The Life of Bon: To fight in front of the wee ones?!?

Monday, January 07, 2013

To fight in front of the wee ones?!?

I ain't got no kids.  But someday I might.  And sometimes Hubs and I lie down in the bed at night and talk about everything the future holds.  Are we going to be good parents?  Are we going to be able to provide for ourselves?  Are all of our kids going to come out as pale freckly ginger freaks?  (Hey!  The odds are in their favor!)

Last night we had a conversation about how one day we'd be parents and one day we'd have to make tough calls with our children and we might want to parent differently and how in the world do you raise a teenager?

And do you know what I got to thinking?

How about fights? (I guess I like talk about fighting in marriage!)  Is it okay to argue/discuss/disagree in front of children?  In my home when my parents were having a disagreement they went into another room, or else sent us kids downstairs.  I'll be the first to admit that I sat on the stairs and listened to their arguments.  I wanted to know how it worked.  Why was dad frustrated?  Why was mom crying?  What was going on here and why couldn't I listen to it?

A month or so ago I read something that said parents shouldn't argue in front of their kids.  And I guess that thought has just been mulling around up in my head ever since.  Then tonight I read another article that said that when parents argue in front of kids it can cause the kids to have unhealthy future relationships.

So I got to thinking about it all.

And you know what I think?

I think that's crap.

Of course I don't want to be at Greg's throat all the time with little kids around, and no one wants parents who can't stop bickering.  But I think kids can see the way their parents argue and learn from it.  I think a positive role model of how to work through disagreements is not only okay, but preferable.

My parents always worked out their issues behind closed doors.  It didn't even dawn on me until I was married that they had big issues.  Of course they do.  Every couple does.  But I honestly did not know this until I was married myself.

The first few months of marriage I was overwhelmed.  I couldn't cook to save my life, Greg and I both had crazy expectations, and it seemed like we were disappointing each other over and over.  Neither of us wanted to make the other one upset, but it was like we just couldn't help it, we kept not coming through for the other one.

I felt almost guilty for these disagreements.  Like we weren't a perfect enough couple or in love enough because there were suddenly so many things we needed to work through.  I've mentioned before that early on in our marriage I thought every fight meant we were getting divorced.  I honestly started to wonder if we weren't going to make it because we had fights.  I didn't realize that this is normal.  No other couples talked about their arguments.  My newly married friends never admitted to me that they argued (Of course not, every relationship is perfect!)  And I never saw my parents work through their disagreements.  In fact, the only thing that helped me was knowing that my brother and his wife had also had a hard time adjusting to marriage.  That was the sole thing that let me know that maybe Greg and I weren't freaks, maybe we weren't mismatched, maybe it was just a natural getting married and moving in together and learning how to make all your decisions together stage.  I wonder if I had watched my parents/ siblings/ friends/ neighbors work through disagreements if I would have been more comfortable in my own marriage those first months.  If I would have had more confidence and security knowing that surely every couple has to figure out how to work through problems together?

So what do you think?  Do you have arguments in front of your kids or do you take them to another room?  Would you argue in front of your kids?  Did your parents argue in front of me?  Please, someone, can't you just give us all the right answers already?  


  1. I think there's a line that parents should know not to cross if they fight in front of their kids. I believe that having a disagreement in front of your kids every now and then is fine, because those disagreements show that even healthy relationships have rocky moments. However, growing up in a household where my parents fought constantly in front of me and the occasional times that I had to step in (as a 5 and 6 year old!) to stop the fights from getting so physical have, in my opinion, messed up my view in relationships. I still flinch when I hear certain words because they remind me of times I wish I could erase from my memory. Because of that, I would take any arguments I have with my husband into another room. I often felt that I was the cause of those arguments because I was in the front row for 90% of them, which I think can happen to many kids if they had been in my situation.
    Just my 25 cents...because it's too long for 2 cents :)

  2. It's so hard to comment without having kids myself, but I know I feel bad if hubby and I argue (loudly) in front of my cats! As a kidlet my parents would argue in front of me, and the small bickering I could live with, yet I think I'm slightly scarred from their bigger arguments. Also, I flicked to your post from last year on getting divorced after each fight. I'm so glad I wasn't the only person who thought that way, you've made me feel a little normal, thanks!
    Cheers, Lou The Honesty Path

