I’m reluctant to give advice to married couples on how to resolve their problems.  But this is the advice I gave someone when they really wanted my input on how to resolve a fight over how they were dealing with a child.

Dear —

To be honest, I don’t know the answers.  Sometimes a kid needs a kick in the pants.  Sometimes they just need time to sort themselves out.  I tend towards just waiting things out, my wife tends towards the kick in the pants approach.

But the important thing I would focus on is putting your marriage first.  If a conflict causes you trouble with your marriage, the one thing you can do, the one thing you can control, is you can put the conflict aside.  When I was just a kid (like first or second grade), Spencer W. Kimball came through Newfoundland where my dad was stationed.

We had a sister who was trying to get her husband to shape up.  She tried to enlist Elder Kimball’s help at that time.  As an apostle he told her to focus instead on patiently loving him.  The advice made a big impression on my dad who was in the branch presidency and who had expected something different.  Years later he encountered the couple in the temple.

Rather than fight over [child], what I would really encourage you to do is to work on establishing harmony by peace and patience and support. Give [your spouse] the support he/she needs right now.  Your [child]’s problems are his/her own.  At his/her age they are his/her own fault and his/her own to control.  There are things you can do to help, though I’m not sure what they are.

But the thing I am sure of is that you can help your relationship, the core one that spills over into your family and all your other children, by focusing on supporting, loving and not fighting with your spouse.

That is the advice I’d probably give you, now that I’ve had a chance to meditate and pray a little.

I know.  It doesn’t do anything about [child].

But it does do something important.

How often would you suggest that advice ought to be the answer to a different question than the one asked?  What type of advice would you give a couple who was fighting over a child?