Is it OK to fight in front of the kids? Can it actually be healthy for them?

The Wall Street Journal had a great story this week about: Is it OK to fight in front of the kids? The conclusion of the author was that if done in a very specific way, fighting in front of your kids can actually help them feel more emotionally secure and can help them develop better problem-solving skills.

From The Wall Street Journal:

“The answer is complicated. Child psychologists who study the issue tend to say yes—if parents can manage to argue in a healthy way. That means disagreeing respectfully and avoiding name-calling, insults, dredging up past infractions or storming off in anger, for starters.

“Kids are going to have disagreements with their friends, their peers, co-workers,” says Patrick Davies, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester. “If they don’t witness disagreements and how they are handled in constructive ways, they are not well-equipped to go out into the world and address inevitable conflict.”

“Dr. Davies and fellow researchers found that “constructive” marital conflict was associated with an increase in children’s emotional security, in their study of 235 families with children ages 5 to 7 published in 2009 in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. Other studies have linked constructive marital conflict with the healthy development of children’s problem-solving and coping skills and even happiness….”

Some experts doubt that parents can fight in the right way and should keep it behind close doors.

“Still, beyond universal agreement against physical confrontation, opinions vary on the right approach. Some experts say parents should keep arguments away from children because it’s just too hard to fight well. “If [parents] are going to have disagreements, they should do that in private as much as possible,” says Thomas McInerny, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “It is the rare instance when [couples] can keep it rational and keep it calm.”

The Journal had suggestions for “good” fighting in a graphic in the print edition. It recommended:

  • A 5-minute cutoff for arguments.
  • Recognition of an anger scale from 1 to 10 when a spouse is about to lose it.
  • Some topic should always be off-limits such as serious relationship issues and parenting decisions about the child.
  • Don’t shut down. Researchers have found the silent treatment to be worse for kids.
  • Also read cues from your kids if your fighting is upsetting them. Do they look distressed? Are they crying  or trying to draw your attention away from each other?

I was recently talking to Walsh about the importance of being kind to everyone, and I said I hope you see us model that for you. His reply was, “Well I see you do it to everyone else but each other.”

So that will make you stop and think. Maybe we need to be more kind to each other – especially when we are fighting.

Do you fight in front of the kids? Does it seem to upset them? Do you have “rules” for fighting? Do you think you would introduce any of these fighting strategies to your household? What fights do you remember your parents having?

41 comments Add your comment

historywriter

September 26th, 2013
9:21 pm

We recognized that usually we when we fought, we usually wanted the same thing but had a different way at looking at the issue. We went to counseling and learned how to fight fairly, and encouraged our kids to learn to fight fairly, too. Since we were all learning how to “seek peace,” the kids rarely fought with each other and us. Now they’re grown, independent, and strong in their love and support of each other. Our marriage is stronger, too. We are close on to 30 years. The article is right—healthy fighting is good for a marriage, and good for the kids to learn, too.

Will Jones - Atlanta Jeffersonian Exegesis

September 26th, 2013
9:26 pm

Children develop their relationship with G-d based on their relationship with their parents, who in Holy Matrimony achieve the miracle of “two flesh become one.” Any conflict between the parents (which won’t exist if both, appreciative of the miracles with which they have been blessed sincerely seek to please the perfect, infinite, eternal, living, present, ineffable, invisible, holy, righteous and unique Creator, America’s named Sovereign), must take place out of earshot and out of sight of the children in order that they experience their parents’ divine unity…manifest in their righteous father’s voice (even if behind closed doors their mother has given him his “marching orders”).

Genuine class, the grace rarely noted by our degraded society’s ruling false elite pathocracy, has nothing to do with status or money: A spouse who fights with, curses, denigrates, or betrays his or her partner in front of their children or otherwise, is devoid of it, a confused or lost soul, or satanically possessed.

elgrunir

September 26th, 2013
11:52 pm

@Will Jones:

“satanically possessed?”

Wow. Just “wow.”

Will Jones - Atlanta Jeffersonian Exegesis

September 26th, 2013
11:59 pm

“The greatest trick the devil pulled was convincing the world he doesn’t exist.”

