Should Parents Argue in Front of their Children?

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Fighting in front of your children? A resounding "No"? Or could it actually benefit your children when you argue in front of them? This article brings both views to light.

The traditional view is that parents should not argue or air the differences in front of their children. The reason being is that children are not ready to face such ugly realities, and so parents should preserve an "all is well and good" image.

I cannot say that I personally subscribe to this view in its totality, because to me, there are always pros and cons of fighting in front of your children.

Let me start with the reasons for not fighting in front of your kids.

1) Arguing about sensitive topics such as money, sex and the children.
This is definitely not advisable. If you argue about money in front of them, you create a sense of insecurity on their part. They will inevitably worry, even though you may think they are too young to understand. As for arguing about sex, that is too private a matter to be aired outside your bedroom. Lastly, it's common sense not to fight about your kids in front of them. This causes them to feel guilty, suffer from low self-esteem and is overall very damaging to their mental and emotional well being.

2) Fighting "dirty".
By this, I mean that both of you use demeaning and insulting words against each other, yelling and screaming and using vulgarity. You blame each other. You attack each other's personalities and bring up hurts from the past. These will overwhelm your children and create a sense of despair for them. Sadly, I' must admit to being guilty of this. It shocked me to see, amidst the heat of my argument with my husband, that my then 3 year old son was cowering in a corner with both hands on his ears. I immediately stopped dead in my tracks, feeling horribly ashamed of myself and vowed never to argue that way again.

On the flip side, here's why I think it's good to air your differences in front of your children if you do it carefully and thoughtfully.

1) Fighting constructively and respectfully.
If both of you clearly state the issue in dispute and voice out your differing views calmly with the aim of achieving a solution or compromise to the problem without attacking one another, you will indirectly teach your children several valuable lessons in life. They will learn about the need to respect the opinions of others even if they don't agree with them. They will learn that solving conflicts does not mean giving each other the right to be verbally abusive. They also learn about patience and compromise to achieve the greater good for the family.

2) Fighting fair and ending well.
If you voice out your issues fairly without any blame or resentment towards your spouse and apologize to each other once the matter is resolved, you would have created a sense of security and reassurance for your children that their Daddy and Mummy still love each other despite not agreeing with each other all the time. This shows them the reality of the complexities of relationships. Be honest to your children. Give them more credit as they truly do understand more than you realise. If it's appropriate, explain to them why you argued and how you achieve a solution to the problem. Let them know the fight is over and all is well again.

While there are very few people who fight for the sake of fighting (believe me, there are folks like that out there!), showing your children how to argue effectively without name-calling or personality attacks can be a wonderful gift that you can give them in order for them to grow up as balanced mature adults.

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Written by

Jenny Toh