“Never fight in front of your kids.” This advice has been handed down to parents since time immemorial, but it actually paints an unrealistic picture of married life.
When it comes to disagreements between you and your spouse, the key is in how you manage them and what kind of example you are setting for your children.
As such, here are four reasons why conflict with your significant other can be more beneficial than you might realise.
1. Increased feelings of security
You might think that fighting in front of the kids would lead them to feel more insecure, not less. But consider this: suppose your child repeatedly sees Mummy and Daddy argue with empathy, and then make up.
They would then believe their family will always be able to weather challenges and come out all right.
The aftermath of a fight is as important as the fight itself. Amicable resolutions without lingering resentment or passive aggression will reassure your children that conflicts do not mean the end of a relationship.
Don’t forget to include physical gestures such as hugs in front of younger kids who might not fully understand what is going on yet.
2. Realistic expectations
Marital conflicts are inevitable, but experts agree that when handled properly, they can strengthen the relationship, allowing for open communication, positive change, and growth.
What happens if we shelter our children from the ugly side of relationships? They will likely grow up believing – perhaps subconsciously as adults – that all happy, healthy relationships are conflict-free, which is simply not true.
Research shows that couples who argue together, stay together. And parents want their children to be prepared for the reality of being in a relationships. So, turn those fights into growth opportunities.
3. Improved social skills
Those little eyes and ears are watching and listening all the time. As their first model adult relationship, parents need to set a good example. Children can build a whole range of skills when they watch Mum and Dad fight with compassion.
For example, if they hear Daddy say: “I understand you are tired and that’s why you raised your voice, but I don’t appreciate being spoken to in that manner”, they learn about perspective, respect, and compassion – all vital for a successful relationship.
You might be thinking: “Who on earth speaks like that if they are boiling in anger?” No argument there. But the point is, choose your battles. If you know for sure that the fight will lead to emotional outbursts, take it away from the kids.
And if it’s ever abusive in any nature, there is no shame in seeking support and help.
4. Better conflict resolution
We all manage conflicts throughout our lives – think friendship spats, workplace disagreements and, yes, marriage fights. Good conflict-resolution skills are crucial for a smoother-sailing life.
Parents often try to instil these skills in their kids simply by dishing out advice, but a more effective method would be to be a role model. When parents show that harmony is prioritised over victory in fights, children learn winning isn’t everything.
Mummy wants an expensive painting, but Daddy doesn’t think it is necessary. The kids see Mummy and Daddy argue, then negotiate. They agree to look for a cheaper painting together. Voilà – compromise and problem-solving in action!
The reality is, fighting “well” in front of your kids is easier said than done, but remember that striving to do so will help improve your marriage. And if there is something you wouldn’t say in front of the kids, it probably wouldn’t be constructive to the argument anyway.
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This article was written by Elaine Yeoh for makchic, a Malaysian-based online site for chic, curious, and spirited parents. makchic has been providing trustworthy and authentic family-related content since 2013. For diverse stories of parenthood that inform, support, and uplift all families, visit makchic.com and follow them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.