Do You Argue In Front of the Kids?

October 13, 2010

When I say argue, I don’t mean the ugly I-never-want-to-see-you-again variety.  What I’m talking about is in the just-ask-for-directions category.  I guess this amounts to a discussion rather than an argument?  Do you think? I like to call it fight-fair.  You see, my husband and I are so different, and not just in the gender department, so — ah — conversations are bound to happen. Here’s a very small snapshot:

My husband and I have talked about this and we figure it’s better to show the children that two peole who love each other, still have discussions rather than model a we-never-disagree persona. 

An example

As you see from the table above, I’m a risk taker.  This can be a good thing and a bad thing.  One Sunday morning, we bundled the children into the car to go to church.  Blu (the husband) turned the key in the ignition. Nothing.  With his hands resting on the steering wheel, he leaned forward slightly and turned his head to look at me.  The car was out of petrol.  Now you might say, “That’s an easy mistake to make.” Yes — true — but this was the 3rd time in a matter of 2 weeks that I had run out of petrol (I’m deadly serious).  Blu was cross with me.  On my part, I was SURE I could make that last leg — and of course the next one.  This is the conversation we had while the children were sitting in the car.

         

Blu: It’s not good enough Kelly. You HAVE to fill the car with petrol when the orange light comes on.

Me:I know but I couldn’t stop on the way to school because I would have been late for the children.  And then on the way home from school Cossie was crying and the thought of stopping for petrol was just too much. I only had to run out for milk yesterday and there was no petrol station nearby.  I thought I would have enough… you know, for the next leg of the trip.

Blu: I’m not happy.

Me: I can see that.

Blu: What if next time you’re stuck somewhere on the road?

[Blu gets out of the car and just stands there.]

Me: Hon, look, I’m really sorry.  Just take the other car to the petrol station and fill up the can and bring it back. It won’t take long.

Blu: I shouldn’t have to. Drives away.

Cossie: Is Daddy cross at you Mummy?

Me: Yes darling.

Scottie: Daddy shouldn’t be cross at you Mum.

Me: No, actually, he should.  Daddy needs to get cross at Mummy sometimes. And Mummy needs to get cross at Daddy sometimes.

Flossie: I don’t like it when Daddy is cross at you Mum.

Me: I know baby but it’s like you and Scottie.  When you are angry at each other, does that mean you don’t love each other?

Flossie: No.

Me: So it’s the same with Mummy and Daddy.  Mummy didn’t do the best thing and Daddy is allowed to get cross at me sometimes.  It doesn’t mean he doesn’t love me.

Son: Oh no. The car’s broken. Daddy will fix it.

Me: Yes mate, Dad will come back and fix the car.

[We wait.  Blu comes back.  He fills the car with petrol and gets back in the car.]

Blu: Sorry I flew off the handle darling.  I know you, and love you.  I acted like a boofhead.

Me: You have every right to be angry at me but thank you for understanding me.  I love you. 

Blu: [Laughs].  I do understand you.  You drive me nuts but I love you.

Me: [I smile]

Different roads

This conversation could have easily gone in a different direction.

1. Silent treatment

I can see it now, tension building. Oh fun. (Risk here of not growing and learning).

2. Blu saying, “We’re not going to church kids because your mother keeps forgetting things.”

Defaming and bringing the other down with words in front of the children. (Not a good course to take).

3. Me saying, “You don’t know what it is like being home with the children all the time.”

Tit for tat.  Plus basically telling the children they are such a hassle. How sweet. (NOT!)

4. Blu saying, “That’s fine dear. No problem.”

While this might be a sweet approach, I probably wouldn’t have so much respect for my husband if he didn’t pull me up on anything.  But then, if he was unkind and picked at everything I did, I probably wouldn’t respond well to that either.

5. Take it elsewhere

Many may think this a better course.  I’m not sure if I agree.  Sure, there are times we need to talk about things without the children being there (and we do) but discussion is big part of life in our house.  We talk things through. We discuss.  We work things out.  We are all in this together.

