I received a question from a mother who is struggling with her husband not being motivated or involved in family life. This is OUR response.
Dear Motivated Mother:
My name is Spencer Peck; I am Nicholeen Peck’s husband. I have read your letter to her and would like to offer some insight from a man’s point of view if I may. First, please know that you are not alone, by any stretch of the imagination, in your present dilemma. The story of your husband sounds just like me coming home from work when we were first married. I did not want anything to do with the children, or the parenting. I was very much into myself, just ask my wife. I did not have a vision of what I wanted for my family, I just figured that we would raise children the same way we were raised. Growing up, my father, I, and my brother would come home from church, plop down and watch whatever football game was on. There seemed to be nothing wrong with this at the time. My mother would be in the kitchen making dinner and let us know when it was ready. Life seemed to be carefree and happy. All was well, right?
After we were married for a few years, we started talking about what we should do differently, if anything, as parents of our young family and what our focus and vision should be. I thought everything was ok, but had no idea what a wonderful and patient wife I had been fortunate enough to marry. She was the first to capture a vision for our family. She was the first to want to home school. She was the first to ask me what I thought of this. Initially, I did not support the idea of home schooling, and she soon convinced me that it would be the right thing to do. It was her, through years of coaxing, who got me to turn off the TV and start spending real quality time with my children. It was her who got us together most nights for prayer and scripture study. Any of this sound familiar? What I am saying is that you sound much like the special lady I married. As she subtly instilled vision and focus into my mind, in a loving way, my focus eventually started to change.
Over time, I gained a love for reading and studying that I had never experienced before in my life. I gained an urge to spend time with my children, and it didn’t matter what we were doing. I am a small business owner and time with my children is becoming increasingly hard to come by. The time I spend with them now takes on a more crucial meaning because I know that I don’t have many more years with them before they are gone. I love to read to them, wrestle with them, sing with them, take them to work with me occasionally so they can have an appreciation for what I do and can proudly tell others of it. If you are wondering, I own my own plumbing company in Tooele. I have the luxury of taking my son and sometimes my oldest daughter with me. My oldest daughter set her first toilet by herself not too long ago, and you should have seen the smile on her face. I’m sorry if this sounds like a shameless plug.
The point is that you sound like you are doing everything right and it may take some time for your husband to come around. Many men are stubborn and set in their ways, like myself, and it takes a loving and patient wife to give them vision for themselves and their children. You’ve heard of “Inspire, not Require”. If you continue to instill a vision into your children’s mind, eventually your husband will come around. Subtly instill it into his mind also, and you will find that soon, the TV will go off, dad will be reading and spending time with the children, because he will realize how important they are and the short time he has with them also. He will take a more active role in the nurturing and teaching of the children. Please realize, my wife had to mentor me from ground zero to start reading the books that would help me get to where I needed to be, and I have a long way to go still. Your husband is a good man, which is why you married him. I agree that TV is evil and addictive. We have family movie night on Friday night and that is usually the only time the box is on. My children and I crave that time together. As we speak, my oldest daughter is reading to her little sister before they go to bed and they love that time.
I know this is a lot to consider. I guess my point is that all men are teachable, but it must come with love, patience and a knowledge that if you are doing the right things, they will eventually come around. Please don’t give up. I know full well that raising a family is hard, and raising a husband can be even harder. I am not there yet, but hopefully, I’ve got a good start. My wife would tell you that there are still many things that I should fix.
We love you and support all you are doing and know that you and your children will be rewarded far beyond what we can imagine. You are fighting a good fight and the tide will turn if you will persevere. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to share some insights with you, I hope they will help in some way. Keep up the good work, it will pay off, trust me.
So, what did I do to inspire Spencer to turn off the TV and support the family? There have been so many conversations and little things over the years I can’t possibly list them all.
