Watching parents argue may be a great source of distress for children. While you may sometimes be unable to prevent these arguments, you can certainly reduce its impact.
You and your spouse are having a heated argument. As your temper starts to rise, you then notice your daughter standing in the doorway of the living room. It’s clear that she has been listening to every word both you and your spouse are hurling at each other. Is this situation familiar to you? If so, you may want to sit down and think carefully about the consequences of arguing in front of your child.
Your Child is Never ‘Too Young’
You probably think that your child is too young to understand the content of your argument. It probably has never occurred that she may actually pick up the negative tone of the conversation and facial expressions Not only that, she may not realise that certain harsh expressions were uttered in the heat of the moment, and instead, may actually learn that it’s OK to call names. Worst of all, your child may experience serious psychological harm if she continues to witness you and your spouse arguing on a regular basis. No matter how old you child is, she will feel uncomfortable, awkward or depressed each time she hears your arguments. She may tend to become passiveaggressive, less socially secure, anxious, badly behaved, bed wet, withdrawn and depressed. If your child continues to live in a hostile environment, she will feel very stressed out. Negative stress should never be a part of your child’s life because it can affect her physical and mental health and predisposes her for various emotional problems in future.
It is normal to disagree with your spouse from time to time. In fact, minor disagreements cannot be avoided. The main issue is not whether you argue or not, but how both of you argue. If your child witnesses a constructive argument (where both of you actively solve problems together while continuing to show affection to each other throughout the discussion), she may actually learn how to solve problems through compromise.
Here are some suggestions on how you can keep arguments under control and ensure that your child is not affected in a negative way:
Always remember to acknowledge and show respect to your spouse. Learn to listen to what your spouse is saying. Refrain from calling each other names, using foul language, raising your voices or saying things that you will regret later and worse still, attempts to assault.
- Focus on Solution
Remember that you are trying to work out a solution, not fighting a war. You do not have to make your spouse feel wrong, in order for you to be right. Step back a little, whenever necessary to prevent the argument from going overboard (time out). Once both of you have calmed down, make the time to sit down and have a more “civilised” discussion.
- No Sides!
Try not to involve your child as you should try your best to keep the conflict between you and your spouse. It is not fair to make your child take sides as this may cause distress in the child.
- Learn to Apologise
Apologise to your spouse in front of your child whenever you get carried away. Saying ‘sorry’ shows your magnanimity. Let your child see that you are taking responsibility for your own words.
- Discuss with Your Child
Some arguments may trigger your child to think that she has caused the conflict. She may also jump to conclusions and assume that both of you are going to break up. Thus, make the effort to discuss with your child after an “argument”. Explain to him or her that both mummy and daddy still love each other even though both of you sometimes disagree on things.
Remember that you are your child’s role model and she will always look up to you. So please make the effort to always show a good example by controlling your temper and managing your anger. And if you really have to ‘argue’ with your spouse, make sure that the coast is clear!