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Fighting in front of the kids

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  • Fighting in front of the kids



    Most children experience considerable distress when they see and/or hear parents fighting. Children are totally dependent on their parents. They, rightly so, expect to be taken care of. Seeing a parent lose control, shouting angrily, can be extremely unsettling. When distressed, who does the child seek out for comfort? The parent! And what if the parents are showing anger towards each other? That leaves the child feeling vulnerable and frightened. If such experiences occur frequently, some children learn to withdraw and become "invisible" in order to survive in what seems a dangerous place. Others may act out in order to get the parents to pay attention to them rather than remain in the conflict with each other. This acting out can include temper tantrums, destruction of belongings, harming a younger sibling, and even developing an illness.

    What have you done in the past that helps you to remain calm in the presence of the children, even when you're angry at your spouse?

  • #2
    I actually think it's OK for children to see parents arguing -- to a point. If children see that their parents do bug each other and then see how their parents resolve in a healthy way, I think they can really learn a lot from that.

    That is not the same as letting your child see you act with hostility toward your spouse. If an argument is getting heated between my husband and I, the kids are asked to go play in their room or outside for a little bit. And then once the argument is resolved, it's important for the kids to see that Mommy and Daddy have made up and are happy again. I also find it helps when I explain to my kids that sometimes Mommies and Daddies get angry toward each other, just like sometimes kids are angry toward their parents, but that we work through it compassionately just like we help them work through their emotions.

    I grew up in a household where I never saw my parents argue, and then I was surprised by my emotional reactions to my spouse and didn't know how to handle them. I ended up learning about how my parents resolved conflict after becoming an adult and already with a family of my own, and I think things would've been a lot smoother if I had learned that when I was younger.

    On the other hand, my husband grew up in a household where his parents fought viciously -- yelling, name-calling, physical violence -- in front of the kids often. He is completely terrified of conflict now, and it's taken him some time to get to the point of where he is at now that he can see that conflict is not necessarily bad and how to resolve conflict in a healthy way.

    Experiencing the two extremes, I hope what we consciously decide for our children is the best for their welfare. What do you think?

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    • #3
      Thank you for that excellent point!
      I agree that children can learn some valuable lessons by watching parents argue and then come to a peaceful resolution. I recommend that parents sometimes discuss their differing opinions with the children present just for that reason. This is done most advantageously when the parents maintain respect for one another, and when they express their own feelings. To demonstrate good problem-solving skills, we need to avoid sarcasm, blaming, shaming, and shouting.

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      • #4
        NVC

        A book a recently read was by Marshall Rosenberg, Non-Violent Communication. It has helped communicating w hubby. Highly recommend it!

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        • #5
          I really like NVC (nonviolent communication), but my husband doesn't do it. He really does have a hard time saying what he's feeling. How can a wife gently encourage her husband to open up?

          My husband tries to be so quick with apologizing, except most of the time, he doesn't actually mean the apology. He's saying it to get out of having to talk about the conflict anymore, but there's not resolution. I think this makes are arguments much longer than they need to be. It takes so long to get to the point where he is willing to listen and not get defensive, and not be afraid of sharing his feelings.

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          • #6
            Isn't Imago based on NVC principals?

            I love NVC too, but am not only challenged to use it, but am challenged when I DO use it because I'm still working on it and trying not to sound too formulaic. It still often sounds like I'm trying too hard and DH shuts down and I get mad and it's hard to continue sometimes.

            Doesn't Imago use some similar principals for communicating?

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