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There are many good reasons for parents to not fight often in front of the kids. But is it ideal for them to never be fighting in front of kids?
It may seem like an admirable thing to do, but I don’t think this extreme is very good either. If the fight has something to do with the kids, or is about some weighty issue that may cause them anxiety, then it makes sense to avoid fighting in front of them. But more often than not fights among spouses are about misunderstandings, miscommunication or silly things that can be resolved.
Here are some reasons why it may be a bad idea to hide all your fights from your kids.
If you never want to fight in front of your kids, you are going to have to do it behind closed doors or put it off to when the kids are away or in bed. If you put it off till later, it will still be quite difficult to act completely normal around each other and kids will sense something is wrong.
If you choose to do it behind closed doors, angry voices can still be heard even if not the actual words. Either way they will know there is a problem, but not knowing what it is they could imagine it to be far worse than it actually is. The uncertainty can be much more upsetting than the yelling.
Conflict is a part of life. And kids must be taught to deal with it. Kids learn to deal with conflict by watching their parents. Confrontation is healthier than bottling up issues and holding long term grudges. But confrontation is also unpleasant and scary.
I would imagine, it is good for kids to see that their parents can fight and come through on the other side with a better understanding of each other, and with no damage to their relationship. A cleared up misunderstanding, even when it involves yelling, often leaves you feeling 10 pounds lighter and a whole lot happier. Kids will see that too.
If you are always fighting in front of your kids it might cause them a lot of stress. But if you fight occasionally, and try to refrain from being too nasty, you will teach your kids to handle conflict productively. Like a vaccination that exposes you to a relatively harmless form of the virus to prepare your body to deal with the virus attack, our parenting too should gear our kids to handle conflict.
We live in a gender biased society. As much as we may dislike this, it is true and even in the enlightened sections of society it persists in many subtle ways. So if parents never fight, the child might get the idea that mama always listens to papa, or women should stand by their husbands and accept their decisions, even if they disagree.
Even in the absence of gender bias, one parent will, at least apparently, have a more forceful personality, and in the apparent absence of all conflict, the child might conclude that one of them is a bully or the other a doormat and accordingly resent one or the other parent.
It is important for both parents to voice their opinions so the child knows that the parents are not a unit, but have different opinions. It is good for them to see that parents respect and support each other in spite of different opinions. It is good for them to know that fights get resolved and there is no love lost. Fights and disagreements between loved ones do not end in hatred.
Finally if kids never see their parents fight, they might have unrealistic expectations from their own marriages. If they fight with their spouse they might wonder if their marriage is failing or feel depressed that they could not manage to have the same rosy and harmonious relationship they saw their parents share.
Usually when it comes to parenting extreme approaches are harmful and moderation is the best way to go. If you share a healthy relationship with your spouse and fight occasionally, then, in my opinion, it does not make sense to hide your fights from your kids barring certain issues. If not, it is certainly not good to fight in front of your kids all the time. It can be stressful and sometimes frightening for them.
So the decision has to be made based on the subject of the fight and the nature of the relationship you share with your spouse and the frequency of your fights. But a blanket, Never Fight In Front Of The Kids rule, does not seem right to me.
If you do choose the open approach, there are things, I believe, you need to be careful about. Usually children spend more time with, or are closer to, one parent. If your child approaches you about the fight and asks questions then try to address them fairly, even if you are quite angry with your spouse at that time. Try to avoid saying things you don’t really mean. Explain that parents sometimes disagree and fight and that is normal. Fighting is not admirable, but it happens and reassure them that, it is likely that you will soon sort out your differences.
Image source: couple fighting in front of kid by Shutterstock.
Kanika G, a physicist by training and a mother of 2 girls, started writing to
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