By Armin Brott
Mr. Dad: My husband and I-like most couples-have our share of disagreements
on how to parent. One of the things we've been disagreeing on lately
is whether or not it's okay to fight in front of the kids. What
do you think?
Parenting approaches are the source of just about as many marital
spats as money and division of labor. Ideally, you should avoid
having huge fights in front of your children. Kids are scared and
confused when their parents yell at each other, and researchers
have found that the angrier the parents, the more distressed the
this doesn't mean that whenever the kids are around, you and your
husband always have to see eye-to-eye (or at least seem to). In
fact, just the opposite is true. As psychologist Brad Sachs says,
"Children of parents who have regular and resolved fights have
higher levels of interpersonal poise and self-esteem that those
whose parents have chronic unresolved fights or those whose parents
appear not to fight at all."
kids can learn plenty from watching you and your husband disagree,
provided you do it civilly. Seeing how you handle your disagreements
respectfully will encourage your children to do the same. It may
also help them learn some negotiation and bargaining skills that
will come in handy when trying to convince others of their point
addition, there's some evidence that a little spousal fighting may
actually be good for the both of you, too. Internalizing your anger
for long periods of time can cause all sorts of problems, including
ulcers, high blood pressure, and depression. And if you don't let
off a little steam now and then, your anger can come out in other
more subtle ways: forgetting to pick up groceries on the way home
from work, double-booking the kids, not filling up the car with
gas, and so on.
So let your children see you and your partner squabble about easily
resolvable things and schedule weekly or, if necessary, daily meetings
away from the kids to discuss the bigger issues.
Big or small, if you do ever have a disagreement in front of your
child, pay close attention to how you make up afterwards. "It
is probably useful for young children to observe how adults re-negotiate
their relationship following a squabble or moments of hostility,"
says writer Lilian Katz. "These observations can reassure the
child that when distance and anger come between her and members
of the family, the relationship is not over but can be resumed to
be enjoyed again."
nationally recognized parenting expert, Armin Brott is the author
of The New Father: A Dad's Guide to the First Year, Father for Life,
The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for Dads-to-Be; A
Dad's Guide to the Toddler Years, Throwaway Dads, and The Single
Father: A Dad's Guide to Parenting without a Partner. He has written
on parenting and fatherhood for the New York Times Magazine, The
Washington Post, Newsweek and dozens of other periodicals. Armin
serves on the board of advisors of the Men's Health Network in Washington,
DC. He also hosts "Positive Parenting", a nationally distributed,
weekly talk show, and lives with his family in Oakland, California.
Visit Armin at www.mrdad.com.