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How To Argue In Front Of Your Kids (If You Must)

Sad little boy hearing his parents arguingUnfortunately, having arguments with the people we love is just a part of life. Some couples are loud and passionate, and some just give each other the cold shoulder when they’re upset. Fights and disagreements are a normal part of any healthy relationship, but when there are kids involved it’s important to fight fair.

Fighting can become even more common when you add babies and young children into the mix. Fatigue plays a huge part, as exhausted parents try to juggle work, parenthood and marriage. Once that first baby is born there is a brand-new set of domestic issues to work out: Who gets up in the night? Whose turn is it to change the diapers? Who deserves a break more? Who should be cooking/cleaning/putting the kids to bed?

But as understandable as these arguments can be, one of the biggest mistakes parents can make is to fight in front of their children.

Disagreements are one thing, and these shouldn’t necessarily be hidden from kids. After all, you are role models for your kids, and you can show them a positive example of how to get along and work things out. If you have an issue that needs to be resolved, it’s okay to do that in front of the kids as long as there is no yelling, name calling or other aggressive behavior.

How is fighting hard on the kids?

Seeing their parents fight makes children feel unsafe and can cause them to have difficulties in their own relationships when they’re older. Research has found that bullies are usually raised in homes where there was violent fighting between the parents. It only makes sense: if the child sees their parents bully each other and call each other names, they will learn that this is okay behavior and will use it on other kids and eventually with their own spouse.

Dr. John W. Jacobs, M.D., author of All You Need Is Love and Other Lies About Marriage, says “Children start by being frightened by their parents arguing,” says Jacobs. “Eventually, they develop a fear of being similarly trapped, and as adults may have the tendency to bail out of relationships early.” Jacobs says that while it’s true that divorce can be damaging to children, the damage is even worse for kids who witness years of fighting between unhappy, bitter parents.

How to fight fair

  1. No name-calling
  2. No swearing
  3. No yelling and screaming
  4. Listen carefully to what the other person is saying before you respond
  5. Take time to cool off if you feel like you might explode. Say you need to go outside or in another room for a few minutes and then come back
  6. Avoid fighting about adult topics in front of the kids. This means sex, issues with other family members, infidelities, addictions etc. Anything that might give the child too much information and cause confusion and sadness.
  7. ALWAYS avoid arguing about the kids in front of the kids. Issues to do with discipline and the general raising of the children should be discussed in private. It’s important for kids to know they can count on their parents being a united front.
  8. If your kids are hearing the argument, make sure they hear the resolution as well
  9. If you mess up and lose your temper at each other in front of the kids, apologize to them later. Explain that you got really angry and you didn’t mean to say the things you said to each other and reassure them that you are working it out.

We are all human and we will make mistakes and lose our cool. But if you try to follow these steps, you will minimize the damage that fighting can do to your kids, and it will strengthen your relationship with your spouse as well!

Parents: Here’s how to teach your child to sleep through the night… or potty-train your toddler the easy way… or have the best-behaved child on the block… or get your kids to eat their veggies!

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