walking on eggshells

Why I argue in front of my kids (sometimes)

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About Shaun

Shaun Groves writes about the ups and downs of fatherhood and how he manages to stay sane in spite of (or maybe because of?) being a dad. Shaun is a dad of four and travels the world singing and speaking on behalf of Compassion International. He is also his household’s reigning Candyland champion.

In my nineteen years at home with mom and dad I never saw them argue. If my parents fought at all it must have happened behind closed doors.

So when Becky and I had our first fight, while we were still dating, I said and did whatever would make it stop. I said I was wrong but I didn’t believe that was true. I thought if we fought she wouldn’t love me. I thought peace was a lack of conflict, not the hard won result of real resolution.

Over the years, Becky taught me how to make genuine peace. She assured me that mistakes will be made, disagreements will happen. That friction is inevitable but not fatal. That love outlasts. That she would never abandon or punish me. And, in the safety of her affirmations, in the ring of our shared commitment, she’s fought with me for the last nineteen years.

I’m quite good at it now. And I want my kids to be too.

I don’t want them to be passive aggressive. To lock themselves in the bathroom and refuse to come out. To withhold affection or conversation until they get their way. To scream or threaten, call names, roll eyes, sling sarcasm, storm out, cave in, endure abuse or strike back.

I want my kids to become adults who fight well.

I want them to be peace makers. Makers. People who roll up their sleeves lower their voices and do the hard work of reconciliation.

So, sometimes, when it’s appropriate, when I trust myself to handle the responsibility, I argue with my wife in front of our kids. And with the insurance adjuster who went back on his word. And with the waitress who charged me for one too many kids meals.

I stay calm.

I stop everything else I’m doing, make eye contact and…

I listen.

I don’t roll my eyes. Or sigh. Or make light. Or walk away.

I tell my wife what I hear her saying and ask her if I’m understanding correctly.

I admit when I’ve made a mistake and say “I’m sorry.” And mean it.

If there’s something I can do to make things better, I offer.

We often find a third way that’s neither hers nor mine.

Sometimes I disagree. Sometimes I feel wronged or misunderstood or hurt and I say so. Sometimes it takes a while to make peace.

Always, it happens though. Eventually. Always forgiveness is given and spoken, along with “thank you” and “I love you.”

hopscotch

Afterward, we don’t sulk in silence for the rest of the day. I don’t sleep on the couch that night. We move on.

The kids watch us, listening, learning.

My nine year-old had a friend over the other day. They were playing when the friend started yelling at my son. I began to rush in to make sure no punches were being thrown but stopped in the hallway outside his room when I heard him saying, “I don’t understand why you’re yelling; can you explain it to me?”

Well fought, son.

I’m not perfect. Some days I’m too tired to argue well so my spine goes mushy and I broker a counterfeit peace with my silence. Other times I’m too impatient for the process so I raise my voice and try to bully to get my way. But I married a dedicated teacher. I’m learning.

And on good days, when I feel I’m up to it, I fight in front of my kids so they can learn too.

photo source

This post was first published in February 2012.

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Comments

  1. I also grew up with parents who didn’t fight in front of us. The result for my sister and I was that we never learned to fight. We thought if there was fighting it was the end of the world…the end of the marriage. It hurt both of us a lot. We too made sure our kids knew that fighting was a normal part of life and that you can endure the conflict and come out on the other side stronger!

    • I grew up in the same situation. Never saw my parents fight, although I’m sure they had their disagreements. Like in anything else, how will your children learn about how to handle situations in life properly without our example and teaching. It’s much nicer than having to learn everything “the hard way”.

  2. I grew up on the opposite spectrum – my parents argued a lot. Well, actually it was more like my dad yelled a lot and my mom stonewalled. I hated what I regularly saw. Matt and I are still trying to find a balance in front of our kids. When we’re upset, we don’t want to silent treatment each other, but neither do we want to duke it out. This was so good and helpful to read. Thank you!

