fight in front of kids

When–and How–to Fight In Front of the Kids

Dear Mr. Dad: My wife and I have always had a loud relationship. There’s never any physical violence, but we do tend to argue a lot. One recent source of disagreements is whether it’s okay to argue in front of our kids, who are 5 and 8. What’s your take?

A: Conventional wisdom says that you shouldn’t fight in front of your children. Kids may get scared or confused when their parents yell at each other, and some researchers have found that children whose parents argue a lot may become anxious, depressed, distressed, or withdrawn. They may also be more likely to pick fights with their siblings and friends.

That said, in my experience, when it comes to the real world, conventional wisdom is often wrong. Everyone—even those in the best relationships—has occasional disagreements. The truth is that your kids can learn plenty from watching you and your wife disagree. But there’s a right way and a wrong way (actually, there are several wrong ways—more on that below) to do it.

So your goal shouldn’t be to completely stop arguing. Rather, you need to find ways to handle your disagreements constructively. Here are some basic ground rules:

  1. No yelling, no swearing, no personal insults, no threats, no door-slamming or vase-throwing, and certainly no physical violence of any kind, ever. Agree that when one of you sees that an argument is in danger of turning ugly, you’ll stop and give yourselves time to cool off. Come up with a secret word or phrase that either one of you can say that signals it’s time for a break. If you’re able to postpone the argument for a bit, chances are that one of three things will happen: You’ll be able to discuss things more calmly, you’ll realize that the issue wasn’t as big a deal as you thought, or you’ll forget what you were arguing about in the first place.


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Photo by CloudVisual on Unsplash

Armin Brott

View posts by Armin Brott
Armin Brott is the proud father of three, a former U.S. Marine, a best-selling author, radio host, speaker, and one of the country’s leading experts on fatherhood. He writes frequently about fatherhood, families, and men's health. Read more about Armin or visit his website, You can also connect via social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest,  and Linkedin.

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