Co-parenting whether with a current or former romantic partner is guaranteed to have stress points. Stress points can result in fighting or arguing in front of your children. A significant part of the population never saw their parents argue, certainly not in any healthy or beneficial way.
Regardless of whether parents argue in front of their children, children can sense when there is a conflict with research showing even infants can sense it. Here are the pros and cons of arguing in front of your children along with some helpful rules of engagement if and when it does happen.
Pros of arguing in front of your children
The primary benefit of arguing in front of your children is you show them that conflict is normal and expected. It shows them that even people who love each other or are affectionate with each other will have differences in opinion. That conflict is normal so that they do not shy away from it or ignore it when there is an issue. This may even show them that facing conflict can be beneficial in resolving issues and strengthening the relationship.
Model healthy behaviour
Another benefit that may come from arguing in front of your children is it allows you to model healthy disagreement and conflict in a relationship. Children largely learn by observing and mimicking the behaviour around them. The assumption that people automatically know how to respectfully disagree and resolve it is wrong. Seeing your parents disagree and argue can teach children how to handle conflict and resolve issues.
Cons of arguing in front of children
The problem arises because people often fight or argue in unhealthy ways that stoke the fires instead of resolving the issue at hand. When parents fight dirty, the negative effects can be compounding. One study found that frequent, intense and poorly resolved inter-parental conflicts put children’s mental health and long-life chances at risk.
Arguing in front of children can leave the child frightened, anxious and helpless. This feeling of insecurity can last a lifetime.
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Guilt and shame
Children often blame themselves for problems that have nothing to do with them including inter-parental conflict. This can be distressing.
Insecurity and shame can make the child feel unwanted and unworthy leading to low self-esteem that can have long term consequences.
Arguing in front of children can be emotionally distressing for children. This is even worse if the child feels they need to pick a side. This stress can negatively affect other relationships, their behaviour and even their academics.
If the fights are ugly and aggressive, children will model that behaviour in their own arguments and conflict situations.
Rules of engagement for arguing in front of children
Arguing in front of children is all about the how. If you fight in healthy ways, keeping your cool and remaining kind, the likelihood of it being beneficial to your kids increase exponentially. Here are some things to keep in mind.
- Do not fight about the kids in front of the kids.
- Don’t undermine your partner or act dismissively when they speak.
- Never abuse each other physically or call each other ugly names.
- Avoid screaming at each other or threatening each other or just losing your temper.
- Try to resolve them as soon as you can so that they don’t turn into major issues.
- Avoid dragging out the argument for long. If it looks like it will not be quickly resolved, consider putting a pin in it until later.
- Never involve the children in the argument or put them in a position where they feel like they have to choose.
- After the fight, reassure your children that you still love each other, that conflict is normal, necessary even.
So what do you think, do the pros of arguing in front of your kids outweigh the cons?
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