Happy couples argue as much as unhappy couples, but the end result is different. Happy couples fight fair and resolve the argument feeling more understood and connected with their partner. Modeling this for your children is important. Kids learn how to argue and get along by watching and listening to their parents. Therefore, your arguments, if done in a healthy manner, can actually help your children learn that arguing doesn't mean hating, and having different opinions is part of accepting and loving another person.
Below are a few suggestions of how to argue if your kids are in the same room. Understanding and incorporating these tips into your communication style can help your family handle conflict without resorting to acting out behaviors or heightened aggression.
1. When arguments come up or prior to them erupting have an understanding and specific time allotted for the arguments. Transition times are when the majority of conflict and arguing happens, and emotional control is usually lost in the first 10 minutes. Setting your timer for 5 minutes and then postponing the additional arguing for a later time can help you cool off and will save the kids from hearing.
2. Avoid "hot topics" or relationship topics for when you are alone with your partner. Children do not understand these topics and will personalize them and blame themselves.
3. Keep an eye on your child's distress level. If your child cries, acts out, tries to intervene or withdraws, this is a sign that your child is not dealing well with the tension. Your child's emotional well being must come before "winning an argument."
4. Babies are affected by arguments and fighting. In fact, research has shown babies become very distressed. Babies from homes where constant conflict exists have actual neurological changes in their brain development. Just because a baby doesn't understand, or you think they are oblivious doesn't mean they aren't affected.
5. The silent treatment annoys your spouse, but it is even worse for your kids. The silent treatment causes children to be confused, more anxious, and depressed because they assume the problem between mom and dad is worse than it is.
Childhood obesity, headaches, tummy aches and asthma can all be related to the way mom and dad argues in the home. Bullying behavior as well as cruelty to animals can be signs that a child is being subjected to intense arguing and conflict in the home. Arguments are unavoidable between people living together and they don't have to be a negative force in your child's life. We teach our children how to take care of themselves, cook, and do their own laundry and many other life lessons. Teaching your children how to argue fairly and with understanding can be a lifelong lesson for them. Like it or not parents are mentors for how their children handle conflict. Being observant of these five suggestions can help turn your home into a place where ideas and feelings will be valued rather than controlled. -Mary Jo Rapini
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