Reflection

We are coming up to our 11th year wedding anniversary and we’ve learnt, not only to discuss things, but to truly understand and love each other.  It takes work though, and  trust me, we are still learning.  I didn’t analyse the above conversation at the time but now I’m reflecting, I can see four principals we may have taught the children.

1. Differences

People have differences and this is a normal part of a loving relationship.

2. Acknowledge

When you stuff up, own up.

3. Unconditional Love

Blu could decide that he will stop loving me if run out of petrol again. HA!  But no.  He ended the conversation with a demonstration of unconditional love.

4. Reconciliation

Reconciliation is so vital in a relationship.  Not only for adults but for children too.  I believe deep resentment grows when reconciliation is not administered after an argument or discipline.

Our family had a lovley day and the morning mishap was forgotten.

You know what? Blu now keeps a full can of petrol in the garage for the “next time” I’m sure I can do the last leg of a journey.  Now that’s real love.

Is there a difference between arguing and discussing?  Should healthy discussions be modeled? Some people may disagree with me here.  I know many people believe all discussion should be done away from children but I tend to disagree.  What do you think?

* I checked with  my husband before I posted the conversation.

Be A Fun Mum Links

I Didn’t Clean the Kitchen Last Night

Let Dad Have His Way

Daddy Tax

Chronic Multi-tasker Woman vs One-task-at-a-time Man

External Links

Love this verse: “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Ephesians 4:26

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

MallyNo Gravatar October 13, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Great blog, I don’t have children yet, but i’ve experienced my fair share of unfair arguments, and I love what you’ve said. Although I tend to think these things are important in any relationship, regardless of whether children are involved/present. But I agree. Thankyou!

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Kelly Be A Fun MumNo Gravatar October 14, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Hey Mally. Thank you for your lovely comment. And I agree fair discussing should be used in any relationship.

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katepickleNo Gravatar October 13, 2010 at 4:37 pm

Great post (as uaual) and really spot on too (as usual! LOL)….

We have the odd ‘heated discussion’ in front of our kids – why? because we are humans. Because relationships are not always easy, because it’s ok to disagree with someone as long as you do it respectfully, and because it is ok to make a mistake…. such important things for us all to remember!

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Kelly Be A Fun MumNo Gravatar October 14, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Beautifully said Kate. (as usual LOL)

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MeeyaNo Gravatar October 13, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Those descriptions suit Sam & I to the ‘T’ hahaha! So COMPLETELY know the ‘discussions’ you are talking about lol. Often he needs to stop me in the middle of a rant and calmly say, “Just talk…”

In front of the kids? Of course. I think the girls have inherited my fireyness, hmmm…. so maybe (hopefully!) they will learn from observation to be more like Daddy – passive and slow to anger.

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Kelly Be A Fun MumNo Gravatar October 14, 2010 at 4:46 pm

HAHA. Yes, I’m the firey one and Matt is much more patient. Thank you God for giving me a patient husband lol.

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JulieNo Gravatar October 13, 2010 at 6:44 pm

We definitely have “conversations” in front of our kids, but it is not something we have really talked or thought through – they just happen because we don’t do silent treatment (well, we really avoid it) and we don’t agree on everything!

I love the point you made about modelling unconditional love. We correct our children (and yes, sometimes it is angrily) and want to show them that it doesn’t mean we don’t love them anymore. It is a great way to model unconditional love – through “angry conversations” (and then reconciliation) with each other too!

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Kelly Be A Fun MumNo Gravatar October 14, 2010 at 4:47 pm

It took us a while to “talk” about it becuase, really, it is just part of life. Discussion is a big part of life in our family so it makes sense to us to include our kids in this.

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Christine BunnNo Gravatar October 13, 2010 at 8:05 pm

You’re funny Kelly, you are a risk taker……I’m always to scared to keep driving when that light starts flashing. I can see your face. You crack me up.

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Kelly Be A Fun MumNo Gravatar October 14, 2010 at 4:49 pm

hehe. You know me. I’m just so glad Matt is different than me. While it means we have a lot of “conversations” we really compliment each other.

