Fighting in front of the kids?!

Who in their right mind would expose their sweet, innocent children to parental conflict?

Oh, wait! Everyone. On. Earth. Because we’re all human and stuff. And humans get pissed off.

You’re a pretty great human. Don’t worry. You love your family.

You’re trying to be a role model so your kids don’t become serial killers, move out of the house (eventually), and become caring big humans.

But it’s inevitable. Even you get pissed off. And sometimes (gasp!) your kids see the whole unsightly mess unfold.

Tell Dr. Phil to follow #noshameparenting

We’re all imperfect. Pretending otherwise isn’t healthy, or doing your kids a favor. Fighting in front of the kids is a way to help them build confidence and learn coping skills that they’ll need later in life.

Even child psychiatrists agree. Research shows that hiding your child from conflict is a bad idea.

Disagreements are inevitable. You don’t want them storming out of their future boss’s office for a satisfying door slam and glass of wine, do you? (The answer is no.)

Here’s how you can be armed and ready to fight in front of the kids.

Don’t worry, little Junior won’t need to cash in his college fund for a lifetime supply of therapy.

There will be an “oh sh*t” moment where you realize that you’re engaging in parental conflict with the little tykes sitting three feet away.

You didn’t schedule the heated argument to take place with them in the room. You’re going to be caught off guard.

Don’t panic.

This isn’t the time to start flipping chairs like you’re starring in an episode of Jerry Springer, but you don’t have to cease fire either. All you have to do is keep your wits about you and handle it like a grown up.

Act like a grown-up by thinking like a kid.

Apply playground rules.

Practicing what you preach makes you want to punch someone in the face. We know.There’s time for going all Jerry Springer later though waiting will calm you down.

In the meantime, try these 5 Playground Rules if you’re fighting in front of the kiddos. Their future therapist will thank you. 😉

    1. Fight Clean.

    Not the best time to start calling the so-called love of your life a good-for-nothing a$$hole. Bite your tongue about that time in college that he got hammered and puked all over your roommate. Keep it above board. Don’t allow the kids to see you insulting someone that you all love.

    Arguments never have to involve low blows, especially when you have small spectators.

    2. Fight Fair.

    Give the other person an opportunity to speak. Don’t yell. No throwing things, dammit! Use the strategies you learned in college in that Interpersonal Communications class you sometimes showed up for and listen. This is your chance to fight like a grown-up. Model those manners you keep telling your kids they need to use.

    Channel your inner Queen Elizabeth and behave with grace and dignity. Your scrappy street fighter can come out later (or better yet, not at all).

    3. If you’re wrong (that sucks), admit it and apologize.

    Painful, isn’t it? Nothing tastes worse than the bitter flavor of swallowing your own pride and admitting defeat. But, who better than you to show your child that manning up and admitting when you’ve made a mistake is an ace move?

    Show them that when you’ve done wrong, the right thing to do is to be the bigger person and say you’re sorry.

    4. If you are NOT wrong (we knew it!), accept the apology and move on.

    Sorry…couldn’t resist.

    Let everyone see you forgive. It’s never easy. Think of what you would want them to do in the same spot and do it. Forgiveness feels good. The more you do it, the better you feel. Brush off that giant chip on your shoulder for the rest of the day. Show them how to forgive someone for their mistakes without holding it against them.

    5. Be Honest.

    Bobby and Sally might have a few questions after they see mom and dad throw down. That’s ok! It’s a teachable moment. This is the perfect chance to tell them that everyone fights and feels angry and upset sometimes. It doesn’t mean that their parents don’t love, respect, and care for one another.

    People don’t always agree. That’s healthy and a normal part of life. Show your kids how to confront confrontation. Show them that solving conflicts in a respectful way is a necessary and essential part of human relationships.

You don’t want to fight in front of your kids. But parents arguing? It happens.

Keep your parenting gold star by earning your playground one.

You may even be able to make something good come of it. Lessons are often learned in the most unexpected of places.

That’s one of the greatest things about parenting….in the end things are what you make them out to be. Just because fights are bound to break out on the playground doesn’t mean that anyone has to leave with a black eye.

P.S. No joke about the black eye thing. Violence is NEVER okay – in front of children or not. Verbal, mental, or physical – child abuse (and adult) comes in many forms and it’s not always obvious. Ask for help if you’re worried the fights have become more than “just fights.” Chin up, and protect yourself and your children from all forms of abuse. It’s not just black eyes that leave scars.

  • I think that’s just good relationship advice generally! Whether you have kids or not. Treating your partner respectfully is an end in itself, not just a means to teach children.

  • Thank you for the post Blair and a brave topic to write about. I was intrigued when I saw the headline. We sometimes find ourselves arguing in front of our toddler and I always feel super guilty. You’ve reminded me it’s normal and healthy and if we argue “nice” it will good for him. Thank you.

    • Thanks Tracy! I have definitely been there! It’s hard not to feel guilty (lifetime supply of guilt comes in the motherhood welcome kit, right?) but I truly believe it can be done in a way that is productive. Glad you enjoyed!

  • Interesting but one important point needs to be emphasized; volume. Raised voices imply a lack of control, usually loudest from the one whose losing the argument. Keeping the right tone is vitally important if the “fight” is to be a learning experience. Very tough to do. The advice about avoiding sarcasm is great.

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