
The next week, the family was at a river and an undercurrent took these same two boys down the river. They had to tread water for 15 minutes before someone could rescue them.
I love this story – because it reminds me that God may inspire my husband to do things that I may not understand at the time. It is important for me to humbly pray for God to give my husband wisdom to lead us all.
THE MILITARY MODEL (by a Christian man)
The Captain/First Officer model speaks well to this. A good First Officer will always voice her opinions, suggestions and advice to the Captain, so long as it is appropriate and there is time. If he acts on them, great. Otherwise, she obeys and carries out his commands. But unless there is a reason not to voice her opinion, a First Officer should generally offer it in a respectful manner. The key is to be respectful.
I should probably point out that most serious discussions should be held away from children if possible, to maintain harmony. That is how the model works best in the military, and should work in marriage. Likewise, the Captain (husband) shouldn’t dress down his First Officer (wife) in front of their children, and she should never disrespect him or his authority in front of the children either.
Oh, and the same rules that apply to children apply to others outside the family/ship, like extended family or friends.
CHILDREN LEARN WHAT GOD IS LIKE PRIMARILY FROM THEIR FATHER
We as wives dramatically shape our children’s perception, understanding and love and respect for their fathers. AND – how children perceive their fathers POWERFULLY impacts their ability to love, respect and trust God. A child’s view of God is formed in the likeness of his dad.
We as women have INCREDIBLE power to either bless our husbands and children or to destroy our husbands, our marriages and our children’s future relationships in marriage, with their teachers, with government and police authorities, with church leaders, with their bosses, and with God.
With this great power comes immense responsibility. I pray we will use our influence wisely!
If there are extreme circumstances – if your husband is actually abusing your children – please seek godly counsel. If your husband is addicted to drugs/alcohol, has an uncontrolled mental health disorder or is physically violent and causes injury to you or your children, please seek godly help ASAP. Extreme situations like this go beyond the scope of my blog.
Sacred Influence by Gary Thomas has a beautiful example of a wife handling a situation where her husband was too harsh in a very respectful and powerful way.