Having disagreements is a part of married life – no husband and wife can always agree at all times! It could be over the values you want to give your child, her school, her food habits, or just making life decisions together – arguments are a part of the package. A lot of us have witnessed fights between our parents as kids, and there’s a chance that your child has seen you argue with your partner too.
While fighting may sometimes resolve the issue at hand, it can also have a negative effect on your child, especially if she sees it happen often. Wondering how to protect your child from getting affected by any nasty arguments she may witness? Read ahead.
How Fighting Affects Your Child
As mentioned above, arguing is a part of all relationships – but the way in which you fight with your spouse makes all the difference. Things like name-calling and throwing objects; using superlative phrases like, “you are the worst” or “you always get it wrong”; threatening to leave; hitting or using physical force on your partner can affect your child in negative ways. Repeated exposure to this behaviour from you or your spouse can cause behavioural issues in your little one, not to mention the damage it can do to your marriage.
Here are some of the side-effects nasty arguing can have on your little one:
1. Your child may become moody and aggressive.
2. Your child may develop anxiety, which can have physical symptoms like headaches and stomach pains, and trouble making friends.
3. Arguing in front of your child can cause concentration problems in school, thus affecting her academic performance.
4. Your child may become distant and detached from the family and find solace in other company, which can be dangerous since children are innocent.
5. It may affect her relationship with you as it can change her understanding of what parents should be like.
Remember, you and your spouse are your child’s definition of ‘love’. Since children learn by watching, how you treat your relationship with your spouse is what she will define as ‘normal’ and perhaps treat people she loves in the future in the same way without understanding the difference between right and wrong.
This may come as a surprise, but infants as young as 6 months of age can also be affected by arguments. They may not understand the words, but they can register conflict if it is within hearing distance!
6 Tips to Remember When Arguing in Front of Your Child
While arguing cannot be always controlled, there are ways in which you can handle your arguments and your child’s reactions to them. Here are a few handy tips on how to take charge in an unfavourable conflict situation:
1. Try to avoid nasty fights in front of your child. If you foresee a big fight brewing, make sure you don’t blow up in front of your child. Big fights mean there will be a lot of angry words exchanged, and you might end up saying something that could be damaging to your child and your partner. To resolve those fights, ask your partner to meet you in another room immediately, and sort it out. Make sure it is resolved before you leave the room. If not, communicate to your partner that you will bring it up again, later. Tip: take some time off to calm yourself first and think of the problem at hand; think of the solution, and communicate it to your partner in a respectful way!
2. Use kind words and empathy. When arguing with your partner in front of your child, make sure to use an empathetic tone and do not resort to name-calling. Try starting your argument with “I understand you are busy” or “I know you were working all day” before you get to the complaint you might have with your spouse. Refrain from using any kind of derogatory words to address your partner as that can be damaging not only to your child but also to your relationship with your spouse. Using civil language will teach your child how to talk to people and how to resolve conflict without verbal violence.
3. Offer constructive criticism. If your partner has made a mistake in a situation that could have been handled differently, the best way to approach it is to offer a solution instead of blaming them for it and leaving it at that. Say something like, “next time, this can be done another way” or “don’t forget to do it that way the next time”. This will give your kid an idea that problems always have solutions, and that she should look for them.
4. Face your problem as a team. Children understand the severity of a fight when they see how you and your partner address each other. Spouses often say “you” and “me” when arguing, but that is what you need to keep at a minimum, especially when coming up with a solution. Address the issue from the perspective of what you two would do about it. “How can we solve this?” “What do you think we should do about this?” is a good way to do so. That way, if your child does witness the fight, she will still be assured that you and your spouse are sticking through it together.
5. Understand your partner’s point of view. Before you reach the problem-solving part of your argument, allow time for both your partner and you to express yourselves. Let them finish before you tell them your point of view, or tell them you need to let out everything before they do. Then, move on to how you can solve the problem. Respecting someone during an argument will go a long way in your child’s understanding of relationships– she will know that one does not have to disrespect someone to disagree with them.
6. Provide assurance to your child at every step. If you are in a situation where your child is almost always around you and your spouse arguing, make sure you communicate to her that you and your partner are simply solving their problems – you still love each other and respect each other. Constantly reassuring your child is important so that she understands that the fight is merely a temporary hiccup in your relationship. The more you remind her that you are a team, the more secure she will feel.
Parenting can be tough, especially because parents can bring in the stress of the home and the workplace into their fights. Arguing with your partner is inevitable in a marriage, but making sure that your child does not witness the ugliness of it is extremely important. With these tips, you will be able to handle your arguments better, and create a happy and safe environment for your little one to live in!