Fighting in front of children

quarrelThe goal for most parents is to shield children from arguments. New parents often reassure me that they aim to never fight in front of the children. They are often surprised to hear my response, which is: There is much to learn from seeing parents occasionally argue. Obviously violence or abuse of any kind is not okay, but witnessing a heated discussion lets children see that two people can love each other and be committed to the relationship, but that doesn’t stop them disagreeing and getting angry or upset at times. The benefit is only gained if the kids see that the issue has been resolved. They don’t have to witness the resolution process, only that it’s happened. Telling children: We have sorted all that out now and we’re feeling much better really helps. Then they learn that relationships don’t have to end if there is the occasional fight. If they never see an argument, they can grow into adults who are fearful of any confrontation or anger because it is all so new.

Here are some simple rules to think about:

  • Really young children should be shielded from arguments because they can get distressed and they won’t learn anything beneficial
  • Constant arguing is stressful for everyone
  • Kids should never hear personal attacks (and adults should try never to make it personal anyway)
  • Children should never be asked to take sides
  • If the argument is getting heated, it’s a good idea to take a time out and move the discussion to somewhere private
  • Tell the children when you have sorted things out
  • Reassure them that everything’s okay if they are concerned and apologise for upsetting them
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