Arguing parents happen, it’s a fact of life, and many parents will argue in front of their kids. Only think twice if you’re fights escalate in front of kids. While “good” arguing can help them learn how to resolve conflict constructively, “bad” arguing can show kids how to really mess up a relationship, and leave them emotionally scarred, says a recent study published in the journal Psychological Science. In the study, 24 babies were exposed to different tones of voice from their parents. The babies showed elevated responses in parts of the brain associated with reactions to stress and emotion. It is painful for all ages of children to witness their parents’ fighting. So …
Even if the two of you know it’s best to try and stay calm, it’s hard to always do that emotionally. Most parents do some yelling, says Dr. Laura Markham in the book Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids (Perigree Trade; 2012) But it doesn’t mean that it’s helpful to you or your kids.
The truth is “losing it,” name calling and hostility in front of your kids sends the message, “I don’t know how to be calm and in control of myself, and this is the way to be.”
Here’s how to curb your arguments without damaging your kids:
1) Agree with your spouse in advance on an “anger cutoff” point for arguments.
This means that if you reach a point in an argument where you are beginning to lose control, you stop and save the argument for another time when kids aren’t around. Either one of you can say when the other has reached a limit.
2) Use your kids’ reactions as a guide.
A crying child is a clear sign to stop arguing. Older kids may freeze up or appear depressed.
3) Don’t drag kids into your fight.
Kids are kids. Do not ask them to take sides. They love you both.
4) Don’t have do or die fights in front of your kids.
Some topics should be totally off-limits for children. You should shield them from topics they aren’t old enough to understand.
5) Let your kids see you you make up.
Even if you agree to disagree, it’s better to do that in front of them than to leave the scene furiously. Also, in other times when things are going smoothly, let your kids see you give affection to one another, hold hands, say, “I love you.”