“Hi Coach Deborah,
My question has to do with the intense conversations and arguments my husband and I have in front of our children. Can this be harmful to them?”
Hello Mom, Thanks so much for your question.
If there’s one thing we all know, it’s that disagreements are a normal part of life and occur in marriages, in families or in any close relationships. But to answer this question, I want to make a distinction between “arguments/disagreements” and “fights.”
There is a difference between the two. Fighting involves looking for a win or the opportunity for someone to be right and the other person to be wrong. Arguing or disagreeing, if done in a healthy way, creates an opportunity for compromise, a pursuit for understanding the other person’s position or seeking the best solution for a particular situation.
As the mother of three adult children, I openly admit that we argued in front of them. But there are certain things we tried to never do during these intense conversations. Name calling, yelling or demeaning each other, to name a few. On the other hand, there were things we purposely did, such as making eye contact while talking, sitting in close proximity to each other and using terms of endearment while talking.
I suggest these 5 non-negotiables as Rules When Disagreeing in Front of Children:
- Don’t involve the kids – don’t ask for their opinion or have them pick a side. Ever.
- Seek resolution and not ammunition to prove your point.
- Call a timeout if things are getting too heated.
- Remember, you are on the same team, so speak to each other in proper tone. If that can’t be done, see #3.
Listen for the goal of hearing what your partner is saying and not just waiting for your turn to speak.
And here’s one other thing to consider. If you are going to have the disagreement in front of your children, let them also see the resolution. Our children will have their own spats, arguments and disagreements in their relationships. If they only see you argue, where will they learn resolution when disagreeing?
Teach your children how to disagree and then show them how to resolve the issue. Our kids would always have us kiss and make up at the end of an argument.
And finally, the disagreement should be short-lived and not go on for days and days. Children pick up on the tension between their parents. That kind of tension can create a stressful environment in your home. And although I don’t know the mother who asked this question personally, simply asking this question lets me know she doesn’t want that for her child(ren). And actually, none of us do.