Conflict and Children

If you have children, you have probably tried to avoid fighting in front of them. This is a common reaction to kids. You want to shield them from any negative interaction between you and your spouse. Some people grew up in homes where parents fought on a regular basis and this may have scarred them to the point where they do not want to fight at all in front of their own children. Some people may have grown up in a house that was very different and feel that it is important to be realistic with kids. Whatever your background, it is important to talk about this with your spouse before making any policies regarding conflict and your children.

If you grew up with parents who never fought, you feel a number of ways about this history. Some adults feel that their parents were too protective and denied them the experience of true human emotions. Instead of being exposed to life as it really is, good and bad, they were sheltered to the point of unrealistic expectations. This may prompt you to be more open and honest with your children regarding the negative aspects of life.

You may also react by believing that your parents never fought. This is most likely an inaccurate view of the past. All couple disagree at times, and if your parents did not allow you to see this it was not due the absence of disagreement.

For adults who grew up in a home with a lot of arguing, even abusive language, fighting in front of their children may seem like a horrible thing to do. You may feel that you were exposed to a great deal of negativity as a child that damaged your ability to feel safe and secure at home. You want to provide your children with the opposite experience. However, you can go overboard and end up in the category of the parents described above who sheltered their children from all negativity and shielded them from a realistic view of the world.

So the trick is to find balance. Talk to your spouse about the expectations you each have regarding conflict and your kids. You may both come from similar backgrounds, in which case you can come to a good understanding of your motivation in the present. However, if you both come from different experiences in childhood, you may need to be very open to your partner’s viewpoint. Allow them to express their feelings and fears without judgment. If you need to come back to talk about solutions at a later time, do so.

It is important to let children know that it is normal to have disagreements. But what you don’t want to do is frighten them. So set some ground rules when it comes to arguing. A few good ones to start with include, avoiding name calling, yelling, and throwing things or slamming doors. Keep your voice at a reasonable level and really listen to the other person’s point of view. If you feel yourself getting emotional to the point of losing control of your voice or actions, excuse yourself and come back to the discussion when you are calm or when the kids are away.

Talk to your children once you have your ground rules established. Let them in on these rules and ask them to practice them as well. You are responsible for teaching your kids how to get along with others, but you are also responsible for teaching them how to disagree with others without causing harm. So be the best examples of this you can be.



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