  3. It is rare to see words like fighting and arguing redefined so beautifully. The mental image when someone hears the word fighting is always a combative act, but this realigned my perspective that fighting can just as easily mean calmly asking and standing up for what is right or simply asking what is wrong and actively making peace. Thank you for the insight that arguing in front of children is a responsibility, and it is not necessarily a bad thing, because there is something to be modeled by us and a precious lesson to be learned by our children.
    Andrea | Elimination Communication´s latest post: Why Dr. Sears is Wrong About Diaper Rash

  4. I don’t think I could teach anything in this department although my husband and I are continually improving even after 17 years. I used to be so afraid, anytime we had a more serious argument, that somehow our marriage was going to end. And yet, I did see my parents argue on occasion -they had a wonderful relationship – and this was helpful. I got to see how much they loved eachother and that they also still argued sometimes… and made up. I’m thankful for postive examples of imperfection in my life :)
    Kika@embracingimperfection´s latest post: Angry Parenting

  5. What a great checklist for how to fight cleanly. I agree that kids need to see that we don’t always agree, and how we can still reach a resolution without resorting to yelling.
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  6. We don’t fight in front of the kids… But do we ever disagree!

    We’re both soldiers. Fighting has it’s own definition in our house. It’s not respectful, no quarter is given, never retreat, never surrender. Win at all costs.

    But in order to disagree, you need to listen to the other person’s position and make your own position known. Understanding both sides is a great starting point to find common ground and a compromised solution. We reach that solution through respectful debate, which is also a great skill to model to kids.
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  7. This is a great, helpful post, Shaun. Your title really caught my attention because my parents NEVER EVER fought in front of us kids. You can imagine my surprise when I was 11 and one night they called us into the living room to tell us that my dad was leaving!

    As an adult, I now know that my Dad had finally had it with avoiding conflict and not communicating when things bothered him.

    My husband and I try to view conflict as a chance to grow closer! (That’s looking on the bright side.)
    Betsy´s latest post: What Keeps Me Going When Life is Overwhelming

  8. We read somewhere that when one spouse says, “I’m sorry,” it’s vital that the other spouse NOT respond by saying, “Oh, it’s okay,” but rather should say, “I forgive you.” “Oh, it’s okay” or “don’t worry about it” cheapens the apology at the same time that it succeeds it not actually granting forgiveness. There’s something really powerful about the statement, “I forgive you”—even though it can be really hard to say in earnest.

    Thanks for this great post, Shaun.
    Sarah Park´s latest post: Their eyes all aglow

  9. Loved this!

    I grew up with a mother who never cried in front of us… I believed that she was so strong, that she never felt sad, and she never got sick…. so on the rare occasions when I did see her cry I was petrified. If she was crying something really terrible must have happened.

    I don’t like to cry in front of others but this idea has always stuck with me… if our children don’t see us making mistakes, feeling down, having arguments and dealing with those things… then how will they ever learn?
    katepickle´s latest post: Things I Need to Remember

  10. This is a great post. I think setting your pride aside is another key ingredient to fighting well. I know personally, I can be as stubborn as a rock when in a fight with my husband (regardless of whether I think I am right or wrong, I just don’t want to be the first person to give in and try to reconcile). Indulging in my pride only makes the fight worse and drags it out unnecessarily.
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  11. Nothing. ;)
    Southern Gal´s latest post: And the Baby is…

  12. That is something I am still working on in my marriage. My mother got extremely emotional and unreasonable when she fought with my father, and I slipped into that pattern. Kudos to your son for keeping a level head!

    It’s a an art to disagree peacefully and then come to a resolution.
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  13. I love this post. Thank you Shaun! The things I want to teach my son about fighting are that we fight fair. Words are still words and they can hurt, so be extra vigilant about not “going below the belt” with words. Also, I want to teach him that while you may not agree with another person’s point of view that doesn’t mean that it or their feelings about something are not valid.
    NJ @ A Pocket Full Of Dinosaurs´s latest post: Sibling Angst.

