Fighting in Front of Your Kids Can Be Healthy
Why I Think It's Healthy to Fight in Front of Your Kids
Sometimes it can be hard not to feel guilty about fighting in front of your children. Our friends at YourTango examine why it's nothing to feel ashamed of.
I'm just not good enough of a liar to pretend I'm happy all the time.
I'm suspicious of couples that claim they never fight. These people are either a) lying, or b) unicorns. My husband and I fight. I wish we didn't, but both of us are way too stubborn for that.
I get annoyed that he never knows where anything is. He finds it grating when I immediately ask for help before attempting to fix my computer. He thinks I micro-manage our kids' wardrobes. I think it would be nice if he put the baby in a matching pair of socks, just once.
We didn't always fight. For almost the entire first year of our relationship, nary a terse word was exchanged. When we started to fight, I was mystified. What happened to the sweet love we shared?
The love was still there but real life entered our cocoon of romance. For the first time, we had to manage decisions more difficult than where to have brunch. As a friend told me, "Of course you're going to fight with your partner. You are two people sharing one life."
And life is messy, especially now that we're parents. And when we're low on sleep, and a sea of baby dolls and puzzle pieces has turned our living room into a field of booby traps, there's competition for resources. Translation: We don't always use our polite flight attendant voices when we have a conflict.
So yes, sometimes we fight in front of our kids. There are a lot of things I feel guilty about as a mom, but fighting with my husband isn't one of them. Here's why:
1. When our kids see us disagree, they witness the reality that individuals have their own competing wants and needs.
Everything we do models behavior for our kids. I don't want them to grow up with the false expectation that it's easy for a couple to manage their differences. Real, intimate relationships are hard. Really hard. I can't keep my girls from adoring their princess dresses and Frozen figurines, but hell if I'm going to let them grow up thinking a prince will bring them all their happily ever afters.
I wouldn't respect my husband if he always went along with my wishes, and vice versa. I want to show my kids that a real relationship takes work, but that it's worth it.
2. We don't have to wait until we're alone to discuss the issues.
While I'm (theoretically) a fan of cooling off before discussing an issue, on the flip side, when you wait to address the problem, you have time to simmer and stew. Which is awesome for a crockpot dinner, but for a marriage? Not so much.
My husband and I have two small children. They wake up very early, need us all day, and by the time they go to sleep, we're exhausted. We don't want to spend the precious little time between their bedtime and ours fighting about who left the chest freezer open.
Worse yet, we refuse to spend the glorious hours when they're in the care of a sitter resolving minor disagreements when we we'd much rather be enjoying dinner at a place with real silverware and cloth napkins. When we can air our issues out quickly, we can move on and avoid holding onto resentment.
3. My parents fought in front of me, and I turned out just fine.
My parents weren't shy about sharing their grievances with one another. They weren't shy about displaying their affection for one another, either. I'm not saying they were throwing dishes, hurling insults, and then having crazy make-out sessions at the dinner table; I'm just saying I heard them bicker about random things.
But I also saw them kiss, heard them say "I love you," and delighted in the sound of them laughing together. From my parents, I learned that even the fiercest, most enduring love isn't immune to the occasional murderous feeling, and that that's normal.
I've never claimed to be a parenting expert. I have no idea what I'm doing most of the time. I don't subscribe to a particular philosophy or adhere to any hard and fast rules. In many ways, I approach child-rearing the same way I do everything else in my life: by the seat of my pants and with honesty. And if I can't be real about who I am, what I want, and what annoys the crap out of me in my own house, where can I?
I don't need my kids to think my husband and I are perfect. I just need them to know that even though we don't get along 100 percent of the time, we're trying really hard, because we value each other and our relationship.
And the fact is, I'm just not good enough of a liar to pretend I'm happy all the time. It's all I can do to let my kids think my fancy chocolate is a vitamin.
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