If you believed in the Creator or the ideals upon which America was founded (Whiggism) you’d understand perfectly.

Long time listener, first time poster

September 27th, 2013
5:03 am

Great job…..Utilizing another publications story and effort to fulfill your job duties. What does the AJC pay you with? Candy?

shaggy

September 27th, 2013
5:42 am

Ahhhhh, the memories…..
I do remember one fight that my parents had about the toilet seat. My mom had gone into their master bathroom and we all heard a “whoosh!”, followed by loud cursing and banging stuff in the bathroom. To my dad’s credit, he moved very fast and grabbed a large pillow to deflect porcelain pieces being thrown at him through the bathroom door. Then, mom got mobile and worked her way around towards the kitchen, and the the knife block.
We really missed mom after those nice officers took her away, but Ma Jenkins did a pretty good job of raising us, and dad could eventually eat solid foods again, about the same time mom made parole and they moved back in together.
We take the boy to their house every summer to bond with his grandparents…and to learn about my side of the family tree.

catlady

September 27th, 2013
5:48 am

Never fought. Much less in front of kids. Turning point for me was when ex-hub was castigating me for something he thought I should have done, in front of kids, and ten year old daughter kicked me under the table and said, “Speak up for yourself!” Decided that seeing one parent as the doormat wasn’t healthy.

I found when I tried to discuss things with him in a fair way, he had NO intention of following those fair rules.

My parents did not fight, either. My father thought only fools fight, and he was no fool. But my mother bitched incessantly.

Mayhem

September 27th, 2013
6:40 am

It depends on the ages of the kids. But mostly, the answer is no, we never argue in front of the kids.

We banter back and forth a lot, playfully, but we don’t argue much at all. I don’t like wasting time being angry. We’ve been together over 30 years, there isn’t much to “fight” about anymore……

Miss Priss!

September 27th, 2013
6:56 am

Shaggy, dear, your side of the family tree isn’t a straight line, is it?

And, Mr. Jones … I visited your blog, web site, whatever … and I’m wondering what all of your non-satanic energy and writing and ranting and raving has accomplished? Examples of changes you’ve made in society, please. Has your head ever exploded?

Will Jones - Atlanta Jeffersonian Exegesis

September 27th, 2013
7:13 am

Prompting your unconscious evocation of the Whig Consciousness upon which my family, and others, received in covenant True Zion, has just now been accomplished, and like a titration experiment shall soon see Our Republic’s restoration. D.V.

Me

September 27th, 2013
7:16 am

The better half and I have never so much as raised our voices at each other and, therefore, never in front of the kids or where they could hear it. (This doesn’t include the one time at a soccer game when I yelled from the concession stand back to ask what she wanted to drink when “Coke” wasn’t available.)
I will personally never consider couseling, for whatever, reason, as I firmly believe no one can understand my situation better than I and I’d rather we spend that money on something fun for us. My wife and I have always been able to discuss, rationally, any topic without anger entering into the equation. As one would expect, we do disagree on topics or situations but, again, getting into a “fight” isn’t going to solve that issue.
Now, in full disclosure, we have raised our voices at the kids when their little ear drums were temporarily not functioning (poor little offspring) but that’s a different topic. We never did take them to the doctor to have their hearing checked as we sometimes threatened. Guess we probably suck as parents, huh?
We are “fortunate” (I use that word becuase anyone with money “has” to have been fortunate instead of actually earning it, but I digress…) in that we have no need to argue over money; we have no need to argue over sex (being in the swinging lifestyle we get plenty both from each other and with others), and with all the kids now out of the house, there simply isn’t anything to “fight” over.
I honestly think the last time we had a disagreement was one night a few weeks back when, during the night, the better half said, “move over, you’re hogging the bed”. She was inaccurate but, hey, I wasn’t in the mood to smother her with a pillow and lose sleep in the process.

And @shaggy strikes again and I love it!! I wish I had that level of creativity; assuming, of course, these little gems to be somewhat invented! Otherwise, well, never mind…

Miss Priss!

September 27th, 2013
7:21 am

Dear, God. What words!

