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Is arguing in front of your kids safe?

When you and your spouse begin an argument, do your kids tense; are they frightened? Then maybe you must know how to argue without frightening them.

A difference of opinion between spouses is natural in any family but if you choose to argue before your kids there's a right way and a wrong way of doing it.

Naturally, there are some discussions which you might want to schedule for a time when you are child-free because you will be better able to concentrate on what you are discussing without interruption.

Children need to learn skills for resolving conflict and there is no better way to teach this but to model it in your spousal relationship. When children see their parents working things out together, they learn that arguments are safe in the family. You must be able to disagree passionately without attacking or devaluing the person with whom they are disagreeing. Only then will the children feel safe during an ensuing argument. Once there is understanding, the potential for genuine compromise is increasingly probable.

It is important to maintain the generational boundaries between parents and children when discussions do take place with children present. Do not let a child talk for you against a spouse or use a child to try to win the argument! If you are having a discussion with your spouse, reassure your child that Mom and Dad are working out a difference of opinion and he or she does not need to get involved. This should be reinforced by both parents, as it is particularly important for children to hear this from the parent with whom they may be attempting to "side".

You may even direct your child towards a play activity that is appropriate for them, reinforcing behaviourally that Mom and Dad have the situation under control and they need not worry. If doing this does not result in calming your child, then perhaps it would be wiser to continue your discussion at another time. Your child may need your attention or be particularly vulnerable for reasons other than your disagreement.

If you're arguing about the child, however, it is most appropriate to resolve problems involving particularly strong differences of opinion outside of the child's presence.

Naturally as children become teenagers, if there are healthy guidelines established for respecting each other while disagreeing, they must also feel free to express their opinions. However problems that parents need to resolve in their roles as decision makers in the family should never be compromised by the inclusion of others who share their own perspectives on the matter.

Extremes should be avoided. Shouting and getting violent in front of your children simply won't do. Children who grow up in a family that is always expressing conflict which never resolves, suffer from relentless tension.

Arguing is healthy if spouses can resolve their differences and arrive at a compromise. It will ensure the success of their marriage and teach their children how to handle arguments healthily.

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