Like a lot of parents, I have found myself engaging in an argument with my husband in front of my 2-year-old daughter. We would not be fighting, per se. We are just disagreeing on a particular subject and raising our arguments.
It is important to note that there is a difference between arguing and fighting. Arguing between two people is bound to happen. We all hold different views on different subjects. One of these subjects is probably about how we are raising our children. I have argued, numerous times, about my parenting style versus my husbands. These arguments never lead to aggression or violence, but usually an agreement, or a decision to disagree.
So, can children benefit from watching or listening to their parents argue?
Recent studies show that children who watch their parents engage in constructive arguments that lead to conflict resolutions can benefit from this. Not only does it teach them conflict management through conversation, but it also teaches them coping mechanisms and instils emotional security.
Children learn a lot about empathy and warmth if their parents display this during their conflict resolution conversations. These are the arguments that don’t lead to violence or outbursts.
Resolving arguments in front of children could even be something parents do deliberately. A lot of people go into their adult lives with a fear of having difficult conversations. People tend to shy away from resolving conflicts because it requires a lot of self-control and empathy. You need to possess the right social skills and also need to know how to navigate these important conversations without being nasty or violent.
We can instil confidence in our children when it comes to knowing how to constructively argue by constructively arguing in front of them. This means that we give each other the platform to clearly state how we feel or think about the subject at hand. We also need to be able to acknowledge the other person’s points and feelings and be empathetic.
So, what happens when one partner feels like they are having an outburst?
Dr. Shapiro, author of ‘Negotiating and Nonnegotiable’ gives parents some tricks to manage the anger that might surface during an argument.
He states that it is important to try and open up space in your mind. You can, therefore, at that moment, think of a happy memory you and your spouse have shared. This could either be your first date, your wedding day, or the day your children were born. This is a good strategy to help you calm down. It has to be a happy memory.
The trick is to also acknowledge and remember that this argument is happening in front of your children and there is a lesson they are learning through observing. That has the potential of stopping any violent outbursts in their tracks.
A healthy lesson on arguing can quickly turn sour if we don’t control it.
Not only are we teaching our children how to have healthy conversations, but we are also giving them lessons on emotional self-control. If kids never watch their parents or any other adult engage in a tense or violent argument or constantly fight, then they don’t have a reason to display such behaviour even in the adult lives.
So what happens in a case where we have an outburst?
Dr. Shapiro recommends that we sit the kids down afterwards and explain to them what just happened. It is important to not allow kids to make up their minds about why their parents are fighting. We need to calmly explain that mom and dad were talking and the issue has been resolved and that everything is fine.
Silence and maltreatment should never follow. Kids are very smart and can pick up on things we think we are hiding. Tension is invisible and can be quickly felt.
We have to assure our children that people argue, but conflict can be resolved without it becoming violent or dragging on for days.
Karabo Motsiri is a first-time mom, over-sharer, lover of life, chronic napper and married to her best friend. She loves a good party because the dance floor is her happy place. She enjoys good food, good conversations, laughs a little too hard, and cries during every episode of Grey’s Anatomy. She started her blogging journey because she wanted to share all the ups and downs of being a young modern mama in South Africa. Her blog Black Mom Chronicles has been featured on Ayana Magazine & SA Mom Blog. She has enjoyed airtime on Power FM and frequently writes for the parenting section of Saturday Citizen. She also works with MamaMagic on their Product Awards, Milestones Magazine, Heart to Heart blog, and the Baby Expo, which is South Africa’s biggest parenting expo.