  3. My parents were also very discreet about their arguing and I can hardly remember a time growing up when they were mad at each other. While it made for a pretty peaceful childhood, I kind of missed out on how to argue 'correctly.' I never saw it done. So, I lash out, say things I don't mean and have to apologize for later, throw my fists (and finger) in the air, etc.
    My husband grew up with parents who clearly loved each other, but fought with a vengeance. They work together so they are around each other all day long. It even got to the point when we were first married that I asked my husband to tell them to stop fighting in front of me because it made me so uncomfortable.
    But my husband? Not a fighter. At all. He is calm during arguments, has NEVER said a degrading word to me, or raised his voice even.
    So, all that to say.....WHO THE HECK KNOWS!
    I do think that if parents do argue in front of their kids, they have to constantly be aware of the words that they are saying and knowing that little ears are listening. If you fight in front of your kids, you should also resolve the problem with your kids present too so they see it followed through.
    AND....i'm done.

  4. I think it's alright to have healthy disagreements in front of kids. I agree that it will teach them what healthy relationships look like and not every relationship is perfect.

    That being said, it's important that the discussion is HEALTHY- no name calling, no cussing, etc...

    I once yelled at my husband because he slammed my hand against our computer desk. He was sitting down holding our baby and somehow slammed my hand while I was trying to fix our computer. It hurt, so I yelled, and told him to pay attention.

    My son? Screamed his head off. He thought I was scolding HIM! It took a few minutes to call him down.

    After that we decided to work harder at keeping a calm yet assertive tone when needed and to not yell.

    We've been married for 2.5 years so we have a lot to learn. We don't fight like we used to as teenagers but we do have arguments- they are much rarer now.

  5. I love it when you discuss these things! You mentioned it and you're so right, if people talked about the reality of marriage more - these things would be less of a surprise to us! I felt the same way when we first got married, I thought we were doomed because it was hard and we were fighting. My parents went through good times and bad (what marriage doesn't?) and we lived in a tiny house so we got to see the good the bad and the ugly. When we have kiddos I want them to see us work through some things, but maybe it's just me - but I tend to not disagree quietly nor does my husband, I don't particularly want my children seeing me scream at my hubbs. So for my more heated discussions, I think we'll take them to another room.

  6. I think that there needs to be a healthy medium =) I think it's important for kids to see a small fight (to realize that life is not perfect) but for them to also see the resolution. As someone said above, I don't really know how to handle fights correctly because all I ever heard was yelling behind closed doors. And as basically everyone said above me, don't ever let it get out of control in front of them & make sure you watch what's being said. =)

  7. I don't think it is bad to fight in front of your kids. I think it is bad to fight dirty in front of your kids.

    My parents struggled with fighting under the belt so to speak when I was growing up. They would bring up random mistakes from even years prior and throw it at the other person.

    So, I think we will definitely have disagreements in front of our kids, but we will "fight" fair. I think it helps kids have healthy communication and resolution styles by seeing it.

  8. I totally agree with you Bon, and I had the exact same problem with me and my husband in the beginning... I think it's so important kids know marriage is lovely and awesome but also it's hard and we all fight but the love doesn't change that

  9. I don't think my parents ever tried to purposefully hide their fighting. I say fight, and not argue, (there's a difference in my book!) for a reason. For most of my childhood, and all of my adolescence, I was waiting for them to get a divorce.

    On the one hand, it sucked being in that kind of environment. On the other hand, I learned from it, like you mentioned but sort of in a different way. I learned what NOT to do.

    To this day, I avoid my significant other (speaking generally) raising their voice at me at all costs, because it reminds me of the way my dad would speak to my mom when I was growing up. With that kind of outlook, I don't think I would ever argue with my boyfriend/husband in front of my (future) kids if I could help it.

  10. Hey now! I'm a pale freckly ginger freak! I'll let it slide this time...
    I think it depends on the type of fighting. It's ok for kids to see disagreements and how you work through it but obviously if you are screaming at each other that's probably not going to be good for them!

  11. Well I'm neither married not have kids but I am an expert on both thanks to reality tv lol!!

    But I think I've read/heard its good for kids to see their parents argue and RESOLVE issues... Of course you don't want to be shouting insults at each other in front of your kids but if they see healthy ways to disagree and come to a resolution ibthink that's really important for them especially so that they know two people that love each other can argue... And still love each other :)

    My two cents as a single kidless 20something! Lol

  12. We do an annual canoe trip with a group of friends. Over the years, my daughter has gotten to see every couple in this group have a spat in front of the entire group. She understands it's not just her parents that have disagreements and she's gotten to see how everyone works it out.