Kat

September 27th, 2013
7:32 am

I don’t mind when Theresa borrows from other publications. If it’s a topic, it’s fair game. She writes plenty herself. We don’t fight in front of our kids. They do learn plenty of sarcasm though!

motherjanegoose

September 27th, 2013
7:35 am

We just watched THIS IS 40 and it has quite a bit on this topic.

Our marriage is absolutely opposites attract and that does cause fireworks. YES we have had some fights. Not proud to admit it. I am organized and logical ( so I have been told by a counselor) my husband is sporadic and impulsive ( ditto) . This causes problems. It is easier now that the children are not home since what happens really matters to two ADULTS only.

I am now not mad at him because it is 8:00 p.m. and I call the house and my 8 year old has told me that she is hungry and she has not had any dinner. He is not mad at me when I insisted the children do certain things he thought could wait until later such as chores or homework. I also hold all car rental keys ( no longer an arguement) . I am the one who books and pays for the cars and do not want to pay the $250.00 fee for lost keys not be stuck without the keys and looking for them ( we have done this). I have no trouble with him driving the car but I get the keys when we arrive. He does not gripe at me when I check the door to make sure it is locked ( more than once) or ask him to pull back down our block to make sure the garage is closed ( it kicks up if something is in the view of the light at the bottom). My car clicker was not working correctly, to lock the car. He rigged it with a piece of foil. I was in a hotel ( last Friday) and locked the car. I walked into the hotel and remembered something in my car. I walked back out and my car had unlocked itself…it had shorted. Good thing I checked as I had lots of things in it including my laptop, Kindle, GPS and briefcase. BTW he found a replacement part on the internet and it is now fixed. HOORAH! He is awesome about fixing things.

I am a checker. BAD habit. He walks out the door without a care. I turn all lights off and he leaves them on. This is a habit from my parents and my husband lived in base housing so they did not have utility bills to pay.

WHY all the illustrations? Because I have discussed this with my daughter and explained that EVERYONE is different. This is why I think living in a dorm, with random room mates, is a good experience. You see that other families are not like yours and then you learn how to figure out what to do. My daughter is in a apt. now with two girls she met from Lipscomb, her first year. As they say…they get along swell! She had some adventures prior to this year though.

Mother of 2

September 27th, 2013
7:40 am

We argued in front of the kids. We also compromised in front of the kids. Our arguments were never heated. Children learn by example and they will learn how to communicate by watching their parents communicate effectively.

motherjanegoose

September 27th, 2013
7:43 am

@ Me: I will personally never consider couseling, for whatever, reason, as I firmly believe no one can understand my situation better than I and I’d rather we spend that money on something fun for us

DISLIKE…in any relationship there is more that one I

You can insert many words for counseling: dental hygiene: my teeth, car repair: my car, painters: my walls, caterer: my food, teacher: my children. Sometimes a professional can really look at things in a different light. I have friends who are psychologists ( sp?) and it is fascinating to talk to them. I learn a lot.

My new line is: “There are 5000 things I know for sure and you will not change my mind ( what flowers grow well around my mailbox , what time is NOT good to drive to the airport in ATL, where to buy meat I like, which CC gets me the best perks, which schools I would never send my grandchildren to) there are 50,000 things ( or more) I do not know and thus I have to ask an expert. Counseling is one of those things. You learn a lot. At least I did.

jarvis

September 27th, 2013
8:17 am

“That means disagreeing respectfully and avoiding name-calling, insults, dredging up past infractions or storming off in anger, for starters.”

I’m confused, the arguments involve no women?

DB

September 27th, 2013
8:22 am

I think it’s perfectly ok to fight in front of the kids — as long as you keep the fight clean. In order words, stick to the subject, no name-calling, no dragging up past transgressions, resolve it and be willing to apologize if you are wrong. And, of course, physical violence has no place whatsoever. Some things we may choose not to discuss in front of the kids, for privacy’s sake, but the run of the mill disagreements — sure.

I think it’s healthy for kids to see their parents disagree, and to see how those disagreements are handled. It’s a teaching moment. If they never see their parents disagree, how do they learn that relationships are not always Disney-esque and happily ever after, take work, and that the work is worthwhile?

