We’ve all heard that you should never fight in front of your kids, yet we’ve all done it. Whether it amounts to a snippy remark or two or a full-out argument, fighting in front of the kids is often unavoidable, but there are some rules to keep in mind that can save your marriage and save your kids from stressing over conflict between their parents.
In the Woman’s Day article, “9 Rules for Fighting in Front of Your Kids“, several marriage and family experts share their tips on how to fight when you can’t avoid fighting in front of the kids altogether. We’d like to share a few of those rules with you.
1. Fight fair.
When tempers flare, it can be so easy to allow things to get ugly, but the experts agree that it isn’t conflict itself that stresses kids, but the way that conflict is handled. This means you need to be careful about name-calling, swearing and other dirty tactics.
Michael Osit, EdD, a clinical psychologist who specializes in family matters, says it’s important that your children aren’t exposed to all-out rage.
They should understand that parents can get mad at each other and still love each other,” he says.
If things start to get out of control, agree to walk away from the discussion until you can get a handle on your anger.
2. Never argue ABOUT the kids in FRONT of the kids.
Dr. Osit explains that this not only makes one parent the “bad guy”, but it can also teach kids that they can manipulate their parents by pitting them against each other.
If they start expecting to get what they want all the time, then they don’t know their place as a child. They’ll think they have authority in other areas of the family,” explains Dr. Osit.
If you have to discuss an issue related to the kids, make sure it’s private. If necessary, go out for coffee or wait until the kids are in bed.
3. If the kids hear you fight, make sure they hear you resolve it, too.
Letting the kids hear you solve your conflict not only puts their minds at ease, it also teaches them important skills for resolving conflict in their own lives.
They can learn to negotiate by observing you,” says Dr. Tina B. Tessina. “They also learn to problem-solve, listen to things they may not agree with, consider each other’s wants and needs and stick with a discussion until a solution is reached.”
4. Follow up with your kids later – separately.
Dr. Osit advises parents to touch bases with their kids later to let them know that they’re sorry for fighting in front of them and also that the issue has been resolved. His advice is to do this separately. It carries more credibility and can give kids the peace of mind that all is well.
Fighting in front of the kids is never the best scenario, but if you follow these tips (and several others in the article) you can keep it from hurting your marriage and hurting your kids.