#1- God First
Since it all starts with your relationship with God, you should probably fast and pray for his heart to be softened and ready for you to talk to him. Make sure that you feel the spirit speaking to you daily and you are in the habit of following it. If you ever don’t feel it, pray until you feel it again. Constantly talk to your children about what the spirit feels like. Tell them when it is not with you and tell them when you feel it there. Help them learn to feel it. This will be your biggest protection from them following his example and your biggest tool in helping him quit his addiction.
Never miss personal prayers or scripture study. Those personal moments draw you closer to God and are a quiet example to him of what you wish he would do even though you are not saying it. No matter how tired you are, never miss!
#2-Let him fail
As mothers we get into the habit of making sure everything in our family goes right all the time. We don’t want anyone to suffer or look bad to others. Sometimes this is damaging to our husbands because they soon learn from us that we will make sure everything is all well at home all the time so that they don’t need to take responsibility for things.
A few years into marriage, I realized that if I didn’t let my husband make his own choices and fail, then I was actually crippling him. Some years ago, my husband was busy with work the month before Christmas. I asked him if we could talk over the weekly schedule for a minute. He snapped at me and said, “I will not be at anything. I am far to busy, so don’t even talk to me about it.” I decided not to argue or plead or anything of the kind. He had communicated clearly to me what he wanted and he had to taste his own failure of his own choosing. I decided to go along with the holiday recitals, etc. without him, per his request. I chose to have a good supportive attitude about it, not resentful.
My daughters were in the Nutcracker for their first time. It was a special night, and the ONLY performance. They kept asking if Daddy was coming and I said I don’t know. He didn’t show, of course. When we walked in the door from the performance there was dad reading a book on the couch, by himself. This is where he tasted his own failure as a father. My daughters said, “Dad, why didn’t you come to our Nutcracker performance? You were the only dad not there. All of the other dads gave their daughters flowers and hugs. You were just sitting here reading.” Then they began to cry, and ran off.
My husband asked me why I hadn’t told him about their performance. I reminded him that I had tried and what his response was. I painted the horrible picture of him disappointing his children and how many times they asked for him as vividly as possible. I told him that they had a vision of what this special night would be like and that their dreams were dashed. I didn’t have to get mad at him or play I told you so, he felt all he needed to feel. He went to their rooms and tried to make peace with them. The next day they got flowers delivered to our home, and so did I. He likes to know what’s happening on the family schedule now. Let the spirit tell you when he needs to fail.
Don’t protect him; it only enables him.
#3-Tell him what they think of him
On a few occasions I felt in necessary to tell Spencer what my children think of him, or how they view him. I told him once about how they never wanted to go to him for comfort, because they sensed that he didn’t really care about them like I did. He became more sensitive after that. I told him that they look at me as the smart one and that is a tragedy, because, in adolescence, every young person looks at what there father is and has become as a compass for life. I asked him to think about what he wanted them to be like when they grow up and ask himself if he is really that adult. I suggested that he might want to behave like a scholar, even if he wasn’t one yet. This way they wouldn’t look at him as stupid, they would use him for a vision for their future. He read all the time after this.
I had to tell my husband that my children didn’t respect him and probably wouldn’t unless he decided to respect their things. He had a problem throwing their things away, because he considered it clutter. Neat freaks are hard. We are still working on this one, but he is getting better.
The list could go on. The idea is to perceive what your children think of him and tell him just what they think. I promise you that he has a different picture of himself than they have of him and the truth will be sobering. The trick is to tell him all of these things in a way that shows concern for his relationship with his children not reproach or disappointment. Tell him you try to defend him, but they think…. Tell him it hurts you to know that they like you better than him. Tell him you don’t want that kind of competitive feeling in the family. Then see if he will set a plan.
