My husband and I love each other dearly, but we don’t always agree. Okay, I’m being politically correct. Let me just come clean! Sometimes we argue. Now here’s the thing–we rarely sneak away behind closed doors from our daughter if we’re having a heated “discussion.” Nope, we do it right there in plain view of our 6-year-old. And I really wouldn’t have it any other way.
Don’t get me wrong. Neither my husband nor I would ever do anything inappropriate that would scar my daughter for life. I know that there are parenting studies out there that say arguing in front of children can have a negative impact on their mental health. But there are also child psychologists that say letting children observe their parents hashing out conflicts is healthy for kids.
In my opinion having a disagreement in front of your child can be perfectly healthy. In fact, I think our behavior teaches my little girl some very important life lessons:
She learns that love doesn’t always mean “yes.” My little girl knows that we love each other because she sees us being affectionate all of the time. When she sees us argue, she gets to also see that we can love each other and have different points of view.
She learns how to fight fair. While my daughter may see us have an argument from time to time, she never sees us fight dirty. There’s no name calling and there is never, ever the threat of physical violence. Instead she sees her parents expressing their differing points of view and coming to a resolution. Hopefully she’ll come to understand that there should be healthy boundaries within arguments, and apply these boundaries to her own relationships when she is grown.
She learns that a woman’s opinion matters. When my daughter sees her parents argue, she sees me on equal footing with my husband. She sees that the woman of the house has a voice. And although my opinion may not always come out as the winner, she sees that I have the freedom to express my thoughts and that they do matter. I hope that she’ll internalize it and know that her feminine voice carries weight in this world.
She learns a critical life skill. Life is full of conflict. Whether my little girl grows up to be a high-powered professional or a grocery store clerk, she’ll have to learn how to handle conflict. And she’ll have to learn the critical skill of expressing her opinions and defending her point of view. I think that watching her parents argue is one way that she can begin to develop this skill.
She learns what happens next. By seeing all aspects of our lives, my little girl gets to see how a good relationship works after the argument. She gets to see mommy and daddy turn their differing opinions into a resolution that works for everyone. She gets to see mom or dad apologize. And most importantly, she gets to see us hug, kiss and make up.
As her parents, my husband and I have some unspoken boundaries about the kind of disagreements that we can have in front of our daughter. We take the discussion behind closed doors if the disagreement is about her. And we don’t argue about anything that includes “adult content” in front of her young ears. But believe me, everything else is fair game.
Now don’t get the wrong impression. My husband and I don’t argue often. But when we do, it’s right there in the open for those little eyes to see.
Do you argue in front of your kids? Why or why not?
Yolanda Darville is a Type A American wife, mom and freelance writer learning to navigate the easy-going island life in Nassau, Bahamas. Connect with her @YolandaDarville on Twitter.