I’m ashamed to admit that my husband and I have fought in front of our children. We never mean to. We’re having a conversation and before we know it, we are embroiled in a disagreement.
We try and argue quietly, but the kids still pick up on the tension.
A couple of times we have yelled, and then quickly walked away from each other so the kids don’t get scared. To be continued…
The first time we seriously fought after becoming parents was when Philip was two. He was playing in his room and we fought in the lounge room. During a pause in the argument our little boy walked out, walked past us staring with scared eyes and wouldn’t come near us.
We were devastated and swore never to do it again, but we did.
Fighting in front of children is never a good idea, but it’s not the end of the world. Dr Dawn Baker, a Perth-based child psychologist and mother of three, says fighting in front of your children doesn’t necessarily damage them. She says it depends on the age of the child and how you explain yourselves afterwards. “Younger children are more likely to believe that they are the cause of the fight, which can make them feel very anxious and guilty,” she explained.
She also says it depends on the kid of argument. Minor disagreements between parents who usually communicate well are less damaging than more serious fights. “When arguments become emotionally intense or nasty, this is very difficult for children: they may feel that it’s their fault, or that they need to get involved and protect a parent. Of course, verbal or physical aggression between parents is never okay. ”
Fights that are verbally or physically abusive cause children to feel insecure and can increase their risk of behavioural problems.
Dr Dawn says arguing is a normal part of every relationship and that hiding an argument behind closed doors is not the answer because children usually pick up on it anyway, especially when the atmosphere is hostile. She says, “If parents find themselves becoming very angry and upset, the best thing to do is to try to calm themselves down by removing themselves from the situation until they are more in control of their emotions, and then to return and try to resolve the issue calmly.”