Communication is such an important component of marriage. In addition to communicating about life in general, it is vital that you communicate with your partner when you are feeling frustrated or hurt. Unfortunately these conversations can turn
into yelling matches heated at times. I have heard people declare that they never argue in front of the children. I think that is really admirable. But it’s not us. There are times when Alex and I argue in front of the kids over silly things like being late or the messy house. Sometimes the arguments are less trivial than this and sometimes they are more serious.
I feel so rotten when I’m giving my hubby a big tongue lashing and I remember the kids are in the room. And being the recipient of marital scolding when the children are an audience is humiliating and frustrating.
If you have ever had a child come up to you immediately afterwards and say, “Mummy, you shouldn’t talk to Daddy like that, you need to apologise.” you truly feel put in your place. I’m not even going to say this may have happened to me. It certainly has happened to me, and that five year old Mr. Sensitive was 100% correct. (Silver lining, at least he knows the right way to behave!)
So what can you do if you argue in front of the kids?
- Just Stop.
This is a great piece of advice I read recently about yelling. When you hear yourself doing it. Just stop. Sometimes I start yelling without thinking, but my motto has become when I realise, I just stop. Right then. In the middle of the argument if need be. I will take some breaths and start talking calmly. If it’s a situation where it’s impossible to stay calm, I’ll ask for a time out and then seek to resolve the issue later. Most of the time, the issue doesn’t seem that large later on anyway. I used to hear myself yelling and think, “Oh well, I’ve started now.” or “I don’t care if the kids are listening, I’ve got to say this.” No, I don’t have to say anything in that tone of voice. I need to exercise self control. If there are large issues that you need to deal with, seek help. It’s better to battle out your issues in front of a trained counsellor rather than in front of your children. It’s better for your family altogether to work productively on your issues.
- Ask your spouse for forgiveness.
Following Master 5’s advice is a good point to start. It’s always good to apologise. Not the “I’m sorry, but you made me so angry because…” type of apology. Apologise and be sincere and genuine. Apologising doesn’t mean you are going to ignore issues that still need to be dealt with, but it’s a commitment that you are going to deal with them the right way. If you have argued in front of the children, you should also apologise in front of the children. Kiss and make up in front of the kids. There’s nothing that gives a child more security than seeing Mummy and Daddy being loving, especially after a marital battle.
- Apologise to the children.
I think it’s important to apologise to the children if they have had to witness you fighting. You have upset what should be their safe haven. They need to know that adults make mistakes and that it’s not OK. There’s no sense being hypocritical and insisting that your kids don’t fight with their siblings, but it’s OK if you want to have a stoush with their Dad, then there’s different rules for adults.
- Reassure your children
Let your children know that you still love each other, even though you were mad at each other. There is so much divorce around, that even if you have a solid marriage, when children witness fighting, divorce is often a conclusion they jump to. Reassurance can give children the feeling of stability that Mummy and Daddy are going to stay together, even if they disagree. You don’t always need to talk about it immediately after an argument, although, sometimes that is necessary. Find a calm time and talk to your child about when Mummy and Daddy fight. If your child is worried, you want them to feel safe to voice their concerns to you also so you can put their little hearts at ease again.
It’s our job to make our children feel safe and secure. Fighting in front of the kids does not make kids feel this way. But if it does happen, (because like my husband and I, you are a flawed human and have married a
very flawed human), deal with the situation and keep moving on. It becomes a great opportunity for you to teach your child how to resolve conflicts and maintain a healthy relationship. Creating communication with the children and being willing to apologise and demonstrate humility is also a great life lesson that your kids can observe by watching you.
Do you fight in front of the kids? What strategies have you used in your family to get over fights or to prevent Mum and Dad arguments in front of the children?