Children are all eyes and ears when it comes to their parents conversations. They watch our every move intently and don’t always understand what they hear. So it makes sense that there should never be fighting in front of kids, right?
Not necessarily. No relationship is perfect and arguments happen. We might think that we should stay silent, or always take our disagreements behind closed doors, but when it comes to fighting in front of kids there are some reasons why we should reconsider that belief. If you know how to fight in front of your kids it can actually be good for them.
What Does a Fight in Front of the Kids Teach?
In every long-term, successful relationship there are disagreements. Having a fight and finding resolution is one of the ways a relationship grows. Communication in marriage takes on many forms, including arguments.
Children who never witness an argument between their parents will not know how to cope when disagreements arise in their own relationships. As a result, as adults, they will naturally assume a fight means the end of that particular relationship, or that the relationship has failed.
Allowing your children to occasionally witness you fight (and make-up) teaches them about conflict resolution. And, it shows them that a strong relationship can weather a storm.
Here's what Dr. Kurt says,
Most parents think fighting in front of kids is bad. But what's worse is shielding them from problems. Our job is to prepare them for life, so being real around them by letting them see our emotions, good and bad, helps them learn what to do with their own feelings."
When it comes to fighting in front of kids however, there are some definite dos and don’ts.
The Don’ts of Fighting in Front of Kids
The reason people try so hard not to fight in front of their kids is largely because they are afraid it will scare them. Well, it can and often does. When children see their parents argue it makes them feel insecure. This is why there are several things to be aware of when there are children nearby.
- Subject matter. It is one thing to argue about dirty laundry, but it is another thing to accuse your wife or husband of having an affair. Arguments about topics that are intimate, or that convey knowledge a child should not have, should be taken behind closed doors.
- Name calling. As angry as you may be, your child should never hear you call or be called an ugly or disrespectful name. You are modeling behavior in all that you do, and name calling unintentionally gives them permission to call others names as well. It also demonstrates a level of disrespect between their parents that does not teach them what a healthy relationship looks like.
- Escalated or heated exchanges. Sometimes anger gets the better of us. If the argument takes a turn toward the more explosive side of things, it is time to take it somewhere private. Witnessing intense anger, or extreme hurt and sadness can be hard for a child to get past.
My kids have seen me crying after trying to talk with him(husband), even though I try not to let them, and now my oldest daughter seems to be mad at him.”
Seeing you cry or become otherwise overly emotional as a result of a particularly volatile argument can backfire. As protective as you are of your children, they are also protective of you. Putting your child in a position where they chose sides between parents is confusing to them and unfair.
- Physically or emotionally abusive behavior. No person should have to endure either of these behaviors. If your relationship is showing signs of being abusive, for your own health and safety, as well as your child’s, seek help.
The Dos of Fighting in Front of Kids
Your children are watching you to see how they are supposed to behave as they grow. What you show them is what they will consider normal. One thing that is a certainty is that there are disagreements in all normal relationships. Fighting in front of kids in the right way will teach them not only how to handle their own arguments, but will also provide a certain amount of emotional security. They will grow knowing that people can disagree and still love one another.
Knowing the above, keep the following things in mind regarding how you fight in front of the kids.
- Speak calmly. You can get your point across with firm and decisive tones. Escalating into a screaming match doesn’t help you or your children.
- Listen. You may be certain that you are in the right, but showing that you can listen to your partner’s point of view will teach your children that they need to do the same.
- Admit when you are wrong. It happens to all of us, we are occasionally wrong. When this happens, especially when the kids have seen you fight, make sure they see you admit when you are wrong. This goes for both of you. They should know that each parent is sometimes right and sometimes wrong.
- Make-up. This is probably the MOST IMPORTANT part. If children see you fight, they also need to see you make-up. Seeing you make-up will reinstate, and solidify, their sense of security. They will begin to see that your occasional disagreements do not mean their family is disintegrating. It will also show them that their own relationships, be it friends or future romances, do not have to end because you get into an argument.
Fighting in front of kids is never ideal. But, successful and healthy relationships include occasional disagreements. That being the case, we as parents are responsible for showing our children how to handle a disagreement effectively. Children very often do as they see rather than as they are told, so remember to show them the right behaviors a much as possible.
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