  13. I think healthy fighting is okay. What I mean is if you are calling each other names, throwing stuff at each other or tearing down your spouses image in front of the children never ever ever fight in front of your children. If you fight like that you need to find a good Christ centered therapist to work on your relationship too. If you are fighting healthy then I think it's really good to fight in front of your children....why?? Because then your children see that mom and dad might not always agree on everything...but when the fight is over they love each other...that a fight is not the end of the world. My husbands parents never fought in front of them and when we had our first one he was sure we were getting a divorce. I cracked up laughing because my parents would fight and then eat a bowl of ice cream together like nothing ever happened...we solve lots of issues with ice cream!! Kids need to see that a fight doesn't mean that we don't love each means we love each other so much we are willing to tell the other person.."Hey you're wrong and I am right"..okay maybe I'm not always right but don't tell Tim. We also never go to bed mad because you never know when God will call you home.

  14. My husband and I went through a nasty separation last year. As much as we tried to keep our voices down with each other and try and avoid our 2 kids from hearing, it was sometimes hard.
    We quickly learned that the type of arguments (fighting) we were having were serious, and needed to be in private.
    It's now a year later and we are together and doing very well. Our arguments or disagreements now aren't nearly as intense or serious as they were so we normally don't go in private to discuss them.

    I do think at first our fighting did put an effect on my son (who was 2 at the time) he would cry, or hold his ears.
    we would immediately stop.
    It broke my heart. :(

  15. I think the important distinction is to be aware of what you are doing and what kind of fighters you are - too many people aren't. Disagreements in front of children that show a resolution are healthy. Age appropriate discussion about conflict resolution is important as your child grows. But as I talk about here - - its the nasty FIGHTING that isn't OK and does leave lasting negative affects. If your child is showing signs of stress or worry about a conflict between you and your spouse then it is too much and you need to take it private.

  16. I think it can be good to an extent. Kids need to learn that it's okay to disagree and it's normal to fight. They need to see their parents work through it and still love each other in the end.

    However, if the fighting is constant, or there are certain issues maybe the kids shouldn't hear about, or it's just outrageously huge - then those need to be behind closed doors. Does that make sense? Not that I'm a parent or anything. But I feel as though in some cases it can be harmful to the children to hear those arguments.

  17. I have two kids (ages 7 and 9 months). I think it's healthy for them to see us argue. Granted, we don't argue every day, but we do argue over things. And, the things we have to argue about aren't life changing major things. However, when our children see us argue, they also see us resolve our issues and make up. I think that that helps them learn how healthy relationships work. No relationship is without its problems. Teaching children how to resolve issues and still be respectful to one another matters to me.

  18. Thanks for sharing this. For some reason it seems like no one likes to admit they and their spouse argue. My yummy and I have a toddler and I am not a fun of arguing in front of him. He's too young to understand and I don't think it's healthy. I guess I think it's important for him to understand we aren't perfect, but seeing us agree probably doesn't teach him much, seeing us resolve issues is probably more powerful.

  19. I'm not married, I don't have kids. But I do have parents so I figured I would weigh in. I did see my parents fight. It was very rare (maybe three times my entire time living at home), and they definitely didn't have nasty fights. Honestly, I think it was good for me to see that people who love each other still fight. I talked to my dad about this once and he said that he and my mom kind of beat themselves up over fighting in front of us. But my dad realized it wasn't a bad thing. He said his parents never fought in front of him, not once. So when he married my mom and they fought he felt the same way you did they were abnormal.

  20. I can vividly remember my parents getting into arguments. I never really thought anything bad about it until my cousin who was staying the night said that it scared her when she heard my parents argue. Mind you, these weren't big blown up fights, just petty stuff couples argue about. Anyways I asked my mom if I should be concerned because of what my cousin said and she said that of course it scared my cousin because her parents don't speak to each other at all. Ouch, but true. Communication in every form is better than none at all. I want to be a good role model for my daughter when I argue and I should work on that, but I want her to know what a healthy marriage looks like and that will involve disagreements.

