We’ve all been there. Emotions bubble up and reactions get going and you find yourself arguing – sometimes very heatedly – in front of the kids. Their eyes are wide, they might be showing some signs of distress, or you might just think that they’re busy on their iPad. Whatever it is, it does affect them, but I’m not here to make you feel guilty about that. I’m here to tell you what to do if that does happen.
I’ve got a four-step process for you (I like those four-step processes) but before I get into that, I want to just define arguing and fighting because many couples do it different ways. One is the typical yelling and arguing where things are very loud and obvious. Other couples fight in other ways like shutting down and getting quiet, and there’s just a lot of tension and lack of intimacy and affection between parents. So, just so you know, there’s different flavours of arguing.
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If this does happen, the most important thing is for your children to see you make up for the argument and have a resolution. I don’t care how old your kids are at this point. I think it’s just a good idea, even if they’re really young, to just get into the habit of developing the ability to come to a resolution in front of them or let them know that it has happened later on.
Say for example, you’re arguing about housework. Things get really heated and escalated and there’s a lot of reaction going on. Don’t sneak off to the bedroom or try to hide it from your kids. Let them see that couples can have arguments, and that’s okay. The other option is to just not do any of this in front of the kids, but that’s also damaging because then they’ll get into a relationship and get married, and then they’ll be like, “Well, we’re arguing. What’s wrong with us? My parents never did this, so there must be something wrong with our marriage.” Right?
So you want to give them a realistic picture of what it’s like to be in a relationship and have differing opinions, but also acknowledging that you’re their foundation. Your kids need to know that their foundation still loves each other and that things are okay. So if they don’t see you resolve things in front of them, make sure you circle back and let them know, “Mommy and Daddy still love each other, and we’re going strong. We came to a resolution and everything’s okay.”
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Secondly, reassure them, if they’re of the talking age, that this has nothing to do with them. Especially if it was a topic that may have included them somehow. So, for example, maybe you were arguing about which summer camp to send them to. Maybe you were arguing about the cost of an activity that they do, or perhaps who’s going to plan the birthday party. You can see how it would be really important to reassure them that even though the argument was to do with them, it’s not their fault you were arguing.
Even if the argument is not about them in particular, children have magical thinking, and they really do think the whole world revolves around them, which makes it seem like every single topic has to do with them. That’s why you have children whose parents are divorced, later down the road saying, “I really thought it was about something I did or said that caused my parents to divorce.” So second step, reassure them that it has nothing to do with them, that you’re just human and that you have different opinions, and you’re just doing your best to try to sort things out. You know? They know it. If they’re going to school and they’re on the playground, they understand that sometimes it’s really challenging to figure things out.
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Third, apologize for causing them some stress. There’s just something so profound as a kid about getting an apology from an adult. I remember so vividly when I was about eight, I don’t remember what happened, but my mom sat on my bed and just looked at me in the eye and said, “I am sorry. I shouldn’t have behaved that way.” And that made it okay to apologize, and taught me that there’s no shame in apologizing. It benefitted me way more than my parents ever just saying, “You know, Janna, it’s important to apologize”. Her showing that to me and being able to model that for me was so powerful. It doesn’t hamper your authority as a parent at all. It actually makes them respect you a lot more.
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The last tip, tip number four is to make sure that you do your best to minimize fighting in the future. Yes, it’s okay to have disagreements, yes, I think it’s really healthy for kids to see their parents in consultation, but if you notice that you’re unable to control your emotional reactions a lot of the time or if you have some really heated patterns that you just are, like, “Oh, here we go again,” it might be a good idea to start working on making that happen less.
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If you are wondering how to do that, I talked about a really great tool in my last post, one might call it a formula, for stopping those severe emotional reactions and actually ending up in intimacy. What a gift that would be for your children for you to model that? Since I got such a huge response from that post last week and I have seen the incredible results that it has with the couples I work with one on one, I’ve decided to do a little small group just based on that one tool called The Intimacy Intervention. I’m taking women who are interested in having less fighting in their marriage and more intimacy, and it’ll just be a really small group.
This will be a beta, so it’ll be very cheap, just $97 for probably about three or four group sessions. You get one on one support with me, which is insanely cheap for that price. If you’re interested, I’m only filling about six spots. Send me an email (email@example.com) and you’ll get on the list. And then you can learn the most powerful tool for stopping arguing and increasing intimacy in your relationship. This is something that you can do yourself! If your spouse isn’t really interested in doing coaching right now, this is a perfect opportunity for you, because I will show you how to do it if it’s just you alone and your husband isn’t interested.
Have a great day everybody, and I hope you can put these four tips into practice!