Mayhem

September 27th, 2013
8:26 am

I guess we did all our arguing/fighting in the early years of our relationship. What I learnedly early on was we each had to compromise here and there. BOTH OF US! Being angry is a total waste of time. I didn’t marry this man to argue with him. And I refuse to bring drama into our lives.

WitchyWoman

September 27th, 2013
8:45 am

No we don’t argue in front of our daughter, but we DO disagree with each other in front of her. If he thinks one thing and I think another, then we discuss our view points. I think it is healthy that kids know that people in relationships don’t always agree on the same things. Having a daughter it is important for her to know that it is alright to have her own way of thinking. I also think that children need to learn how to handle verbal conflict without getting out of control. She has asked if we get angry at each other and I tell her that we do. I will never tell my daughter that I don’t get angry at her father or he doesn’t get angry at me. We are human. How we handle it is what is important.

Techmom

September 27th, 2013
9:02 am

I don’t think most people can argue in a civil manner. I would venture to say that most of the people on this blog are mature enough and have been in relationships long enough that they have figured out how to argue appropriately with their spouse but for the vast majority of parents, I don’t think they can control their anger enough in a true fight for children to be around. Unfortunately, I think they’re going to yell loud enough at each other that even if the kids are in another room, they’re going to hear it anyway.

MG

September 27th, 2013
9:06 am

Fight? No. Argue? If it’s done respectfully, then you are modeling productive behavior.

(the other) Rodney

September 27th, 2013
11:02 am

As a child whose parents fought in front of him, and fought quite enthusiastically too, I’d have to say no it’s not OK to fight in front of your children. I remember hearing it, even through the walls, and being terrified and feeling helpless. And sometimes responsible. They never got physical, but there was lots of screaming.

So no – I’d have to say it’s not OK.

Me

September 27th, 2013
11:20 am

@MJG — DISLIKE all you want. I never said that couseling wasn’t appropriate for you or anyone else. I simply stated that I never will. It’s my opinion and thoughts and, just because you feel differently, doesn’t make it “wrong” for me to feel the way I do. And why would it take consel for you to learn that you are “organized and logical”?

Anonymous

September 27th, 2013
11:35 am

My parents fought horribly when I was a kid. They would do their worst and loudest fighting after I went to be and they thought I was asleep. To this day I am fully convinced that my deep fear of waking up while they were still fighting was the cause of my extended bedwetting and sleepwalking that occurred during that period of my life. Once dad was kicked out of the house it all stopped almost overnight.

Don’t fight in front of your kids on anything serious. If you have issues, don’t have kids. Let me repeat that again – if you have issues, don’t have kids. They don’t deserve the grief and having kids will only make things worse. If you can’t work it out, get a divorce and spare everyone involved your drama.

shaggy

September 27th, 2013
12:14 pm

Me – There is some reality in everything I do, write, or craft, however whatever turns out is 100% authentic…good or bad.
I didn’t invent stone projectile points, but I can sure make a pretty one, with the right material, a little vision, and patience…lots of patience.

xxx

September 27th, 2013
2:50 pm

Fighting are arguing is what faliures do. Been married for 19 years and we’ve never done either one, pre or post kids. The biggest part of being an adult is learning how to act like one.

C from Marietta

September 27th, 2013
3:09 pm

@ motherjanegoose

You sound like a piece or work. I could never be married to someone who wants to “double check” my every move. Sounds like you have trust issues.

Seventh Scent of a Wayward Tire.

