In a recent post, Dr Phil (yeah, I know) argued that you should stop fighting in front of your kids. He's right, but he misses an important point: having regular arguments in front of your kids can teach them a lot.
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I don't really know why I was reading a blog post from Dr Phil, but it was a subject I'd been thinking about recently anyway. And here's the short of it: people argue. People who love each other and live together get into arguments. Sometimes those arguments are about something important and sometimes they aren't.
When you make it a point to never argue in front of your kids, you are wasting several valuable teaching opportunities:
- People who love each other argue sometimes. Kids need to learn that it's natural. It doesn't mean you've stopped loving each other. It doesn't have to mean your relationship is in trouble. It's just something that happens when people live in close quarters and share a lot of responsibility.
- You can argue respectfully. If you and your partner can tame the screaming and avoid the insults and name-calling, your arguments will be more productive and you'll feel better afterward. Teaching your kids those same techniques is important.
- Arguments get resolved. Many couples send their kids out of the room when an argument begins. I can understand the impulse, but think about what you're really doing. You're letting kids see how arguments get started, but not how they get resolved, and there's a lot of important stuff that happens during that resolution.
Now I understand that some conversations are inappropriate for kids. I'm not suggesting you call your kids into the room before confronting a cheating spouse. And you're not going to do really young kids any favours by letting them witness interactions they're not yet equipped to understand.
I'm just suggesting that if an argument starts, or you think one is about to, don't worry so much about banishing the kids to their rooms. Let them see how it all works. They're totally listening to you through the door anyway.