Never fight in front of your kids! This age-old advice given to parents paints a pretty unrealistic picture of married life. Well, it’s time this blanket advice is taken with a pinch of salt.
1. Increase feelings of security
Really? One would intuitively think that fighting in front of kids would lead to the contrary. Of course, there are caveats here. Aggression, name-calling and threats are some of the major no-nos.
But suppose children repeatedly see mummy and daddy fight with empathy and makeup. They will believe that their family will always come out of challenges all right. The aftermath of a fight is possibly as important as the fight itself. Amicable resolutions without any lingering resentments will reassure our children that conflicts do not mean the end of a relationship. Don’t forget to include physical gestures such as hugs in front of younger kids as they may not fully understand what is going on yet!
2. Realistic expectations
Marital conflicts are inevitable. And have a pretty bad rep too. However, experts agree that if handled properly, these fights can benefit the relationship. It allows for open communication, positive change and growth.
So, what happens if we shelter our children from the (not so) ugly side of relationships? They will likely grow up believing (albeit subconsciously as adults) that all happy, healthy relationships are conflict free. Not true! As many are aware, research shows that couples who argue together, stay together.
I want my children prepared for the reality of relationships. To work hard on it, especially the worthwhile ones. To turn those fights into opportunities for growth and not run for the hills the moment conflict arises.
3. Better social skills
Children can build a whole range of skills when they watch parents fight with compassion. For example, if they hear daddy say, “I understand you are tired and that’s why you raised your voice, but I don’t appreciate being spoken to in that manner,” they learn perspective taking skills, respect, and compassion. All vital social skills for successful relationships!
I know, I know. Who on earth speaks like that if they are boiling in anger? Choose your battles. If you know for sure the fight will lead to emotional outbursts, take it offline, away from the kids. And if it’s ever abusive in any nature, there is no shame in seeking support and help.
4. Conflict resolution
We all manage conflicts throughout our lives more than we realise – from friendship spats and marriage fights to workplace disagreements. Good conflict resolution skills sure would come in handy for a smoother sailing life!
As parents, we try to develop these skills by dishing out advice to our kids. Often unsolicited. A more discreet method could be simply to role model. The pressure is on, but we all know the effectiveness of teaching by example.
When parents show that harmony is prioritised over victory in fights – children learn that winning isn’t everything. Mummy wants an expensive painting. Daddy doesn’t think it is necessary. The kids see Mummy and Daddy fight, then negotiate. They agree to look for a cheaper painting together. Ta da! Lessons on compromise and problem-solving in action.
Easier said than done to always fight well in front of the kids. If this helps as an additional incentive – remember that replacing our usually attack-laden fights with healthy fights will improve our marriage. Plus, if there is something you wouldn’t say in a fight in front of the kids, it probably won’t be constructive to the argument anyway.
Together, and whenever possible, let’s try and turn those unpleasant spousal fights into positive lessons for our kids!