  21. Disagreeing in front of your kids is one thing. Arguing/fighting in front of them is another. I think that, once you get comfortable fighting in front of your kids, it's a slippery slope. It's hard to stay COMPLETELY respectful and mature in the heat of a fight, and sometimes you end up saying hurtful and rude things. I don't ever want to say things like that to my wife, but I ESPECIALLY don't want my kids to every hear me talk to their mom the way I've heard some talk to their spouses. (Shouldn't the plural of "spouse" be "spice" like "mice?")

  22. I agree with Shelli above me. My parents never fought in front of my sisters and me, and I thought they had the perfect marriage. I remember being at a friend's house and hearing them brawl at night. I was appalled and thought their marriage was doomed. Guess whose parents divorced? Mine. To say that my sisters and I were shocked was an understatement. Not that I think we could have, or even should have been prepared for a divorce, but I think there is healthy communication and unhealthy communication. If it's healthy I think it's okay for your kids to be exposed to it.

  23. My parents fought terribly in front of us. In fact we would sequester ourselves because it was so not fun. I sometimes thought the fights were partially my fault. I also would try to be "perfect" to fix it all. it has made me into someone that has a bit of a hard time dealing with confrontation. I have learned over the years though but it has been a slow road!

    My husband of 21 years and I don't fight too often. We disagree about plenty and we have these discussions in front of our 3 kids. I was scarred by my parents for sure, so I don't know if I could even be involved in a relationship like it. When things get intense, i sometimes go straight to the Divorce idea. My husband knows this about me and will even say, "it is ok. We are just having an argument. It is not something BIGGER!" He is also the one who has said it was ok to argue and then figure it out with our kids. I also would never argue about something in front of my kids that they shouldn't have to try to understand yet. (ie sex, alcohol, money..) No need to get them worrying about something that they can't grasp. But if we are hanging a ceiling fan and disagreeing about something, well... that is ok as long as we are respectful. So I think I agree with you. There is a line but you should not hide it otherwise your kids will not be able to model this skill of arguing when necessary. Wow that was long! Love your blog! -Wendy

  24. I think it is really important for children to see their parents having different opinions and working through it - but i also think it is important for parents to be unified ..especially to their kids. I've seen my parents talk through things ... but yelling or bitter arguments should be something that kids don't see...

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  27. I argue, voice my opinion, etc in front of my kids. I have a 13 year old girl, and 2 boys, 12 and almost 3. But I also apologize and admit when I am wrong in front of my kids. Kids aren't going to go thru life NOT having issues. Something will come up. They need to know how to deal with confrontation and they need to learn how to compromise. We cannot shield our kids from everything. Obviously this is just my opinion...

    But I do keep big arguments, like ones that involve them or financial situations, behind closed doors. I don't want them putting us as parents against each other. So if it is something to do with how to discipline or something like that then it is discussed away from eavesdropping ears!!

  28. I don't have any children yet, but my husband and I have had similar talks. This post shows me that I'm not the only one who thinks it's ok not to hide everything from your kids. Small arguments are ok, and my husband and I never just blow up at each other.

  29. I didn't take the time to read through all of these comments, so sorry if I repeat everyone. I believe the point behind NOT fighting in front of your children isn't to hide that married couples do in fact, argue or disagree with one another. It's recommended because usually, it's hard to fight respectfully, and these days? Respect from kids isn't easy to come by. If they see mom and dad disrespecting each other, they're likely to think it's ok if THEY do it in return. To their parents, teachers, adults, whoever. Comes back to the whole leading by example thing. (Which can be a bitch to do, as a parent.) So its just better to argue behind closed doors in that way. But, I totally agree that kids need to see and understand that marriage isn't a bed of roses and there will be trials. It's a fine line. Maybe if you're arguing about what to have for dinner, don't feel like you need to take it the bedroom. ;) But if it's over something big and heated... probably best to keep the kids away from it. Just my 2 cents.

    Love your blog, by the way. New reader!

  30. I have a small son now, and my parents would fight in front of us and then again they wouldn't. It wasnt something across the board they did. I think it depended on what they were fighting about. We knew about some things but not all. I think whats helped me is friends and cousins that are married and we all talk about how things get rough sometimes. I learn from them and them from me. Its not a husband bashing session but you know you arent alone because her husband also doesnt do dishes or leaves cabinet doors open, I think it really helps.

  31. This is n awesome post and completely true. Parents shouldn't be calling each other names in front of their kids but I think it is healthy to show that sometimes couples argue.

  32. I think it's important for children to see their parents work out a disagreement, but I absolutely agree that fighting should be hidden. Children can view fighting as much worse than it is. But they should be able to see you calmly work out a disagreement, so they can learn communication skills from you.

