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There’s no getting around the fact that all marriages have ups and downs and all couples fight. Anyone in a long-term relationship will experience disagreements with their partner, and some of these will be witnessed by your children. Fighting in front of your kids isn’t by itself a problem, it’s knowing how to fight in front of your kids that’s crucial.
Arguing with your partner in front of your kids can actually be beneficial for them if done correctly. Yes, you read that right.
But knowing how to fight in front of your kids is something many couples fail to understand, and this can lead to big problems for your children.
What Fighting In Front Of Your Kids Can Look Like
Malcolm and Janine went at each other again. They were constantly arguing, and it always seemed to go the same way. They both lose their temper and hurl insults and accusations trying to one-up each other with the amount of damage and pain they can inflict. They said they couldn't even remember how it started - they never do.
What struck me was how it ended.
As Janine was crying and Malcolm yelling, their 4-year-old daughter, Brielle, came over with their wedding photo that hangs above her bed. She held it out to them, grabbed their legs and pulled them back together.
Shocked and ashamed they stopped – for the moment.
The fear our kids feel when they see their parents attack each other can be like an earthquake to their world, leaving them feeling unsafe and often times believing it’s their fault.
Sadly, Janine and Malcolm didn’t recognize the harm they were causing and had convinced themselves that their arguing wasn't that bad for Brielle. They just couldn’t let themselves see that the ultimate damage and pain they were inflicting wasn’t on each other but on to her.
Being adults, Janine and Malcom should be better equipped to manage their emotions and the consequences they bring when they don’t. And while they may not be (many adults aren’t), they certainly are better so than Brielle who will carry with her what she sees and hears not knowing how to make sense of it all.
Brielle only knows that the two people she loves most in the world and is completely dependent upon seem to go out of their way to hurt each other. This is her normal.
The Right Way To Fight Around Your Kids
So how do we fight around our kids? According to Dr. Phil, we don't.
Dr. Phil says that when we fight in front of our kids it can be like we're attacking our kids. He has provided tips on how to avoid fighting in front of the kids. Among his tips are these 3 suggestions:
- Turn around and walk away if you think you'll have a hard time dealing with your urge to fight. Decide that you don't care if your partner sets your skirt on fire.
- After you walk away, write down everything you're thinking and feeling, so you can give it to each other later and discuss -- when the kids aren't around.
- Get one of the kids and tell them three reasons that you love them and think they're special.
Sometimes, however, arguing in front of the kids is unavoidable. It’s not always a bad thing either. If you fight the right way in front of your kids it can teach them about problem solving, conflict resolution, forgiveness and love.
In order for this to be the case there are certain non-negotiable things to keep in mind.
- Maintain respect for each other.
- Do not call names, be cruel, insulting, or emotionally abusive.
- Never involve the children or ask them to take sides.
- Always, always, always let your children see you come to an agreement, make up, apologize if necessary, and hear you say you love each other.
- Check-in with your kids to see if they have any questions about mommy and daddy’s fight.
It’s important to give your kids an opportunity to talk and get your reassurance. They need to know that a fight doesn’t mean you’re breaking-up or their family is falling apart. You can teach them that an argument doesn’t mean you don’t still love each other, and that afterward you can make-up and be happy again.
In short, you need to make sure they feel safe.
We all struggle with not letting our emotions get the best of us around our kids. So, take a quick glance over Dr. Phil's list and my suggestions and find an idea you can start to practice.
If you need help getting started, that's okay. We all need help communicating sometimes. Just find some professional marriage counseling for yourself.
What do you think is the hardest part about not fighting in front of your kids? Share your thoughts below.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published October 21, 2009 and has been updated with new information for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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