September 27th, 2013
5:51 pm

Depends on the level of “fight” As a child, I witnessed my father kill my mother when they were “fighting”

How is this even a subject to be considered OK?

motherjanegoose

September 27th, 2013
7:12 pm

@ C from Marietta…I tend to be OCD about things and often do not even trust myself. I read your comment after I left my hotel and headed into the restaurant for dinner. I typically make SURE I have my hotel key on my but I left it in my rental car. But I thought maybe I should relax a bit. I had dinner, drove back to the hotel, put my things on the baggage cart and picked up out my room key sleeve. I had the sleeve but the keys were gone. No where! I had to go back down to the front desk for new ones! HAHA…back to OCD and checking myself. My husband misplaces his keys, wallet and cell phone quite frequently. Since this causes a fight, I typically make sure I have the things I will need or be responsible for. I check myself as much as I check him. I left my GPS on one time, over the weekend. My car battery was dead. No go for me and being self employed, I do not have sick days. Lost $200 for a half day’s work. Yes, I am a bit OCD when I have to deal with the outcome. Guess I am a piece of work!

motherjanegoose

September 27th, 2013
7:14 pm

Sorry for the typos, it is late and I need to go to bed!

motherjanegoose

September 27th, 2013
7:30 pm

@ Me…I never said you were wrong. I DISLIKE it when anyone says:

I will personally never consider couseling, for whatever, reason, as I firmly believe no one can understand my situation better than I and I’d rather we spend that money on something fun for us

OTHER PEOPLE WHO ARE TRAINED CAN PERHAPS UNDERSTAND YOUR SITUATION BETTER. IMHO.

Counsel helped me know how to react when I was getting irritated at my husband. He is not organized nor logical. When things irk me, I can say…well he did that because he is not organized nor logical and I am. NOT because he wanted to get under my skin and make me mad. We have different approaches and are not simply trying to irritate one another. Just different and that is all.

Who let the dogs in

September 28th, 2013
7:27 am

This mother jane goose character is really full of themselves.

I have a comment

September 28th, 2013
9:02 am

I am 57 and learned from my mother a valuable lesson – If 2 people never argue or disagree one of them is either a liar or a doormat. She reared me and I reared my daughters to be neither.

Will Jones - Atlanta Jeffersonian Exegesis

September 28th, 2013
9:46 am

Care to admit you have no man nor belief in G-d?

motherjanegoose

September 29th, 2013
6:40 am

@ I have…LIKE^^^…our Pastor once shared that any couple who says they have never argued is lying. No two people can always agree….that is for sure.

@ Who…not full of myself and that is why I am willing to go to a therapist when I realize that I do not have the answer to a problem. Kind of like bringing in the landscapers to assess our backyard and redo it when we lost our sod. We were not the experts. They were and we listened to them so we now have a nice yard!

I am not an expert on psychology. SO the therapist explained to me why we were arguing about certain things, after we were assessed together and individually. If one person is logical and organized and the other person is not…you have fireworks. The same as if one person is thrifty and the other person likes to spend…spend…spend. It helped me to seek out a trained eye and ear to evaluate the problem because I AM NOT TOO FULL OF MYSELF to think I know the answer to everything and AM willing to pay a professional who might,

Who let the dogs in

September 29th, 2013
10:09 am

@ Who…not full of myself and that is why I am willing to go to a therapist

You’re missing the point. Your excessive, self centered discourse is what I am speaking of.

Will Jones - Atlanta Jeffersonian Exegesis

September 29th, 2013
10:52 am

@Who let the dogs in, It’s called Humanity: Delving into others’ offerings, and by doing so gain a broader understanding of the Over Soul we all share. Criticism is wonderful. otoh projecting one’s own issues or negativity onto others is only helpful to the projector if he or she realizes what is happening. Why would you not be happy for “motherjanegoose?” It’s wonderful to see a fellow human overcome obstacles to maintain the miracle of having a loving relationship with a spouse. Dogs are proof of a loving G-d. Shouldn’t each of us strive also to be?

Who let the dogs in

September 29th, 2013
12:19 pm

Will Jones - Atlanta Jeffersonian Exegesis

September 29th, 2013
12:25 pm

Each must work out his or her own salvation.

motherjanegoose

September 29th, 2013
9:18 pm

@ Who…OH you must be new here! Many of us who have hung out 5 years or more have had our moment of LONG posts with lots of details. We take turns and it depends on the topic. Sometimes I have NOTHING to say but others might. Stick around if you care to but PLEASE do not feel like you have to muddle through anything you are not interested in. WE UNDERSTAND! Some short posts are irrelevant ( sp?), obnoxious or frivolous too.