For as long as I can remember, the school of thought has been “don’t fight in front of the kids”. Just recently the Wall Street Journal published an article suggesting that “healthy” fighting is actually good for the kids.
Here is an excerpt from the article…..”Dr. Davies, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester and fellow researches found that constructive marital conflict was associated with an increase in children’s emotional security, in their study of 235 families with children ages 5-7 published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry”.
Considering that most who are reading this are not Family Mediators, your immediate questions are likely to be, “isn’t all fighting bad” or “what constitutes healthy fighting”? Let’s face it, conflict is a part of life. If we are lucky enough to have siblings, we find out early on in our lives that we have to share, and part of sharing involves learning how to problem solve and even negotiate. All skills that will serve us well later on in our journey through life.
Down the road these same kids may take part in team sports, have friends and even later become a co-worker. All scenarios where people are not always going to agree with them and having constructive conflict resolution skills will serve them well.
What better place then to start learning these skills from our parents. The two individuals responsible for teaching us most of what we learn about relationships and after whom we will most likely model our behavior.
Healthy fighting includes disagreeing respectfully and handling the disagreement in a constructive way. Spewing threats and insults, bottling up anger, giving the silent treatment or using profanity would not be classified as a “constructive means” of communicating.
Instead, couples should try and discuss issues soon after the time that an issue has surfaced. Try and examine it from all angles, not just your perspective. Bring the issue up to your significant other in a non threatening and non aggressive manner so that it allows for open discussion. I know this is not always easy when emotions run high but if you begin to have an awareness it will help tremendously.
As for the kids, the article says to watch for their reactions and any sign that the kids are under stress or have anxiety, all conflict should be shut down and tabled until after the kids have gone to sleep or aren’t around. Also important is showing your children that you still love each other even after you have had an argument. It sends the message that conflict in a relationship is normal and it’s ok. Chances are your kid will grow up to be an adult who has good conflict resolution skills that will make their journey in life, in business and with their own families a much more fulfilling and productive one. Who knows, they may even become the Family Mediator!
Take a minute to read the entire article in the WSJ and let us know what you think about “healthy” fighting in front of the kids.
Roseann Vanella, Professional Family Mediator & President of Advanced Mediation Solutions located in Cherry Hill, NJ. Roseann hosts a weekly radio talk show, “Family Affaires”, every Thursday from 2:30pm-3pm EST on WTER.