Disagreements in a marriage are common. While an argument with your spouse may grow your marital relationship if the issue is resolved, having it out in front of your kids, can be very scary for them. Research suggests that kids gauge how safe they are in the family by watching their parents closely – how they behave, words they use and emotions they show. So, it is not that you fight but how you fight, which affects how safe your kids feel during the argument.
If you are feeling the heat from a recent war of words, here are four rules to keep you in check for future arguments while teaching your kids a few things about healthy conflict resolution.
Try to Keep Your Voice Down
The heat of the moment can get the better of us and all we want to do is yell out of frustration! However, yelling is counterproductive and only makes a bad situation worse. If both parties are yelling at the same time, then no one is listening. Try to consciously speak calmly, take turns, and avoid insults and name-calling.
Easier said than done? Of course! But studies have shown that yelling at each other during an argument takes a huge toll on a kid’s mental health, and this is best avoided.
Set an Anger Limit
We often regret the things we do while we are angry. Avoid this unpleasant situation by learning to recognise when you are starting to get angry and acknowledge it, so you can keep yourself in check. But, if you feel like your temper may flare beyond your control, signal to your spouse that you need a breather – saving the argument (and shielding the kids) for a time when you are calmer.
Your Kids are Not Referees
Leave the kids out of your argument. There is nothing more unsettling than to be put in a position to choose sides. More importantly, kids shouldn’t be made to feel like they have to choose who “wins” because their choice could cause the argument to escalate further, making them feel like it is their fault.
Limit the Argument to the Issue at Hand
Digging up past arguments gives your kids the impression that adults are petty and are not able to move past issues that have been previously resolved. Focus only on the urgent issue and on reaching a compromise. Questions like “How can we resolve this together?” or “What can we do to make this better?”, should be spoken out loud so your kids learn that every problem can be resolved if both parties work together. Your kids should also witness their parents acknowledge mistakes, apologise for them and seal the deal with a hug and a kiss!