How to Fight In Front of Your Children
One of the most difficult things to do when you and your significant other are at odds — particularly the kind of odds that are leaning strongly toward separation or divorce — is protect the children from the damage your fights can cause. Children learn how to behave from their parents, and if the example you’re modeling is snide and deprecating, full of mind games and deceit, or simply destructively furious, your child will internalize those behaviors and use them when similar situations arise during their adult life.
Hopefully, we all agree that no one wants that to happen. Here’s how to avoid that scenario:
Acknowledge That Your Child Wants Both Parents
Before any of this will matter enough to make you change, you have to understand that a child wants as much love and attention as the world will give them. Anything you do to take their other parent away is going to make their world less attentive — and in the vast majority of cases, less loving. So start by admitting to yourself that the answer is never to attempt to drive a wedge between your child and their other parent, no matter how much you
Learn How to Argue
Perhaps the single most effective tool in the arsenal of a conflicted couple is a class — on how to argue. Learning how to communicate your concerns without triggering an anger response, how to listen without judging, and how to fight toward understanding instead of fighting to feel ‘right’ area all teachable skills, just like playing soccer or folding an origami bullfrog. If you put in the effort to learn, you’ve won half the battle. If your spouse does the same, you’ve won, period. It might not stop the two of you from separating, but it will allow you to do so while modeling behavior that you want your child to display.
Acknowledge and Own Emotions
Every person — and couple — has emotional patterns that are hard to break. When your spouse asks you about a chore and you realize you didn’t take care of it, you always defend your failure by pointing out the workload you’re under and the stress you deal with. When your significant other points you that you’re being hypercritical of someone’s decisions, you consistently point out that by pointing out your criticality, they are in turn being hypercritical and thus hypocritical.
But when you verbally state your emotions — not what your partner is doing or feeling, but your emotions that are driving your words — if you’re honest about them, you can point them out and own them. That makes for a more productive argument, because at that point, you’re arguing about something real instead of something you created to protect yourself. That helps your partner understand what is actually at the root of the issue — and, by no coincidence, helps your child understand as well.
Never Put the Child in the Middle
One of the worst things you can possibly do when fighting is involve your children in the fight. Asking them to pick sides — or even implying that they might pick sides — isn’t ever conducive to your child’s growth. Remember, your child deserves to love their other parent, and they deserve to have the chance to be loved by the other parent. Anything you do to interfere with that relationship is hurting your child, not only now, but in their adult life as well.
- Keep your criticisms of the other parent constructive rather than spiteful.
- Never ask the child to ‘give a message’ to the other parent.
- Never ask your child to share details about the other parent’s private life with you.
- Always offer to attend all of your child’s special events, even if you know the other parent will be there.
- Never threaten to withhold access to the other parent from your child.
Don’t Try to Hide Your Conflict From Your Child
Many experts will go so far as to tell you that you shouldn’t ever fight in front of your child at all. All you have to do is remember that children model your behavior to recognize that this is an entirely counterproductive rule. Children know when you’re upset, and they’re going to figure out that it’s because of their other parent. All you do when you refuse to fight in front of them is teach them to express their frustration in unproductive ways — because you are expressing your frustration. You can’t help it.
Instead, learn how to fight productively, and model all of the conflict — from beginning through to the resolution — in front of your child. Let them learn, and let them inspire you to be a sterling example of how you want them to resolve their problems later in life. (Don’t, however, let them inspire you to take a holier-than-thou approach to the conflict, either. Be real, just be good and real.)
If your conflicts aren’t the kind that have a resolution (outside of separation or divorce) call Gucciardo Family Law today. We can help you achieve the best result for you — and your children.
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