Are Your Fights Affecting Your Kids?

parents fighting with son in the middle
Heartbreak, Family

Learn how to talk about your arguments with your children.

Last night during bathtub time, my 7-year-old daughter asked me if my husband and I were going to break up. The question jarred me. My husband and I argue, but nothing that would make anyone think we were getting a divorce.

"Of course, not," I answered. "Why would you ask that?"

"You guys were fighting the other night, so I thought you might break up," she said.

"What were we fighting about?" I honestly didn't remember any exchange of cross words.

"You told Dad that you are always the one who makes the beds and does the laundry and he said he did stuff, too," she told me.

Of course. It was our habitual who-does-more discussion, which tends to rear its ugly head on Sunday nights when we're both scrambling to prepare for the week, and after dinner when I'm trying to catch up on lingering deadlines and he's trying to get the kids into bed.

It turns out that my daughter has a classmate whose parents recently split. Mix that with a healthy dose of the who-does-more-conversation, and my daughter had us living in separate residences.

"Sweetie, we're not breaking up. I promise," I assured her; but then, I spent the night worried that we somehow scarred her psyche by disagreeing over whose turn it was to unload the dishwasher. How To Have A Healthy Argument

My husband and I argue. We even fight. Our most famous disagreement included me throwing a cheeseburger at him, but we're well past that now. Still, living in the same house with two kids means that there will be days when we vehemently disagree with one another, and against our more sound judgment, may say things best left unsaid in front of our children.

If a disagreement elevates into a fight, I know it's time to take a step back toward sanity when one or both of my children:

  • demands that we, "Stop fighting!"
  • attaches themselves to me or my husband in a frightened way.
  • leaves the room to hide away in a remote area of the house.
  • starts acting out during the argument to draw attention to themselves.

We both do our best to notice when either of our children shows signs that a fight is affecting them. My husband or I will take notice of our kids and make amends or, at the very least, put the discussion on hold while we attend to their needs. How To Fight In Front Of Your Children

Of course, being human and married, our children have been witness to fights that didn't end nicely. My husband has stormed out of rooms and I have slammed doors. All very scary stuff for kids, I am sure. What we didn't do is let the argument linger or pretend it never happened. Once we came to our senses, we made it clear to our daughter that we loved each other and had just lost our patience. We sat down and talked to her about why we were fighting in the first place and how sorry we were for fighting the way we did, especially in front of her.

The night my daughter asked if we were getting divorced, I told her how much daddy meant to me. I explained that even though we get upset with one another, there is no way I would choose for us to be apart.

"Your dad is just as important to me as you and your brother. I don't want to be apart from him any more than I want to be apart from you two," I told her.

"I know," she said and shrugged off the entire conversation to ask if I thought Justin Beiber would come to her school if we sent him an e-mail. Fortunately, the fears of our marital demise did not run so deep that it kept her from considering the more important things in life.