When Parents Argue: Tips for Fighting Fair

when-parents-argue-tips-for-fighting-fairParenting is hard work and life can get stressful at times.  It can be very difficult to manage finances, family, work schedules, childcare, and marriage.  The normal ups and downs of life that sometimes feel huge and other times feel insignificant can result in arguments.

While children are often known for their selective listening skills and generally seem to miss out on things when it comes to chores (imagine that?), they do tend to listen in when parents argue.  Children have a tendency to internalize family problems and often experience guilt and self-blame as a result.

While children are often known for their selective listening skills and generally seem to miss out on things when it comes to chores (imagine that?), they do tend to listen in when parents argue.  Children have a tendency to internalize family problems and often experience guilt and self-blame as a result.

When parents argue in front of children on a regular basis, the children are at risk for anxiety, depression, and increased anger.

It’s not separation or divorce that really harms kids (when done amicably and with respect, that is); it’s frequent, angry fighting between parents.  Sarcasm and the silent treatment can do significant damage as well.

The best advice, of course, is to keep arguments to a minimum when kids are around.  But life happens and you can’t control for everything.

That said, there are steps you can take to help your children through the stressful times, and you can even teach them power of peaceful conflict resolution in the process.

Fight fair:

When arguments are handled constructively, children learn how to resolve conflict.  Arguments don’t have to be explosive and full of anger.  Use respect when talking to your spouse and be sure to implement active listening skills.  

Cool off:

Sometimes a disagreement escalates to a heated argument without much warning.  During times like this, it’s best to take a break from the conversation.  It’s important to state that you’re taking a moment to regroup so that your kids see the benefit of taking some space.  Finish the conversation when you’ve both had time to collect your thoughts.

Provide reassurance:

Kids need to know that they are not the cause of the arguing, and that they didn’t do anything wrong.  Be sure to be attentive to your child’s feelings and explain that sometimes adults argue.  It’s also important to note what steps you and your spouse will take to resolve the argument so your child understands the process of resolving an argument.  Keep it simple.  Your child doesn’t need every detail.

Resolve it:

Try to find some way to resolve the argument in the moment, even if you simply agree to finish the discussion at another time.  If your child heard the argument, your child should also see you working together to solve the problem.

Resume normal behavior:

Kids pick up on the silent treatment.  They know when their parents are at odds.  While they might not understand the meaning of sarcastic comments, they do understand voice tone and hostility. 

Once the argument is over, it’s best to move on a resume your normal behavior.  This shows your child that problems can be solved and that working through difficult issues is possible.

Do you argue in front of your kids?

{Related: 3 Tips for Flustered Parents}

 

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When Parents Argue: Tips for Fighting Fair

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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5 comments

  1. Cassandra says:

    ME and my boyfriend fought, a lot, in the beginning of our relationship. After I got pregnant I told him that I would NOT raise a child in such a hostile environment. He agreed and we went into couple’s counseling. After about 2 months, we were discharged and we haven’t had a bad argument since. We disagree and that can get a bit rough, but it is nothing like it used to be. We used to fight; yelling, cursing, name-calling, talking down to each other. Now we just disagree; voices get raised above a normal level, and we get our points across. But we always resolve the issue at hand fairly quickly. When we do disagree it only lasts 10-15 min, then we are right back to being our normal happy selves.

  2. AmyMolina08 says:

    on a side note…. goo.gl/f0g5I3

  3. very helpful advice. Thank you

  4. nichole says:

    i wouldnt so much say we fight infront of the kids, except perhaps once in a great while when things just get to that point, but we definetly do disagree infront of them, to the point of perhaps a mild argument. no name calling, voices only slightly raised, no sarcasum and such, and its solved before it gets bad, and we dont make a big deal about it, and life goes on right after. ive seen my kids do this sometimes when they get mad at eachother, they dont get as hostile as some kids ive seen, but im hoping its because they dont see us get as hostile as ive seen some kids parents do.

  5. Phammom says:

    Good article. We are practicing now.

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