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KatherineNo Gravatar October 13, 2010 at 9:08 pm

What you’ve said is all right.

See, my parents divorced because they basically fought the whole time i’ve been alive. In front of me, behind closed doors, in front of me and my siblings again and behind closed doors again. It went on and on and on. It was never, ever pleasant. And i only wish sometimes that i could have grown up in a house hold like you describe as your own.

Your blog gives me hope to create an environment like you give your children one day more my own.

With love,

K xx

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Kelly Be A Fun MumNo Gravatar October 14, 2010 at 4:50 pm

Sorry sweetie. That must have been hard for you. It is absolutely possible to create an environment where opinions are shared in a loving way. That is what my husband and I seek for our family. Stay in touch lovely.

Kell xx

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Wayne EvansNo Gravatar October 13, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Hey great post!

There are certainly 2 trains of thoughts….

1. No arguing in front of children
2. Arguing… but controlled (like yours)

I personally don’t like to fight in front of the children but I am increasingly thinking that we are preparing them for a big bad world…so they need to be ready with tactics.

By actually having crossed words, let’s children know in safe environment that the world isnt actually fluffy!

Well done

Joe

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Kelly Be A Fun MumNo Gravatar October 14, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Welcome Joe. I’m so glad you stopped by. I’ll pop by your site soon. I really enjoyed your feedback. I guess there is no absolute right ways (although there is some absolutely wrong ways). Discussion is a very big part of life in our family and I hope, as we grow together, that we create an environment that each one can share what they are feeling and one, know they will get a constructive response, and two, know they have a “voice”. This is really important to us.

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JennNo Gravatar October 13, 2010 at 11:40 pm

I think this is awesome, and I think it sounds like you both HAVE a healthy marriage and are SHOWING your kids what a healthy marriage looks like. Because in healthy relationships, people disagree, and they find a way to work through those disagreements. Because a good relationship isn’t about agreeing on everything, or always being “happy.”

Good on ‘ya.
–Jenn

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Kelly Be A Fun MumNo Gravatar October 14, 2010 at 4:55 pm

Hi Jenn

Thanks for your comment. I loved what you have said here. I also feel that it’s kinda nice for the children to know they aren’t the only ones who get “into trouble”. We all make mistakes, no matter if we are a child or an adult.

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SarahNo Gravatar October 15, 2010 at 3:33 pm

Thanks for this post Kelly – we’ve had a lot of challenges lately in our family, and my husband & I have started bickering more and more. I read this post a number of times, and realized we USED to solve problems/annoyances in a calm and rational way, but have resorted to childish means lately that can be hurtful & destructive.

I asked my husband to read your post as well, and we had a long chat about why we’re behaving this way, and have both resolved to go back to being grown ups.

So thanks – your post has made a significant difference to our day to day happiness!

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Kelly Be A Fun MumNo Gravatar October 19, 2010 at 9:11 am

Dear Sarah

I almost cried when I read your comment. Thank you so much for taking the time to write. You see I was so worried about getting it down right and the reaction I might get. Like you, our family has seen many challenges: death, depression, children with special needs, multiple moves and just normal family stuff. My husband and I have learnt that if we don’t deal with things as they come up it isn’t good for our family. But then dealing with things in a less-than-favourable manner isn’t good for the family either. So we’ve come up with “fight fair” or discussing things with respect. I can tell you discussing things in front of the chidren in this manner hasn’t caused any distress to our children. Quite the opposite in fact: we found it to bring a real closeness to our family because everyone feels they have a “voice”.

If my sharing our experience has brought a little happiness to one person, I’m so glad. I belive we can learn so much from eachother but sometimes we just don’t share because we feel like we are the only ones.

Love Kelly xx

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BonnieNo Gravatar October 21, 2010 at 6:52 pm

I can just SEE Matt looking at you in that conversation. it made me laugh. Great post Nell. Great English. Great advise. Mum would be very proud of you just as I am. xo

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