fighting in front of the kids might be good

Why Fighting in Front of the Kids Might Be a Good Thing

Dear Mr. Dad: I remember a column you wrote a few years back about arguing in front of the kids, and, as I recall, you thought it might be a good thing. Like lots of couples these days, my husband and I have been arguing a lot more than usual. Sometimes it’s about the coronavirus, sometimes it’s about politics, and sometimes I’m not even sure what it’s about. Even though I don’t like to admit it, given that we’re still doing a lot of sheltering in place, more and more of those arguments are taking place within earshot of our children. Do you still that’s still okay? And if so, how can we do it right?

A: With so many of us waking up every morning to a life that’s quite a bit different than the one we’d imagined just a few months ago, this is an issue that millions of parents—and even more children—are facing. And while I still believe that arguing in front of your kids isn’t always as bad as it’s often made out to be, let me clarify.

By “arguing in front of the kids,” I mean civil, verbal-only disagreements. No screaming, threatening, or throwing things, and definitely no pushing, shoving, or violence of any kind. If you and your husband can use your words at an inside-voice level, you’ll most likely be fine.

Of course, we’d like to give our kids the impression that Mom and Dad agree on everything and always get along—especially now, when we’re all dealing with frighteningly high levels of uncertainty. However, kids are a lot more aware of what’s really going on around them than we give them credit for. And considering the craziness all around them, it would be downright weird if everything at home was rainbows and unicorns.

So your goal shouldn’t be to completely stop arguing. And don’t pretend that everything is fine when it isn’t. Instead, you need to find ways to handle your disagreements constructively. There are really only three basic ground rules:

  • Again, keep it civil. Agree in advance that if either of you feels that the argument is in danger of turning ugly, that you’ll stop and give yourselves time to cool off.
  • Make sure you do your making up in front of the kids. By watching you resolve your conflicts in a respectful, reasonable way, your children will learn a tremendous lesson: Disagreeing with people you love is a normal and inevitable part of life and there’s no reason why disagreements have to lead to the end of the relationship. The negotiating and listening skills you model, along with the technique for performing a sincere apology will serve them well during these stressful times and throughout their lives as they hurtle toward adulthood.
  • If you break Rule 1 (and you probably will), wait until everyone is calm, then talk to the children about what they saw. You don’t need to go too deep in the details and stay far, far away from laying blame. A simple, “Mom and Dad disagreed. We lost our tempers, but we’ve made up now,” is enough. Keep in mind, though, that many children—especially the very young ones—may be frightened by their parents’ conflicts and, as if that weren’t bad enough, they may blame themselves. So be sure you tell them that it’s not their fault.

If you find that you’re not able to keep your arguments civil, you can’t resolve whatever it is you’re fighting about, or you’re not able (or willing) to make up properly after an argument, get some help from a professional. Most therapists these days are doing video conferencing. Ignoring little issues is the best way to turn them into big ones.

This article first appeared on Armin’s blog.

Photo by Chris Sabor 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top