Why “Don’t argue in front of the kids” Isn’t Enough.

Why “Don’t argue in front of the kids” Isn’t Enough. March 7, 2013

I’ve had a few conversations with couples this week who were–justifiably–upset that they were fighting in front of their children.  When I asked what they proposed to do about it, their suggestion was to take the fight behind closed doors.    This certainly seems reasonable, but what moms and dads don’t realize is that kids can hear through doors.

I remember being about 7 or 8 years old and my parents were going through a rough patch. I have no idea what the problem was, but I heard them arguing in their bedroom a lot.   Night after night, after I was supposed to be in bed,  I heard their loud, angry voices coming through the door.  One night, it dawned on me that if this kept up, they might get a divorce. I don’t think I ever heard them threaten it, but I just knew it could happen.  The idea really upset me and I decided I had to do something.  I got my army helmet and my toy rifle and my spring-loaded, toy canon (that shot real plastic shells!) and I stood guard outside my parents door.  Marching back and forth, I promised myself that I was NOT going to let them out until they settled whatever it was.  No one was getting divorced on MY watch.

Did you ever wonder if your kids were listening outside the door?

The resolution to “not fight in front of the children” is admirable, but parents are deluding themselves if they think the answer is moving the same loud, nasty argument to a different room or a different time.  Kids may look oblivious, but they are intimately aware of how well their parents are getting along–even behind closed doors.  They know their whole life depends on mom and dad acting like grown-ups which–now that I’m a grown-up–I know is not always the easiest thing to do.

Perhaps a better resolution than “don’t fight in front of the children”  is, “Always argue as if your kids are listening”  because whether or not we want them to,  they probably are.   Learning to resolve differences in a way that we wouldn’t be embarrassed to have our kids hear can take some work.   It may even mean getting some professional help, but it’s the only way to make sure your kids feel secure even when you’re going through a challenging time together.  Every couple will struggle from time to time, its natural and its even necessary.  But when you must argue, be sure to argue as if your kids were listening.  Your marriage will be better for it, and so will your kids.

———-Isn’t it time for you and your spouse to discover more loving ways to resolve conflict? Contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute at 740-266-6461 to find out how you can work with a faithful, professional, Catholic therapist via our tele-counseling practice.


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