Fighting in front of the kids is one of the pitfalls of marriage. All of us parents have done it at one time or another, whether it’s a minor bicker over assembling a toy or a real blowout over the budget. However, we also know that fighting in front of the kids can be scary and upsetting for them. My parents always said you shouldn’t fight in front of your kids and so do a lot of parenting books.
But a new study I read about says that some fights can actually be good for kids.
There’s an excellent article from parenting site Babble called “Fighting in Front of The Kids” that all parents should read, even if you think you’ve got a pretty good handle on the issue.
The article’s most important takeaway for me is that the type of fight you’re having and the way you conduct yourselves is what makes the difference. As the article says,
Not all fights are created equal. It’s not the fact of conflict, but the type of conflict that makes the difference for little kids. For example, a recent study found that constructive arguments bode well for a child’s psychological health – kids exposed to parents debating, talking through their feelings (even when they include anger), and working toward a solution were found to be more empathetic, tuned into their peers, and socially skilled. Kids exposed to nasty conflicts, including insults, swearing, and physical aggression, on the other hand, are more likely to either act out or withdraw and show depressive symptoms.”
In other words, if you’re at a place where constructive criticism or a healthy debate is possible, go ahead and work it out in front of the kids. The example you’ll set for conflict resolution will help them build those skills. They’ll also be reassured by the fact that you love each other enough to fight fairly.
However, if name-calling, swearing or tearing down your partner is likely, you need to set the argument aside until you can talk privately.
If this means you need to separate yourselves from each other for a bit, do it. Just be sure to reassure the kids that you do love each other and that you will be resolving this issue later on in private.
Do you have any practices in place that have helped you to resolve conflicts in front of the kids in a constructive way? I’d love to hear what works for you.