Acclaimed researcher John Gottman found that criticizing your partner (along with contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling) is one key predictor of divorce. The opposite of criticism is noting positives, complimenting, or highlighting great characteristics when you are alone or with others. Pointing out your partner’s good traits or behaviors in front of your kids is one powerful way to be kind, warm, and affectionate —a relationship "master" instead of a "disaster."

Here are 6 ways to support the relationship between your partner and your kids:

1.) Say thank you to your partner in front of your kids and encourage them to do the same.

  • Thanks for making this delicious dinner, Sue. Doesn’t your mom cook such good food for all of us?
  • Thanks to your mom for fixing your bike. Isn’t she so handy? She can really fix so many different things!
  • Dad is busy cleaning again. See how fast he cleaned the playroom? Thanks to him, now we really have room to run around!

2.) Point out to your kids the positive traits and behaviors of your partner.

  • Wow, your mom took you to the zoo today? What a fun mom! That sure was nice of her to show you all those cool animals!
  • Doesn’t Dad do the funniest voices when he’s reading you books? He’s so great to read books with, isn’t he?
  • I see how Mom brushes your hair very gently and holds it so it doesn’t hurt. Now your hair looks shiny and smooth.
  • Look how Dad packed the whole car while we were sleeping so we could leave right away for vacation in the morning. He was really working hard last night so we could go on this trip!
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3.) Help your kids make cards and art projects for your partner.

  • Dad is going to love this card we’re making for him with Cheerios and glue! Let’s put it on the table so you can give it to him right when he walks in the door!
  • Mom is going to be so excited when she sees this painting of a cake we made just for her birthday! I bet she never got one of these before.
  • I know, let’s make a thank you card for those delicious hot dogs Dad grilled for us tonight. Should we use crayons or markers?
  • I can’t wait for you to give these macaroni necklaces to Mom. They are really colorful.

4.) Tell your children detailed, endearing, or humorous stories about your partner’s past.

  • You know, this one time I was sick and Mom took really good care of me. She even made me a get-well present with homemade chicken soup and a surprise. Do you know what the surprise was?
  • Your dad used to be a catcher in baseball games, just like that guy in the picture in this book. He was so good at throwing that he could throw that ball so hard all the way across the whole field. And one time when he was batting I even saw him whack it over the fence!

5.) Make room in your schedule for your partner to take each child out for some special one-on-one time.

  • Why don’t you take John out to the football game, just the two of you? I can stay home with our younger two.
  • If you want to just take Abby to the beach today, I will take John to Target with me.

6.) Let your kids help you surprise your partner.

  • Hey, I’ve got a great idea! Let’s make Mom breakfast in bed this morning. She will love that! Do you want to help me make the pancakes? You could even bring her the tray.
  • Why don’t we wash Daddy’s car while he’s at work? He would be so surprised when he gets home! Here, you can spray the hose.

Support for your partner’s relationship with your children has far-reaching effects. You build family trust, closeness, and kindness. Drawing your attention to the good in your partner makes you appreciate them even more. Most importantly, your children begin their lives seeing their other parent reflected in the best light—the shining one you cast on them. 

Copyright by Erin Leyba, LCSW, PhD.

Erin Leyba, LCSW, PhD, author of Joy Fixes for Weary Parents (2017), is a counselor for individuals and couples in Chicago's western suburbs www.erinleyba.com. Get her blog at www.thejoyfix.com or follow her on Facebook.

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