Ten Ways to Avoid Parental Arguing
by Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC
As soon as my wife said it, I could feel the tension.
My “trigger point” had been hit, and an argument was waiting to happen.
But our kids happened to be in the same room. And if you listen to the experts on parental conflict, you learn that arguing in front of the kids is something to avoid.
"Many parents think that kids get used to parents' arguing, but that is not true," says Mona El-Sheikh, a psychology faculty member at Auburn University, who researches how aggression between parents affects children. El-Sheikh says most parents don't understand the damage they can do to their child if they argue frequently, and the child can hear or see. "Many parents think that children will understand that parent's are just letting off steam, or that the child will not remember, but that is not true," she says. “Kids who are exposed to repeated conflict are sensitized to arguments, not desensitized.”
And while arguments can be done with less anger and more negotiation, most arguments do your kids a great disservice.
To limit the arguing you have in front of your kids, here are some ideas:
1. Be concerned with being kind more than being right
If you’re kind to your spouse and treat them well, you'll experience fewer arguments.
2. Develop the fine art of keeping your mouth closed
There will be many occasions when you'll want to respond to a comment your spouse has made, and an argument is waiting to happen. Take a hard swallow, and notice that no argument occurs.
3. Talk with your spouse about making the effort to avoid arguments
Have a specific plan in place you both agree on when things gets tense. If you know you’re both committed to improving, it's easier to stay committed.
4. Raise your own standards
What kind of person do you really want to be? In view of how useless arguing is, wouldn't you rather hold yourself to a high standard, and spend time doing something else?
5. Just walk away from the argument
Walking away allows you some time to gather your thoughts and to cool down. When your perspective is better, you can continue the discussion from a more objective place.
6. Date your spouse regularly
A lot of arguments result from things that haven't been fully explored. It’s crucial to have a way to stay up to date, and create rituals that have the two of you talking. Make the time sacred.
7. Bend the truth now and again
If it's between being honest and being kind with your spouse, be kind every time! You can tell her the dinner is awful when she asks, but you increase the chances of conflict. Smile, and tell her it's delicious.
8. Compliment your spouse twice a day
One of the major reasons for arguments between couples is that people don't feel acknowledged. Acknowledge your spouse regularly, and they'll feel appreciated. Appreciated people are less likely to argue.
9. Know your triggers around arguing
Familiarize yourself with what comments and situations trigger your anger and argumentative behavior. What are these about? When do they occur? Learn how you can avoid getting trapped in the future.
10. Make yourself accountable for your arguments
Have other family members hold you accountable for your behavior. Tell them your working on improving, and would they please remind you if you're starting to argue again. This puts some teeth behind your commitment.
Ultimately, we choose whether we argue in front of our kids. Shall we think about winning the argument, or should we think about them?
Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC, coaches busy parents by phone to balance their life and improve their family relationships.