This assertion is supported by some psychologists who believe parents who resolve arguments in front of kids teach them how to argue, resolve differences and improve the cognitive ability always to provide creative solutions in the future.
However, the question remains if it is truly right to argue in front of our kids? Should parents prepare their children for that future suggested above? Or should parents make their arguments behind closed doors instead of in front of their kids?
Well, this question can only be answered by the individual, especially parents. It’s an ambiguous question, and the right answer isn’t something we can get from everyone. The solution is based on individual differences.
As a mother of two and a teacher, I would like to agree with the above assertion and at the same time disagree with it. Based on my justification below, you will understand why I say I agree and disagree at the same time.
As parents, arguments and conflict are inevitable. Sometimes we row in front of our children knowing full well that they might find it hard to cope or truly understand that these things are bound to happen occasionally when we’re at odds with one another. They may be disoriented or disturbed if the arguments become persistent or hostile.
Contrary to the belief that children need to witness parents’ arguments and resolution, I would like to lay emphasis on some points. Many years ago, a study conducted by the University of York revealed that damage caused by the arguments that occurred during the marriage of divorced parents caused more harm to the behavioral pattern of the children than the split itself.
It further explained that witnessing hostile arguments and fights at home tend to expose kids to at least 30% of a tendency to developing a behavioral issue, especially when compared with those kids with married parents raised in a peaceful home.
Another study indicated that unresolved conflict between parents has a huge influence on children’s early development, cognition, physicality, and most importantly, success in their future lives. This is a clear truth, regardless of whether or not the parents are together.
It’s what I have witnessed in children many times as a teacher. Conflict is normal, but the destructive part of the conflict is what does the harm. Here comes the point that makes me say I disagree. Many people believe conflict is conflict, but I would like to make a clarification on the type of conflict which is bad to be involved in when the kids are around.
A conflict could be good and could be destructive, but it depends on what the children experience as a result of such conflict. Many parents believe kids know very little, forgetting the fact that early experiences play vital roles in childhood development. They affect the development of brain architecture, which serves as the bedrock for all future learning, health, and behavioral patterns.
A weak foundation of a house will definitely affect the entire structure in the long run. This implies that harmful experiences at a tender age from infancy to 5 can impair brain architecture, with negative effects lasting into adulthood.
A report has shown that children as young as six months can register in their brain what is happening in their environment. It also confirmed that children who are insecure as toddlers because of their parents’ conflicts were more likely to have a problem of adjusting as they grow up. Contrary to the belief that at 18 years children are adults that should be able to understand things better, a study still shows that at 19 years, 75% of children are still sensitive and could be affected by parents’ conflict.
Use of verbal aggression such as insults, threats of abandonment, name-calling, rumpus, and other silent but deadly acts like malice, avoidance, and capitulation during arguments is a form of destructive conflict.
When these become an act for parents, it is completely harmful to children as some children tend to become distraught, anxious, worried, hopeless and may eventually lose their self-esteem. The result of this effect may also be seen in some children’s behavioral patterns; some may become excessively aggressive at home and at school. Some may be restless, disturbed and have a sense of insecurity a lot of the time. Health problems, lack of retentiveness, unhealthy and unbalanced relationships with peer groups, and poor academic performance at school are other signs of childhood exposure to destructive conflict.
As earlier said, conflict is inevitable, but a constructive conflict is what is expected of good parents. It is not disturbing to kids; rather, kids benefit a lot from it. When parents engage in moderate arguments that involve compromise and positive emotions, the children feel more secure, develop improved behavioral patterns, social skills, and improved educational performance.
When parents fight and resolve things within a short period of time in the presence of their children, it exposes the kids to positive aspects of conflicts. They will learn that when they get into arguments, a quick resolution is a must and working things through like their parents will become easier for them.
HOW TO FIGHT A GOOD FIGHT IN FRONT OF THE KIDS
Based on my aforementioned points, I do not disagree with the fact that children learn from parents’ arguments, but neither do I support the idea that parents should start conflicts in the presence of their children. I have made my points clear that a constructive fight is what is expected of good parents. It does not only build the children’s confidence and self-esteem, but also fosters their relationship with their parents.
