Expert Advice

Understanding Why People Cheat Could Help You Avoid Raising A Little Adam Levine

What makes someone so shamelessly court extramarital nonsense? And can those kinds of grabs for validation be prevented with strong parenting?

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Experts say that there are things a parent can do to help minimize the odds of their child becoming ...
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When thinking about the whole Adam Levine fiasco, where the musician was revealed to be considering naming his third baby with wife Behati Prinsloo after a woman who he "crossed the line" with (while being married to a literal supermodel!), two questions come to mind: What is his wife saying to him right now, and is it possible to raise people to not be Levine-level a-holes? How can you, as a parent, try to avoid raising a cheater?

Note: I do not directly blame Adam Levine's parents for him being an attention-seeking dude whose idea of commitment is shady at best. I'd say 99 percent of that is on him. But I do believe that the way we raise our kids can possibly set them up to do better than he's doing — and understanding why people cheat can help us, as parents, steer our kids in the right direction.

How Childhood Might Relate To Cheating

"When it comes to cheating, I think the best way to look at it is that some of our childhood relationships set us up with basic expectations about adult relationships," says Gary W. Lewandowski Jr., Ph.D., who studies partnerships and recently wrote the book Stronger Than You Think: The 10 Blind Spots That Undermine Your Relationship ... and How to See Past Them.

He says that "anxiety over abandonment" affects us into adulthood, explaining, "Our patterns of emotional attachment toward our significant others are rooted in childhood, specifically in our relationship toward our primary caretaker (typically mom). If our caretakers aren't around enough, or even leave us, it can have repercussions in our later romantic relationships."

OK, but seriously, Levine and many other cheaters who try to downplay their behavior are not what I think of as "abandoned" — as in, he was no orphan. Yes, Levine's parents got divorced when he was little, but we all know there's no sense in staying in a bad marriage just for the kids. And not every child of divorce is set up to be a cheater.

I needed an expert in child development to explain to me how to not give kids "abandonment issues" even if we work, are divorced, are sick, have to simultaneously care for an elderly relative, or have any other common complication of actual adult life while we're raising our kids.

Pulling Off a Secure Parenting Style

I understand attachment parenting as it relates to babies and toddlers. But let's say you've got a kid older than 3, or even a teenager, and it's way too late to consider whether you did enough kangaroo care to make them feel secure. I asked Francyne Zeltser, PsyD, a child, adolescent, and adult psychologist at Manhattan Psychology Group (and a mom herself), what parents can start doing anytime to help their kids feel loved. She had great advice.

First, "All children need a great deal of attention, which is why parenting is one of the hardest, if not the absolute hardest, job," Dr. Zeltser says. "Attention being given in a consistent manner leads to a strong or secure attachment because the child knows that the parent is there, and they know that they're going to get attention in a predictable manner, regardless of what else is happening [with the parent] at that specific point in time."

To elaborate, it's not the quantity of connection you give to your kids but the consistency and predictability. If a kid can count on you sitting down and really listening to what they have to say for 10 minutes at dinner or bedtime, that's better than you being next to them all day but being largely checked out or preoccupied. Being reliable for your children equals a secure parenting style.

If my kid is an attention hog, is that a red flag?

I mean, clearly, Adam Levine needs attention. And when it comes to cheating, "I do think there is a strong element of attention-seeking or validation, where you need someone else to see your value," Dr. Lewandowski says. "Perhaps if you felt undervalued growing up, that could set you up for needing more attention."

Dr. Zeltser says that our "look at me" kids just need the right kind of attention, the classic "catch them being good." Because if we're only correcting kids when they do something wrong or, for instance, begging them to be quiet, they're going to keep up the negative behavior to earn our focus.

"Negative behavior often automatically gets much more attention than positive behavior. So even when your kids are just doing something that's expected of them, you should still give them positive feedback," Dr. Zeltser says. "Then, when they're doing something that is not desirable, parents can either ignore the negative behavior that is safe to ignore, or redirect negative behavior by telling the child what you want them to do instead of what you want them to stop doing. For example, instead of screaming, 'Stop running!" saying 'Please walk' would give positive attention and increase the likelihood of the child's compliance."

But Also: You Can't Just Blame Childhood for Adult Infidelity

We'll all raise our kids as best we can, and where they take things in adulthood is up to them. "The person we become and/or who we end up with ultimately dictates whether a person is willing to commit infidelity," says Dr. Lewandowski. "A lot of marital success is also just a willingness to see things from your partner's perspective and not make everything about yourself."

That's about maturing. Babies are right to be self-centered, but kids need to learn empathy. And adults need to find relationships that are fulfilling. "One particular area I've researched is the feeling that you're not having enough of an opportunity to grow and develop as a person in your relationship," Dr. Lewandowski says. "When you feel stifled in your own development, it can lead you to seek out opportunities in other relationships."

For now, it seems like Levine and his wife have sailed past this incident. But I did read that Levine scoffed at how his parents tried to put him in child therapy after their divorce, calling it a waste of time. Maybe now he could benefit from a bit of couples counseling and a reset with his wife. It's never too late to set a good example of maturity for the next generation to keep the cycle from repeating.

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