Should we argue in front of the Kids?
We all do it – say “I’m fine” when we actually want to burst into tears.
We say “I’m fine” when someone says something aggravating – just to keep the peace.
I have noticed since having my daughter G I have tried to present the best version of me. The most positive, enthusiastic, loving and happiest version of me as possible. Because after all I want her to learn these traits.
I would rather her learn these than being negative, lazy, sad or unhappy.
This extends to when she is around her dad and I. We are not together anymore but I want her to see us always getting along. Being respectful, friendly, warm and even loving. As that is what she should see from her parents – right?
We even go on family days out, short holidays together – to help foster positive memories, thoughts surrounding us being a little family – albeit separate.
Other children get to be around both parents all the time, see them laughing, being affectionate, playing games and learning how to be a family unit. (That is the picture of perfection of family in my head!) and so she should see this around her too, when we, the three of us are together.
Well here is the thing – we are separated, fact. That happened for a reason and so it stands to reason that our interactions may not always feel “Little house on the prairie” perfect.
There are times of misunderstandings, conflict and sometimes arguments.
Not throwing my saucepan style angry arguments, maybe raised voices, and dagger stares across the room kind of arguments…generally a feeling of coldness and iciness is felt.
Whenever we seemed to be veering into an
argument ‘debate’ (I don’t even like to call them arguments). I would try to move the debate to another room, or try and change my tone so that I could somehow fool G into thinking that everything was okay when in fact we were still arguing.
I felt like I was damaging her by having her witness conflict. This fed into my feelings of failure at her coming from a ‘broken’ family.
Would she learn that this was how couples acted?
Would this lead to teenage rebellion?
Would she look for abusive future relationships?
Would she too have a child and then become a single parent after being raised within a single parent family unit?
I can thank my past sociology classes for these questions and worries!
I feel/felt tremendous guilt and worry when we argue and so when these instances arise I would get even more angry at my ex for being the catalyst for these arguments. After all there was nobody else to argue with during the week so this was clearly his fault and him bringing in all this negativity.
Speaking to my counsellor and explaining my resistance in having G exposed to arguing she highlighted something very important to me.
Children – can sense what is going on without necessarily understanding the dialogue around them.
She would be able to sense the change in tone, the icy exchange the reticence in our interaction.
This hit me hard.
She went on to explain…if G sensed something was “off” or frosty and then I smacked a smile on my face and tried to emulate a fake version of happiness- I was doing potentially more damage than I realised.
G could potentially get confused – her inner senses are telling her one thing but I am ‘displaying’ and showing something different.
So in fact what she could learn is how to hide your negative emotions.
Or she could become confused with interpreting positive and negative emotions. Having a child who is developmentally delayed makes this particularly alarming as ‘emotions’ are a hard concept for many children to grasp and so by not being authentic, in an attempt to shield her, could hinder her emotional development even more.
Here I am paying a therapist to undo my tendencies to hide my negative emotions. As an adult I am trying to unpick and recalibrate reactions and thoughts – who is to say G will be able to do that as an adult?
Crying in front of my child felt like it could be a really damaging thing to do. It could make them feel guilty, responsible, agitated or even scared to see the one person they come to for strength actually showing ‘weakness’.
As I’ve mentioned before I do tend to link crying to weakness (though I shouldn’t!).
I am wrong with how I am thinking though. She should see my cry (occasionally) and should see her dad and I exchange differing opinions – but we should explain what is happening to her.
What we have noticed for some time now is when we ‘debate’ she comes between us and screams “noo noo, stop” – I say when we debate, it could be when we are talking animatedly or excitedly about something, we get louder. She has now interpreted being loud in a conversation as ‘conflict’.
I was talking to my mum the other day and was getting loud and G started screaming “noo noo stopp!”
Confusion is already present.
In my effort to protect we have confused the very natural reality that people are sometimes happy or sad or angry or excited. – and that is okay.
In kind of conclusion – I hope that I can be more willing to show more emotions in front of G, especially with her dad around. I want her to see two people who get on, who can have a laugh, but people who can sometimes not get on but still be able to be respectful in the face of differing opinions. I hope that the fact we are aware we have our daughter watching and essentially learning from us we try and be better parents by working through our conflict in a positive way in front of her.
Perhaps not all situations will call for this, but if she is witness to us arguing it would be nice if she then also saw us ‘make up’.
Thats the dream anyway!
What do you think is it good or bad to argue in front of the kids?