Today, I wanted to speak about something many parents – pretty much all of us, if we’re honest, have experienced: arguing. Not only arguing, but arguing in front of the children. I’d like to think we are all honest enough to admit and agree that while we wish it didn’t happen, it has and it does – at least for those of us who don’t sport a natural halo and wings and levitate off the ground on the daily.
Arguments and differences of opinion with our spouses are a part of life; they are just ‘one of those things’ we can never truly fully control. There will always be points of discord and disagreement between yourself and your spouse that sometimes seem to spiral out of control. One small thing said out of context can be taken to a whole new level quickly, and it can, unfortunately, take some time before everyone has cooled off enough to make nice. What about fighting in front of the kids, though?
Common sense would tell us that arguments and fights are a total no-no around our children. Research and studies have been done over time, some of them unveiling some pretty disturbing findings. Research shows that fighting violently in front of children can and does impair a child’s brain development. That in and of itself is scary enough – while other research shows that children who are frequent observers of their parent’s arguments and fights can grow up to become violent, anti-social, and have a severe mental illness as well as exhibit and feel similar signs and symptoms of PTSD, much as soldiers do after combat.
That information alone is enough to make a parent never want to get into an argument again, so long as we all shall live. Amen?
However, as nice of a notion as that thought is, the chances are likely that unfortunately, that isn’t going to happen. So, if the unhappy occasion arises where a fight erupts and the children are within earshot, what can we as parents do to argue lovingly in front of our children, and avoid damaging them in the process?
Step 1: Address the Issues Without Holding Back
No matter the issue, holding it in for the sake of the children is not the best way to go, according to family psychotherapist Dana Dorfman, Ph.D.of New York City. She suggests always getting issues off of our chest and never letting them build up to the point of an explosive argument, because not only is that detrimental to a child’s brain, it can also cause anxiety and tension between everyone in the household. Also, holding back is never good when all is said and done, because the silent treatment that usually ensues when an issue isn’t sorted out and resolved can leave a child in a fragile minstate, creating and putting pieces of the puzzle together on their own- and no child should have to bear that burden.
Step 2: Argue Fairly
When you argue, do it fairly. Don’t ever raise hands to one another, or physically harm each other in any way. And do your best not to use hurtful words in front of the children. Remember, words can hurt – not only the one you are saying them to, but to those little people around you who love that person very much. Words can stick with a child for years and years, and hearing the wrong words can cause your child to say those types of things themselves. Your children will face enough at a young age when in school with bullies, disagreements with other children, and even amongst themselves in the home as siblings. Why add the extra stress to their plate? Use your argument, if possible, as a learning experience – and remember, children are never out of earshot or sight enough to become demeaning or condescending.
Step 3: Reconcile
This last step is probably, in my opinion, the most important step of all. It teaches children that it is okay and healthy to disagree and have healthy arguments in a relationship, but still love each other and work things out in the end. This teaches life skills like problem solving as well. Showing your child that, even though mommy and daddy just had a fight, it doesn’t mean they stopped loving each other – and they can work things out and be okay in the end. This teaches them that conflict is okay, as long as a resolution can be found.
While fighting in front of the children isn’t exactly recommended, it is possible to do it with love, without hate, and without being plain old mean.
I hope you found some helpful points within this blog post, and I hope it may help you the next time an argument arises.