  33. I completely agree with you, very well said! I think the same thing, but you were able to articulate it much better than I could.

    (Plus, I don't have credibility since I'm not married, so what do I know?) :)

    Gayle | Grace for Gayle

  34. We never really have big arguments, but we will bicker or have small petty disagreements that pop up. I don't see a reason to shield the baby from that, though I don't want her to be expose to really nasty things.... name calling or nasty words, if those do arise (which they don't often). I want her to learn that it's okay to have a disagreement and you can resolve it!

  35. Anonymous7:56 PM

    Yessss!!! I totally agree with you- I didn't think anyone else thought like me on that one! I don't have kids yet, either, but I am a realist and arguments are real life. I don't want my (future) kids to think life is all unicorns and rainbows. Of course, I wouldn't want them to see a really nasty fight or a fight on a subject they don't need to know about just yet, but other than that I don't see the problem!

  36. That's such a tough question! I agree that no one wants to be around parents who constantly fight, but if they never know that you fight they have unreal expectations about marriage! I grew up never seeing my parents fight, it wasn't until I was almost graduated from high school before I saw them fight for the first time. It made me realize that disagreements are a part of marriage but it was honestly weird the first time I saw it happen. I think as long as it's not a common experience, it's okay for your kids to see you argue once in a while.

  37. Anonymous9:20 PM

    I think certain disagreements are okay in front of kids, because kids need to see how to work out disagreements and see that every relationship has bumpy roads. However, I have a hugely warped sense of arguments because of the way my parents would fight. It almost always ended up as one of them leaving the house for a few hours (or longer...) and as a result, whenever hubs and I fight, one of us always leaves for awhile. On one hand, it helps us calm down. On the other, I don't think it's exactly normal for that to happen.

  38. I have four children ages 13-2 and my husband and I have also worked with teenagers for a number of years. And this is just my take based on my experience.

    We do not have any disagreements regarding our children in front of our children. We want to promote unity and this is largely because we do not want our kids to think if they don't get their way from one parent they can just run to the other. This has been very effective for us in raising our children.

    We have had other disagreements in front of our children as I think this is just life. There are going to be things you don't agree on in the day to day living but we do our best to "fight well". Which means that when we walk away we both still have our dignity and respect for one another. We don't yell. We don't slam doors. We don't call one another names and NEVER put the other person down. We calmly address the issue and come up with a solution and if we can't in that moment we address the issue later.

    Children learn so much from the way their parents treat each other - if it is with love and respect even in the tough moments or not - and these things will be carried over to how they treat their spouse someday or how they allow themselves to be treated.

    Also, I was diagnosed with cancer 2 years ago and since that time I realize to a whole new level how precious life is and I am determined not to spend my days in conflict and disagreements. So, I try to have a forgiving heart and resolve any conflicts I have very quickly.

    Anyway, that is just my take. I am a relatively new reader but I am enjoying your blog. Thank you!

    Andrea @

  39. I think it depends what the argument is like. My parents would have some pretty nasty yelling fights. It didn't matter where we were. Dinner table, in the car, etc. I watched my mom get in the car and drive off without telling us where she was going, parents saying they'd be happier if they could just end it, blah blah blah. It was awful and I hated it! I'd say it definitely affected me in a negative way. I don't think theres anything wrong with discussing issues as long as you do it in a constructive manner.

  40. Anonymous7:58 PM

    I'm so glad you feel that way! I completely agree. As long as the parents can have a healthy discussion, free of yelling, screaming etc, it is important to show your children that a) married couples argue, and b) how married couples should argue! My parents never argued in front of me and I still struggle with arguing appropriately! I'm workin' on it, but it isn't easy!

  41. I think if the argument doesn't include yelling, but is more of a disagreement that can be resolved with a shorter amount of time..sure that's fine. A good friend of mine and her husband argued almost daily in front of their baby girl as soon as he walked in the door, not showing much love or resolution, and the now 3 year old has severe anxiety and adhd. Who knows if it's from growing up under stressful situations, but they are now having to learn how to act differently around her so she doesn't lash out.
    So I feel like you should try and not argue in front of your children, especially when they are younger and going through big developments...but who knows what is right? :\

  42. "Did your parents argue in front of me?"

    I guess they did Bon, I guess they did. (Nah, just picking! Just loved how I caught this...)