In the heat of the moment it can take quite a lot of self-control to remember to table your rage while having a disagreement with your spouse. Parents have been struggling to keep their tiffs private for a long time, but just how important is it to refrain from fighting in front the kids and can it actually benefit them to see us disagree?
Attorney and blogger Rose Forrest recently explained to Today how she and her spouse deal with problems as they arise whether their children are present or not. Forrest, who has three children ages 6, 4, and 9 months, feels by watching herself and her husband work out their disagreements (sans cursing or anything physical) the children have learned better communication and problem solving skills. She says, “We have discussed whether we should disagree in front of the kids — I think we may have actually argued about it. I feel strongly that the kids and us are part of a team and we need to be transparent with each other. For us, the fights always get resolved.”
So what do the experts say about whether parents should work out their differences behind closed doors? Psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud agrees with mom Forrest’s feelings that a healthy argument and resolution can be good for kids to witness. He advises parents that it’s okay to have arguments in front of their kids as long as they follow a few guidelines.
For one, if the argument is about the child or a decision that will affect the child it is best to talk in private. And if you feel the conversation is getting too heated take a break and continue when the kids are not present. Cloud warns, “Respect your child’s basic need for security, and be sure they know that their parents are secure in their relationship and ‘for’ each other as opposed to ‘against’”.
Do you think parents should fight in front of the kids or save the disagreements for when they are in private?
Unfortunately, some (many) parents don't know how, or are unwilling to control the way they argue. When you have a couple of self-absorbed parents, it is no longer for or about the child, unfortunately. Common sense and intelligence are too often not in the mix. and by the way, parents, kids talk! As a teacher, you would be surprised at all the "stuff" we hear. It does have a negative effect on kids.
I think Dr. Cloud's recommendations are spot on. Arguments about the child, or something involving the child, should not occur in front of said child. However, disagreements are healthy, and children SHOULD see their parents disagree, even argue, at times. It's good for kids to see that relationships are not perfect and that disagreements happen and it doesn't mean that the person is giving up. Too often our young people have an idealistic version of relationships and the world. It's not always sunny and 75 degrees, kiddos! Having a real, tangible example of how marriage relationships work is a gift for children, not a negative.
I have teenage children and I do not fight in front of my kids. I have tried not to ever fight in front of them. My youngest son has been able to pick up on the vibes when my fiance and I aren't happy with each other no matter how we tried to hide it, but we still don't argue in front of him.