You’d be hard pressed to find a couple who has never had an argument in front of their kids. While constant fighting in the presence of your kids is not good for their development, an occasional heated discussion, if done properly, has some true value. We’re sharing the dos and don’ts of fighting in front of your kids to help you navigate sensitive issues in a responsible and appropriate manner.
Do realize that your kids are watching and listening much more than you think. You actually may wish they followed directions you give them as much as they follow spirited conversations you have with your spouse. Children who are surrounded by frequent fighting tend to be less self-confident, prone to sadness and stress and may have anxiety in social situations.
Don’t think that babies and toddlers are immune to your fighting just because they cannot yet understand all of your words. Babies as young as six months old can decipher tone and stress within conversations. You are their sense of security so fighting in front of your little ones can be frightening and challenges that safety net.
Do show your kids that even the happiest, most loving couples disagree sometimes. Never allowing them to witness a respectful argument may make them think that they should hold in their feelings of anger and frustration all the time. Rather, as they watch and listen to you and your spouse discuss and resolve conflict, they will learn the best way to handle their feelings now and in the future.
Don’t pretend you are not fighting when you really are. If your children notice or even comment on your fight, tell them that mommy and daddy are having a disagreement and you are talking through it to come up with a solution. Make sure your kids know you love each other and them very much and they’ve done nothing to cause the argument.
Do fight respectfully since you are setting an example after all. Remove words like “always” and “never” and stick to the one issue at hand. Try to keep your voice calm and your gestures to a minimum. Also, never use curse words or say mean things about your spouse in front of your children.
Don’t forget to make up at the end of the fight. Apologize for your contribution to the conflict and give a hug or kiss to show that the issue is over and everything is OK. It is important for your children to know that mommy and daddy love each other even when they quarrel.
Do watch for signs that fighting in front of your kids is causing emotional problems such as acting out, sadness, academic decline or other changes to their behavior. If this happens, talk to them about how they are feeling and work to cut back on arguments in front of them.
Don’t let fights escalate in front of your kids. If you find that you’re not able to control your emotions during a fight, have a hand signal that indicates the issue needs to be addressed later because you’re too upset to deal with it right then. Time may even help you resolve the fight faster as you and your spouse will have a chance to cool off.
Do avoid certain topics in front of your children such as issues you’re having with them, your sex life, money problems, potential large life changes such as a move, or major parenting decisions.
Don’t think you’re the only couple in the world that fights. Everyone has issues once in awhile and your kids will learn that tiffs are part of normal, healthy relationships.
Sources: The Huffington Post and Parents Magazine