We’ve all heard married couples say, “Oh we never fight.” or “Oh no…we would never argue in front of the kids.” On the surface that seems like a wonderful thing and they must have the perfect marriage. But, I would like to talk about why it’s not. Now, before you go gettin’ all defensive, let me explain. The Hubster and I come from two very different families, as did our parents before us. As many psychologists agree, we are a productive of our environment. The Hubster’s family was not necessarily a quiet family, but his parents did not argue in front of the children. And if they did, they resolved it behind closed doors. Whereas my family…everything was out in the open…and done LOUDLY!!!
So, you can only imagine what our first argument was like!! The Hubster shut down and stopped talking while I continued with my animated and loud point. Needless to say, it did not end well. Lots of hurt feelings and confusion. It was after that when we began to talk about how our parents dealt with conflict. And it was then that we realized we grew up very differently.
As we talked through the issue, we also talked through how we would handle disagreements in the future. While we knew that disagreements would most definitely happen, we also knew there must be a healthier way to resolve them.
It has taken me many years to get the “loud” arguing out of me, which on occasion still sneaks in. And it has taken the Hubster many years to understand that he needs to stick around to fix the problem and not just walk away. You see, our parents’ arguments taught us each different things. It was ingrained in me that loud was the only way people argue. And he was never taught conflict-resolution. After 10 years of marriage and 8 years of being a parent, it has become clear to both of us that arguing in front of our children is not all bad. *gasp
While I don’t believe in airing your dirty laundry in public, I do believe it is important to disagree in front of your children. Why? Well, here are a few reasons why we argue in front of our kids.
- It teaches them marriage isn’t perfect. Marriage is two people from two different backgrounds learning to live together. It will not be perfect. And I don’t want my kids to think it will. Does that mean you should work at it? Absolutely NOT!!! It takes work and commitment. And at times there will be conflict. Which leads me to…
- It teaches them conflict-resolution. Whether in marriage or just life in general, there will be conflict. If we argue (calmly) in front of our children and then resolve the disagreement, they will learn that problems can be solved and we still love each other! Sometimes I was left wondering how my parents felt about each other when they would have a huge disagreement. I don’t want my children to ever feel the Hubster and I don’t love each other.
- It teaches them how to forgive. Often times when my parents would argue I never saw them ask forgiveness from each other, let alone from us. This is something I have put into practice in our home. Whenever we have a disagreement around the children, we make sure they see us forgive each other as well as ask their forgiveness. More often than not, that leads us into a conversation about why it’s important to ask forgiveness and/or another subject, such as learning to listen to the other person and not jump to your own conclusion (a real problem with our 8 yr old right now).
- It teaches them to listen. In a relationship, listening is very important – if not the most important. Oh how many times I’ve jumped the gun and started an unnecessary argument because I failed to listen. And now, our oldest has the same issue. We are working through this, but he is beginning to see that when he fails to listen he more often than not is wrong in his assumptions. But, God is teaches us both to slow down, think about our responses before we speak. Our tongues get us in trouble so many times. Proverbs 21:23 says, “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” And Proverbs 17:27 says, “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” I want to be a woman with knowledge and understanding and I want my children to learn that as well.
Please don’t misunderstand me. We do not encourage yelling in our house. In fact, we are trying to break our children (and myself) of this difficult pattern we have become so accustomed to. We are trying several techniques to accomplish this.
- Praying!! I am praying in my own quiet time and asking God to change my heart and my attitude. I get so consumed with what is happening in the moment that I often fly off-the-handle and react before I think. Some days are better than others and I’m still a work in progress. Whenever Mister Bull has a difficult time, I am encouraging him to stop and take the time to pray about why he’s upset and to ask God to help him control his anger.
- Stop and count to 10. This has helped me many times. When my children have flooded the bathroom because they left the sink running because they wanted to play in the water – I have used this technique. It’s not easy to keep your cool in those moments. And I can’t say I’ve done it perfectly. But, it makes such a difference in your response to the children when you stop and take a breath instead of just scolding them out of anger. Miss Priss has such a sweet and tender spirit, that whenever anyone yells at her or tells her ‘no’ she is instantly crushed. I don’t want to break her spirit. God gave her that spirit for a reason and He has big plans for her!!
- Think before you speak. This is probably the hardest thing to learn. It is so difficult to change our instinctive habits. And in this fast-paced world we live in, this seems to be one of the worst. We are so quick to throw out an answer or opinion, that we don’t stop to think how that might hurt or affect who we are talking to (or about). It’s a tough lesson to learn that words cannot be taken back. While we can forgive those who say mean or hurtful things, those words are still etched in our minds.
While I don’t condone yelling in front of your children (or at all for that matter), I do support disagreements in front of them. I think it is a natural part of life and learning to live with another, completely different human being. Not only will it help them in their future marriage, but also in their relationships with their siblings, friends and future people they meet.
How do you handle conflict in your marriage? Do you have any tips for learning to handle disagreements? I’d love for you to share them in the comments!!
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