How To Fight In Front Of Your Children

parents fighting in front of kid
Love, Heartbreak

Your kids hate to see you fight. Here's how one couple handles the unavoidable.

"Stop Fighting, I want some lunch." My daughter is holding a protest march, walking back and forth in front of us and waving her sign.

Our children do no like it when we fight. They try to convince us that it doesn't matter how you load the dishwasher. We bark at them to stay out of it. My husband and I get back to the argument. Voices get louder, comments get meaner and nobody backs down. We go to our bedroom and close the door to argue some more.

When our children were little, it was even more complicated. You can't tie a toddler to a chair and go off somewhere to argue. On the other hand, big, angry people are scary. When faced with that, kids don't know quite how to handle things, and so they just bring you stuffed animals to calm you down. Parental Violence Affects Kids' Mental Health

Sometimes we'd have to postpone a fight, only to postpone it again when we finally had five minutes together before bed. This wasn't good for our marriage. For me, our bond was broken until we worked things out. I'd lose my appetite. I couldn't focus on anything else. I'd have a hard time giving love and nurturing my children.

I brooded. By the time we returned to the argument, I'd have a speech prepared about how it was all his fault. I'd provide a list of every bad thing he had done over the past six months. The mere fact that he'd left a wet towel on the bed would morph into proof that he didn't love me. This did not make it easier to work things out. Love & Anger: How to Fight Right

So who comes first here? Your kids or your marriage?

Some experts suggest that it's good for your children to see you fight and learn how to work out problems. I would have more faith in this theory if we were the kind of couple who calmly discusses their differences until they reach a compromise. Instead, we are the kind who fight like cats and dogs. On the plus side, we don't let things fester. So we muddle along, sometimes fighting in front of them, sometimes leaving the room or postponing a fight. When we do fight in front of them, we try to follow some limits suggested by experts. 9 Things To Say During A Fight

1. Don’t involve your kids in the argument. (If you must know, they think you're both being stupid. They're probably right.)

2. Pretend you're united on all child rearing issues. They know it's not true, but they don't want to hear you argue about them.

3. Watch what you talk about in front of them. I was mortified to hear my preschooler say, "my cousin and I argue a lot, but at least it's not about anything important like money."

4. Remember that they're terrified of losing you. Storming out of the house won't solve anything with your husband as much as it will upset your children. I know. I've tried it. It was not a high point of my parenting career.

The best advice I've found, though, is for after the fight. Talk to your children. Listen to their perspective. Reassure them about your anger. And always, always show them that the fight is over, and that you two are back in love.