#4-Tell him about you
I remember at least two conversations with my husband when we were just talking calmly with each other about things, when I felt impressed to tell him what my vision for my husband was before I got married. I told him that I wanted to marry a man who loved God more than he loved me. I had a vision of a man who would take my hand each night and ask to pray with me. I told him how romantic this idea was to me. I told him I new when I was young that I wanted a man that I could look up to. I wanted a leader. I then VERY SHORTLY said that I still want those things. (Never lecture your husband.) I asked him if he could dedicate himself more to talking with God and reading His inspired words. I told him that I find it very attractive if a man has purpose and mission in life. I then asked him if there was anything I could do to help him be this man that I know I can look up to someday, instead of assuming the role of leader myself. These conversations gave great vision to my husband. He didn’t know what I really wanted from him. He didn’t realize that he had given up his leadership role in the family when he became apathetic and addicted to TV. This was eye opening to him.
It is also important to note that since I knew my husband likes me to feel attracted to him, I told him a few times that it is a real “turn off” to see him addicted to the TV, etc.
#5-Help him find the spirit
My husband didn’t realize that the choices he was making were driving the spirit away. He was just doing the things he saw his father do. I decided to bring up the feeling of the spirit as a topic in a family meeting. We all talked about what the spirit feels like and where the spirit will stay and won’t stay. We also talked about how distraction and laziness, selfishness, etc drive the spirit out. Then I asked if we could make some family rules to help keep the spirit in our house. We came up with some, including our TV/media rules and standards. This was the beginning of our Family Standard that I spoke of in the seminar.
Then you MUST be vigilant in telling the family when you don’t and do feel the spirit all the time. Help them all learn to feel it. We want that for our children anyway. Develop an attitude of helping each other keep the spirit. Suggest that the children even remind the parents about when the spirit is gone, or when they might be doing something that makes the spirit leave the home. Empower them all to follow the spirit.
This one factor should make a huge impact on him. It gives vision.
#6-Put him in charge
Give your husband a stewardship that you vow to yourself that you will not interfere with. My husband is a great speller, and I am an awful one, so I asked him if he would try to inspire the children to spell better and learn how to build things and do yard work, to begin with. He said that he would and did a pretty good job of it. I asked him from time to time if he would help so and so with this word or that, because I wasn’t good in that area. If my children ever asked how to spell a word when dad was home, I told them to go ask him, because he was such a great speller. He found a little direction and confidence. (You might be surprised to know that many men feel that they will do everything with the home or children wrong, so they better stay out of it.)
A little while later, I told him I was having a problem inspiring my children to study certain subjects. I also expressed that for their relationships to be close, he and the children needed to have weekly private talks. I asked him to be in charge of having mentor sessions with the children and helping them set goals and be someone to report to. I told him that I would support what they decided as well as I could during the week. After you and your husband have decided upon each other’s stewardships, then check up on each other at least once per week. (Note: ask him what he wants you to be a steward over.)
#7-Couple’s Meetings and Prayer
The final step is to have regular couple’s meetings. I discussed these in my seminar. If you need clarity, let me know. If your husband resists organization, then just have causal couple’s meetings while on a date or something. As you get going and need to make a decision on something, ask him if he will pray with you right then about the thing you are trying to decide upon, so that God will have his input in your family decision.
This is what I did to inspire Spencer to want couple’s meetings:
I really wanted my husband to want to lead our weekly mentor sessions, couples meeting, and our family meeting, because I knew that if I could have him own those meetings then he would see himself as the person in charge of making the family run effectively. If he initiated the meetings then I wouldn’t be fighting his ‘play-play’ attitude when it was time to put the kids to bed any more, among other things that were family structure problems, because he was in charge of our family structure.
For years Spencer was quite dedicated to family meetings and mentor sessions, but he had a hard time wanting to have couple’s meetings. I really wanted couple’s meeting, because I knew it would add so much strength to our home’s structure. His reluctance frustrated me. I decided to show him how great a couple’s meeting could be.
It was a Saturday afternoon. Spencer had been trying to keep the children focused on their chores. He was frustrated. He sat down on the couch and gave a big sigh.
From the sink I asked him, “What do you want?”
“What do you mean by that?” he questioned. “That’s a pretty broad question.”