Constructive fights impact children’s behavioral patterns as it will teach them how to handle arguments, express their true feelings and resolve conflicts easily. Having said that, I would like to shed more light on how parents should involve in conflicts in front of their children if the need arises.
THE CONSTRUCTIVE FIGHT
1. COOL YOUR ANGER
Regardless of how much the two partners love each other, there is always a different level of tolerance, and that’s what is known as individual differences. But as the relationship grows, self-control should prevail over whatever problem you have with your level of tolerance as a father or mother. Understanding your real self is the major key needed in this situation. You should be cautious about what gets you angry, your body language, and what easily builds up your anger.
One of the best ways to mitigate this habit is cooling the anger when it’s building up. Knowing how to take a break in a conversation and resume when you feel calm enough to control your anger is one of the ways to cool your anger. Whenever you think the conversation isn’t going to be productive, especially when your kids are presents, it’s not a bad idea to change the topic. You might think your children are not listening if they are very young, but believe me, they are not just listening, they are watching as well!
2. ORGANIZE YOUR THOUGHTS
When you take a break from a conversation that could lead to an argument, you don’t have to bury the topic. After all, clarity is surely demanded. Taking some notes on what you need to talk about when you resume the conversation will help you constructively present your points of discussion and may very well prevent the conflict that could arise from the conversation.
3. DON’T MAKE FIRE OUT OF BLUE FLAME
There is no limit to correction in a relationship. Nagging about something that has been discussed earlier will put your partner on the defensive and may be destructive if care is not taken. It’s important to describe how you feel about something, but remembering to put your partner’s feelings into consideration will make your statement more constructive. “Babe, I get really upset when you watch movies that have a lot of sex scenes in the presence of our kids” is quite different from “Haven’t we talked many times about you watching these kinds of movies at home?” How you present a topic is a determinant of how it will end.
4. DON’T INVOLVE YOUR KIDS
All children want a complete happiness between their parents. Seeing Dad kiss Mommy a lot and vice versa is part of what gives them joy. When an argument pops up, do not do it in a way which involves the kids. The moment your kids start to stay in their rooms rather than playing with Mommy and Daddy or start asking the question: “Daddy, why are you fighting with Mommy?” is the time when you should understand that emotionally and psychologically, they are involved already. At that moment, a quick resolution should follow, and the kids should be aware that the issue has been resolved even when you don’t explain the details to them.
5. BEHAVIOR IS A SEED THAT GROWS
As parents, you should always remember that your children have a high tendency of picking up a lot of your character traits. Your duty goes beyond just guiding your children rightfully. It also includes guiding your own character and behavior, since your children see you as a perfect role model. It is important to know that your children at their tender age count on what you do and they will try as much as possible to emulate you. If you are the one that regularly engages in a destructive fight, with cursing and domestic violence, your children will likely learn these behaviors.
It is a core duty for you as a parent to build the types of behavior patterns you will like to see in your children. For instance, if you would like your son to build a peaceful home where he will adore his wife like a goddess and treat her like his mother, you must treat your wife the same way while he is growing up. Then, he won’t have any problem replicating this because he has grown up to see this is normal behavior. Even if he misbehaves, you can easily call him to order by using yourself as a reference.
6. NO WINNER, NO LOSER
Conflict is not a competition to win; it is a disagreement that needs to be resolved and come to an agreement. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if you are wrong or right, and compromising to solve a problem is always a good thing to do. When parents agree, that’s when the children will enjoy the full benefits of having both parents.
It is important to be careful about the type of argument you will be involved in while your children are present. Children of different ages interpret arguments differently; while toddlers tune in to your tone and body language as well as the emotion, young kids may hold themselves responsible for the arguments which may affect them emotionally and psychologically. It may result in anxiety, depression, and distraction when they grow up, so it is best to keep some discussion as private as you can. Also, let your kids enjoy the educational experiences of any arguments that you may be involved in as parents.