So, how’s your relationship doing? Sorry to be so impertinent, but if I don’t ask it’s possible that nobody will, and it’s kind of important to examine the things we hold dear, to check in on them and ensure we’re taking care of any unresolved issues. Some of the big questions to consider in a partnership cover money and savings, parenting and discipline styles, where to live, and one I’ve been thinking about lately since I read a fascinating and insightful post: should you argue in front of the children?
Since publishing and by complete coincidence, I became aware that Pope Francis was talking about this subject at the time I was writing! My husband and I were subsequently invited on air to the BBC Essex breakfast show to discuss our views. You can listen here:
With thanks to the BBC for sharing this clip.
A relationship audit can be the hardest thing in the world – yet also the most necessary. Especially when children are involved. Especially when you’re arguing a lot.
Have you heard of Tova Leigh? I follow her on Facebook because she’s brilliant, and I recommend you do too. She wrote a post recently which really resonated with me; in it she examines marriage after children, specifically referencing her own – which in itself is very brave. Her words are also incredibly poignant because they describe a situation which I’d be willing to bet affects all new parents – yet we prefer not to openly discuss.
I’m talking about the fact that when we have small people disrupting our lives, they also wield the power to come frighteningly close to ending our relationships. Here’s the post:
It’s Normal to Temporarily Drift Apart
Frequent feuding can feel representative of a relationship turned sour, and of course it can be symptomatic of that. Yet it’s all too easy to ignore the elephant in the room that we’d rather not face up to. But when it’s not just about us, we really can’t afford to do that; which is a bit of a paradox given that the kids are often the reason we’d prefer to retain the status quo in the first place.
I felt relief reading Tova’s words that the breaking point I felt close to during the depths of sleep-deprivation are normal and common. My husband and I are solid, and I don’t know about him but I’m certainly delighted, excited even, to be finding our way back to one another now. He makes me feel cherished, and I love him with all my heart. Despite the intense irritation we felt at each other when we were desperately tired and spent.
Should You Argue in Front of the Children?
A long time ago I wrote a post about whether or not you should get married. You can read it by following the link, but the upshot is: do you and your significant other hold the same values? Almost anything can be overcome if you do – almost nothing, in the end, if you don’t…
Having the same values means effortlessly working towards common goals, with no significant compromises on either side, simply because you share a set of core beliefs. When this is not the case, everything becomes a potential battle. Bickering becomes inevitable; and without vast, superhuman swathes of respect for fundamental ideals that do not and are not likely to ever align with your own, your relationship is likely doomed. Frankly, I couldn’t live that way, and anybody who does without being miserable is a Saint.
Of course, even the healthiest of marriages has disagreements. But for those of us with families, how should disputes be best managed? Should you argue in front of the children?
There are actually arguments (excuse the pun) both for and against letting the kids see mum and dad bicker. Personally, with one caveat, I strongly believe it’s important my husband and I don’t hide our grievances. Why? My response the day my mum told me my parents were separating when I was seven years old is very telling:
But you never argue.
Obviously, if quarrels tend to escalate to name-calling, raised voices or worse, then we should be sheltering our little ones from that – and perhaps taking a look at our destructive behaviour?! But, in good relationships – which by definition includes respect for one another – disagreements are a fantastic opportunity to teach youngsters a critical life skill.
To Demonstrate the acknowledgement of another perspective, followed by the ability to compromise and ultimately reach a mutually satisfying resolution, is to impart an invaluable lesson to children.
The healthiest way for youngsters to see this play out is between two adults they trust – and in whom they have complete faith love each other. It’s surely counterproductive to shield children from the reality that even those we care about and who care about us will sometimes differ; far preferable to model that we can disagree – fall out even – and come through the other side, without resorting to nasty tactics.
I’d far rather my girls are exposed to that, than let them believe their dad and I see eye to eye 100% of the time, especially when it’s closer to the truth that I often think he’s a bit of a plonker! (Naturally he thinks I’m perfect and never has any reason to find fault with me. Ahem.)
Allowing youngsters to see differences communicated in a calm way paves the way for them to develop that vital tool for themselves. So many people struggle with this even as adults, and I’m convinced that modelling desirable behaviour is the only way to ensure our children are able to learn how to effectively communicate and deal with conflict appropriately.
If we want our children to be emotionally intelligent and build successful relationships with others, without capitulating or compromising their own values, then yes, we should argue in front of the children.
What do you think – should we argue in front of the children? Do you let your kids see you squabbling, or do you try to keep disagreements private?