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Fight and Conflict in Front of The Kids

By Morrisa Drobnick, LCSW

It is inevitable, parents will argue and disagree. There is no such thing as a “conflict-free” marriage. Every family has an atmosphere, a general relationship climate in the home, which is set by the parents. This atmosphere may range from warm to cold, strict to relaxed, cooperative to competitive, or orderly to disorganized. This family atmosphere is a model of human relationships for children.

Kids model themselves after important adults in their lives, their parents. They learn to imitate adult behavior, model whit it means to be a man or a woman, as well as learn about relationship between men and women. When parents respect and value each other, their children learn about equality in relationships.

Parents that often argue heatedly, and are disrespectful to each other teach their children undesirable lessons. Children of all ages understand more than parents often give them credit for. Kids understand things on many different levels as they develop. They hear angry voices which frighten them, and see negative facial expressions which confuse the, parents they are constantly yelling and are hurtful toward each other are teaching their kids how to be hostile.

Sometimes unavoidable arguments will be displayed “in front of the kids.” It is useful for kids to observe adults engage in respectful disagreements. They can then see how individuals resolve their argument, be angry, and that all is not lost, it reassures them that even if there is distance, relationships can remain whole.

Knowing how to fight effectively is very important. Here are some guidelines on how to have a “good fight”, adapted from Judith Wallerstein’s “the Good Marriage: How and Why Love Lasts.”

Set Rule: Agree on How to Disagree: Decide when, how…etc. Some couples may decided never to go to bed angry, other many not allow to let problems fester, other may agree that is a problem is not discussed within 48 hours, its history.

Don’t Go Overboard: Express your feeling without threatening, or belittling your partner. No name calling, blaming or dragging the kids into the argument. Everybody loses with these destructive tactics.

Focus on the Fight at Hand: Do not bring up past disagreements, or you’ll never reach any kind of solution. Talk to the immediate issue. Do not use phrases like, “You always…” or, “You never…”

Take a Time Out: If you are too heated to discuss things, don’t! Take a break and cool down. Move hot topics behind closed doors.

Makeup and Let Your Kids Know It: It’s ok for kids to see fights, as long as they see the resolution. Let the kids know you have reached a compromise, have said your sorry, a solution, or peacefully agreed to disagree.

Remember that nothing benefits kids more than seeing their parents as humans with faults, and the ability to make corrections.