Should Children Hear their Parents Argue?

November 26, 2013

Arguing within earshot of their children is something many parents don't feel secure doing.

Disagreements are a natural, inevitable aspect of human relationships. As intimacy within a relationship increases, so does the likelihood of disagreement. You can't have marriage without disagreement, but you can have marriage without argument, which is the confrontation of disagreement. Unfortunately, when two people don't confront the disagreements, they face once they're married, their relationship stands a good chance of never growing.

Children needs to learn that arguments come with marriage. Then they need to learn that arguments don't destroy people. Finally, they need to learn how to engage in constructive disagreement with other people. If they don;t learn these things from you, who are they going to learn them from?

Your children should hear some of your arguments. Obviously, there are certain topics children should not overhear their parents discussing whether they are arguing or not.. Then, too, if you want them to learn that arguments aren't necessarily destructive, you are responsible for conducting your arguments in a civilized, constructive manner. This doesn't necessarily mean that you don't raise your voices now and then, but it does mean that you don't slander or belittle one another. You should respect one another's point of view through active listening, look at options other than those you each brought to the discussion, and try to reach a win-win resolution.

There are times when you should save your disagreements for after the children are asleep. But there are probably more times when you should have your disagreements with them awake. even perhaps in the same room. If you choose to have an argument in front of them and they attempt to interrupt you, you should say something like, "We are simply disagreeing with one another. If you don't like it, you may leave. If you stay, you may not interrupt us or cry. If you do, we will send you to your rooms until our discussion is over." If you start arguing and the children suddenly appear in the same room with you, it's because they want to make sure that everything is going to be all right. It's probably best, in those situations, to reassure them that you are both alive and well and then send them to the room.


Family psychologist John Rosemond is a director of the Center for Affirmative Parenting in North Carolina, USA.

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