When parents fight: the pros and cons of arguing in front of your kids
They’re affectionately known by family as “the Bickertons,” and Jen and Brad Neilson consider it an accurate moniker.
“We’re the type of people where, if we’re disagreeing about something, we bicker about it right away and get it over and done with,” says Jen, a mother of two and the blogger behind Bitchin’ Housewife and Alberta Mamas. “So it’s not like we build up to things very often.”
She doesn’t hesitate to argue in front of her young daughters, Mackenzie and Morgan, but keeps the conversations level.
“If there is something that I wouldn’t want to say to my husband in front of my kids, it’s probably not constructive to the argument.”
A research review by the University of Sussex and the Early Intervention Foundation found children of all ages can be affected by inter-parental conflict and parents who engage in “frequent, intense and poorly resolved inter-parental conflicts put children’s mental health and long-term life chances at risk.”
Laura Markham, a clinical psychologist and creator of Aha!Parenting.com, has advice for parents about how to argue well in front of their children.
“The caution is that if you raise your voice, even working it out later, it doesn’t make it not stressful for your child. Your child learns that the way you deal with disputes is you raise your voice and they will use that, with you and with other people.”
Markham advises against calling names, using obscenities, being disrespectful or dismissive of your partner’s feelings but says resolving arguments in front of your kids gives them emotional intelligence.
“Kids learn a lot from that. They learn how to work something out with someone that they love or care about without attacking them and that you in fact can come to a resolution,” Markham said.
“That everyone has disagreements, it’s part of every human relationship but it’s possible to work things out.”
Jen Neilson is hopeful her daughters learn to resolve issues by seeing their parents’ example.
“Hopefully later in life when they are in their own relationships they can kind of see, this is healthy, this is not healthy, if they can kind of think back as to what their parents were doing.”
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