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Fighting in front of the kids -- harmful or helpful?

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  • Fighting in front of the kids -- harmful or helpful?

    Is it harmful for couples to fight in front of the kids? Does it provide a helpful role model to witness disagreements then recovery or is it too scary for the kids who are young? At what point should fighting and arguing be done behind closed doors?

  • #2
    Good question...depends on the extent of the fighting, I think. Loud and dramatic? Mean-spirited? Physical? NCV-style? Respectful disagreement, or downright scary? Children should see examples of marital conflict and resolution...but healthy examples; appropriate. What is 'healthy' and 'appropriate', though, right?

    I think it also depends on what the fight is Driving habits? Brand of toilet paper? Or something that directly involves the children? My hope is that families put at least some thought into how they handle marital fighting; to be aware of how their personal "style" may affect their kids.

    I know what arguments I'm OK with my kids witnessing; I know when it's time to go behind closed doors.


    • #3
      fighting - to see or not to see

      I agree with Kelly's post in that there is a range and the answer isn't rigid.
      I've met with adults who grew up never seeing their parents disagree, let alone argue. Some of those folks grew up to be terrified and expect to be left if voices were raised. They were deprived of the model for how to manage and resolve conflict.
      I grew up in a household with lots of love, AND with outbusts of anger. Although I learned to cope and to see it as "normal" it took a toll, because as a small child I the anger frightened me terribly. i did what children do and I adapted, but some of that "on-guardedness" continues to live inside me!
      I would love all parents to have a method of expression (I like the Imago Dialogue) to provide them with a means to work through the challenges of being in a relationship with "an other" that preserves the dignity of each, even in the face of differing perspectives, and allows for the respectful resolution of inevitable disagreements.
      When that is lacking and we act out with anger, blame and criticism, the interchanges that ensue can frighten and wound children, and effect them for the rest of their relational lives.
      That said, this IS the human condition! Our brains are wired to protect and defend against perceived threat, and as small children we are affected and we are also resilient! There IS NO WAY TO DO IT PERFECTLY and I think it is important to know that and forgive ourselves, our parents and one another...



      • #4
        in front of the kids

        Originally posted by green1706
        Helpful for what? To create and raise children with violent characters? I am in total disagreement with parents arguing in front of children.
        I agree that intense or violent fights can be frightening for kids to witness. It IS of value for children to see their parents resolve conflicts in respectful ways. It's interesting how some people who grew up without ever witnessing an arguement feel disproportionately threatened by any disagreement and think it means the end of their relationship! Parents need to build skills for maintaining respect at the same time they are in disagreement - to demonstrate that there is actually room for two people (which means two viewpoints) in the relationship. The Imago dialogue process - Mirroring, Validating and Empathizing -can provide a helpful stucture.
        Marcia Ferstenfeld
        Imago Relationship Therapist


        • #5
          I guess it depends on what you mean by argument. Is this an argument?

          Mom: Okay, I'm off to my massage appointment.

          Dad: What? You can't get a massage, I need you to be at my company party.

          Mom: But I already made the appointment. I thought your party was next week.

          Dad: No, it's tonight.

          Mom: Alright, I'll see if I can reschedule.

          If so then I think it's important for kids to see arguments and have an example for how to resolve them in a peaceful way. But as far as yelling and name calling goes, no, I think it's best to just not do that at all. If you do it away from your kids chances are that eventually you'll slip up and do it in front of them.