The longest bare-knuckle fight in history lasted six hours, fifteen minutes for 17 rounds, according to Australian Geographic1. The 1855 spectacle is not meant to set a bar for you and your spouse to overcome. Consider these reasons not to fight in front of your children.
When You Fight, Everyone Loses
A fight necessarily involves sides, and when your children see their two parents on opposite sides of anything, everyone loses. As explained in Psychology Today, research is revealing an adverse relationship between parents who fight and a child’s ability to recognize and process emotions.
Your momentary “win” in a fight with your spouse could come at the cost of emotionally disturbing your own children.
Respecting Parenting Choices
You see no harm in a bowl of potato chips and one caffeine-free soda after dinner. Your spouse advocates for riced cauliflower and tepid spring water instead. Neither of you is wrong, neither is right (hey, some kids like riced cauliflower; go figure). You must respect each other’s choices or parenting styles.
If you are in charge of the tykes for an evening, then you are in charge. Potato chips it is. If your spouse has already started the night’s activities, do not undermine her.
The same is true for separated or divorced parents. If the kids are at her home, her rules apply. Ideally, you and your ex-spouse will come to agreement on essentials (brushed teeth, consistent bedtime, nutritious foods) while letting other small things go.
By far the worst thing you can do in front of your children is argue about them with your spouse. (Well, sure, you can do worse things, but we mean legal, sane, parental things.)
Your children may benefit from seeing the two of you disagree respectfully and quietly over minor things — Florida vacation versus Williamsburg, Army versus Navy — because you two can model appropriate ways to have opposing views.
But you must never, ever argue about your children in their presence. Many times, the parent has screwed up a vital piece of parenting but cannot admit it.
Experts at Fatherly point out the physical and emotional toll this behavior takes: it intensifies depression and can damage the cardiovascular system.
No matter how slight the disagreement over the children, their presence at the argument makes them feel insecure. They feel their comfortable lives turn unstable. They sometimes feel guilt for “causing” the disagreement. Spare them all that. Disagree in private.
Even if you and your spouse or ex-spouse loathe each other, you must present a united front in your children. You do not have to hide your feelings about each other — your kids already know how you really feel. You two adults can model appropriate adult behavior needed in all kinds of situations:
- Work environments where you must work with people you do not get along with
- Social situations in which you do not care for the other attendees
- Clubs or amateur sports organizations where you do not agree with the group leader but follow the playbook to be a team player
In many ways, if the two of you do not get along but still present a united front to your kids, your message is even more powerful than two love birds parroting each other:
- She: “Look, your father and I may not agree about politics, religion, money, or anything else …”
- You: “But by golly we both agree on how much we love you and worry over you, so an 11 p.m. curfew is an 11 p.m. curfew.”
- She: “And that’s in my house or your father’s house. Clear?”
Arguing and strong emotions are often part of everyday life. Never present to your children some artificially saccharine world in which you bottle up your unhappiness or simply nod in dumb agreement as your stomach turns in knots.
Allow your children to see adults in conflict in healthy, emotionally valid ways:
- Own your feelings, say experts at Care.com — If you are in conflict in front of the children, model a strong advocate by making “I” statements (“I feel attacked when you belittle my choices of activities with the kids”) and not apologizing for your underlying feelings (but always apologize for name-calling or insults!)
- Steer clear of absolutes — If you cannot find a safe, private place to argue, make certain to avoid extreme comments such as “You never,” or “I always,” in the presence of your children, say experts at WHYY
When conflict comes, the final answer may be separation and divorce, with attorneys to represent your spouse and you separately. When dealing with legal issues, remember that they, too, are private matters not intended for small ears.
Contact us today at The Firm For Men if you are having domestic difficulties, seek advice on family law matters, or need an attorney for a separation or divorce. Our practice focuses on helping Virginia’s men protect their rights, safeguard their finances, and maintain healthy relationships with their children. You may also call our offices at (757) 383-9184. We look forward to serving you soon.