The effects of fighting in front of your children
It is definitely important for couples to discuss certain issues in front of their children, and to disagree and negotiate. It teaches them how real relationships work; the marriages that are portrayed in children’s books, films tend to be unrealistically completely glitch-free. However, arguing and fighting in front of your children teaches them that fighting and arguing is OK, which it is not. It is dysfunctional, and should not be seen as “normal.”
As well as setting a bad example to your children, who will not learn healthy, effective negotiation skills, certain studies have shown that fighting in front of your children can harm them psychologically. Witnessing their parents fighting can heighten children’s levels of anxiety, because it threatens their secure home environment. They will worry about divorce. Further to this, Dr Nicholas Walsh from the University of East Anglia’s School of Psychology reports that “exposure to adversities in childhood and adolescence is the biggest risk factor for later psychiatric disease. Exposure in childhood and early adolescence to even mild to moderate family difficulties – not just severe forms of abuse, neglect and maltreatment – may affect the developing adolescent brain.”
With this in mind, we’ve compiled some top tips to help end arguments, and to prevent them from happening in the first place:
How to stop the fight before it happens
Whatever you’re fighting about – be it money, sex, the children or something else – the very fact you are fighting indicates that your communication isn’t working. If this happens only occasionally, for instance when one or both of you are tired or stressed, it’s not too big a problem. However, if you argue or bicker on a daily or weekly basis, or you keep fighting about the same thing, then your communication is not functioning as it should, and you don’t know how to move from a problem to the solution. When this happens, problems are recurrent, endless, and they can be exaggerated into relationship disasters.
- Don’t Participate
‘It takes two to tango’. Disagreements always require two people; your partner can’t argue with you if you choose not to participate. If the issue arises at an inopportune time, you can just find a temporary resolution (temporarily give in, go home, leave the restaurant) and wait until things calm down to discuss what happened. Then talk about what you can do instead if it ever happens again.
- Discuss Recurring Problems
To resolve recurring problems, discuss related decisions with your spouse and find out what each of you does and does not want before making important decisions. You have a lot of options; so don’t let confusion add to the stress.
- Seek to Understand
Make sure you and your partner understand each other’s point of view before beginning to solve the problem. You should be able to put their position in your own words, and vice versa. This does not mean that you agree with each other, just that you understand each other.
- Solve It for the Two of You
Come up with a solution that works for just the two of you, ignoring anyone else’s needs. It’s much easier to solve a problem for the two of you than for others you may not understand. After you are clear with each other, discuss the issues with others who may be involved.
- Talk to Others
If extended family members or friends might have problems with your decision, talk about what objections they might have, so you can diffuse them beforehand. Discuss possible ways to handle their objections.
Squabbles often occur because you’re following automatic habit patterns that lead to a problem before you know it. Using these guidelines will help you overcome negative habit patterns you may have built that lead to arguments or bickering. And remember, even if you are about to launch into an argument, make sure that your’re not fighting in front of your children.