I gave more insight by asking, “What do you want organizationally for our family?”
He responded with, “Well, right now I just want our children to do their chores. They are just not motivated. I don’t know what else to do.”
“Well, you have been motivating with fear lately. And, fear is an effective human motivator, but it is only temporary. Instead of using fear, use vision. If they catch the vision of the work, then they will follow through with the chores.” I said.
“How do I give them vision?”
“If, as parents we went to bed on time and woke up on time we would be more organized. Then, when it becomes time to work, we can work with them. If we work along side the children, they will see the vision of work. They will see a job well done, because we will be showing them how to do good work. The best thing is that if we work with the children, we can praise them more; and praise equals motivation. When we are leaving them alone to work, then we only tell them when they are off task. If we work with them, we can encourage them the whole time during the chore.” He completely agreed, and we decided on a plan that would solve our problem.
I then said, “Honey, if we discuss like this on a regular basis in couple’s meeting, then we can both get more of the things we want in the family. He was finally sold on couple’s meetings. He had to see our communication really work first.
I have rules for myself to help my husband maintain ownership of this meeting.
1. Don’t say too much
2. Give him equal time
3. Let or encourage him to be in charge
4. Suggest things in a non-confrontational way
By just asking my husband what he wants I am able to better steer the family toward my vision. Both husband and wife must have open dialog about what they want in life to have a connected atmosphere at home. In the above experience I showed him that planned communication worked. Then I made a non-threatening observation. He saw that if we met and talked regularly, he could get more of what he wanted. Life would be better. It is also important to note that I spoke to him about what he wanted at a time when he would be open to new vision. If I would have asked right after a frustrating time of trying to get all the kids in bed, he would have thought I was trying to tell him what to do again.
I had to have patience. After praying for the right time to present itself, the only thing I could do was wait. I waited until we were comfortably and casually just talking together as husband and wife. By waiting for this intimate time to talk to him, I silently communicate to him that I really want to know what I can do as the person who loves him, to serve him and make him happy. In my case, it was helpful to also say a silent prayer for the right tone to come across. I have noticed with myself, that there are times when I give someone an impression that I didn’t mean to give because either my voice tone is off or the setting I chose to say something was not the appropriate setting and so I am misunderstood.
A random thought that I feel should always be said in these circumstances:
*I am going to throw another thought out here, because I have seen this lately in lots of homes in our state and nation. I don’t pretend to know and certainly don’t mean to offend or misunderstand. I think I understand you perfectly, but want to throw out another possibility as a cautionary measure. TV is an addictive substance, just like pornography. Pornography makes people selfish; only thinking and caring about how the body feels. People who view pornography become disconnected from family and loved ones, because they are in a new world, which is special and all their own. Pornography is a secret addiction that ruins families and marriages. TV can act the same as pornography even though it isn’t secret. To turn off a TV is like moving to a foreign land. Books and personal discipline seem scary to lots of people when compared with the ease and brainlessness of viewing TV. People also become so personally attached to what they view that they will defend their viewing choices without even rationally thinking what viewing those things could do to them.
There are two things that you said that make me think of the following questions. You said that he is disconnected from family and that he would rather stay home than go on family outings etc. Why? What is so great at home alone? Is he depressed? Has he lost the spirit and feels uncomfortable in places of light? If not, what does your husband do when he is home alone? (Hopefully nothing more than TV, but you never know, if he has thrown out vision for it.)This is all hypothetical of course.
I had to bring this up because I have recently known of many homes that are struggling because of pornography addictions and I wouldn’t want to not say something just because of the touchy nature of pornography. This may never apply to you, but at least you had the opportunity to rule it out. Many families don’t get the opportunity to fix this until it is too late. I wouldn’t want that for anyone, but sometimes we never think someone we love has a problem.
Well, Spencer and I just wrote you a 7 page book. I hope it is helpful. Cassandra Hafen also shared some helpful suggestions in a comment. Thank you Cassandra.
My God bless you and show you the way!