  14. What an important post! Oh that we could all learn by the example and pass the skills to the next generation this way!
    Missy June´s latest post: Single Mom Life

  15. i had the same experience of never seeing my parents in conflict. and as a result, i came to fear it. i’d mistake conflict as a threat, rather than a normal part of life. so it’s been pretty interesting to have married a man who grew up with an excessive amount of (very unhealthy & unresolved) conflict. interesting for both of us, to say the least. ;)

    so while he & i still have a lot of growing to do in terms of practicing healthy communication patterns in conflict (isn’t that such a pretty way to say that after 15 yrs, we both can still get impatient during conflict?), i console myself in the meantime that when we’re friction-ing & our son’s around, we are at least giving him the gift of taking the fear out of conflict. the assurance that a relationship isn’t in grave danger b/c somebody was hurt, or disappointed, or disagreed. we’ve at least normalized it for him. NOW to take the next step — from normalizing conflict, to modelling more loving, unselfish spirits amidst conflict that better reflect the heart of God.

    thx for this wonderful encouragement toward that end.
    tanya @ truthinweakness´s latest post: restless in the dark (& secret soul embrace)

  16. What a great and wonderful way to put this, glad I saw this today!

  17. I just got into an argument with my husband last week in front of my two-year-old! I was aware that we were arguing in front of our toddler and I had no problem with that; like you, I don’t want to shield him from any disagreement and think that parents never fight, or miss out on an opportunity to see how arguments can be resolved.

    When we argue, I try to keep my voice level and imagine how my husband must be feeling and see things from his point of view. And I tell him what I Think he must be feeling, then I express how I’m feeling.

    Sometimes it’s resolved on the spot, other times it takes a few days of cooling off. But while our son will see his parents argue, he’ll never see his parents disrespect each other. That’s also how we discipline our son. We tell him he can be frustrated and upset, but he should always be respectful towards the other person.
    Sleeping Mama´s latest post: Flashback Friday: struggles of a new mom

  18. I endeavor to let my daughter hear us disagree but we try to keep the attitude as positive as possible. Yes, she should hear us disagree and work it out. What she doesn’t need to hear from us is name calling or belittling statements. We want her to see mutual respect between her parents and know that we love each other even when we disagree. Unfortunately at her current age ( 2 and a half) her constant interruptions of the constructive conversations we try to have make the stress worse and raise the tension level significantly. So we do limit how much we deal with conflict in front of her, for now, because she seems to chime in at all the wrong times and make it worse. Nothing like a whining toddler in the middle of a disagreement to put you in an even worse mood.
    Laundry Lady´s latest post: Turn Baby Turn

  19. Brilliant! My parents never argued, my in-laws did it in a very unhealthy way. We have a rough time figuring it out and I wish I could offer this to my own children as you are.

  20. My husband and I are very intentional about the way we handle disagreements and what we allow our children to learn from it. This is something we’ve learned to get a handle on with time but just the other day my daughter confirmed to me that she gets it. She made a comment about how I always go and sweet talk Daddy so that he doesn’t stay the night on the couch after a disagreement. I’m a yeller. He’s a stonewaller, but we both work very hard to handle conflict better because we have so much invested in how well we do. Our children are watching us and we want to be a good example of the God we serve in both in public and private.
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  21. Love this! Talk about giving our children a REALISTIC expectation of what a real marriage is. Who said kids can’t make sense of “adult” situations. Often times they see us at our worse (fighting unfair with our spouses or fighting with them) and draw the most negative conclusion they can find. Better to have some things out in the open than hidden in darkness. Well said!!!
    Keya´s latest post: Why Obedience is Important- The Spiritual Significance

  22. My parent’s never fought in front of me either. I knew they disagreed at times, but they were never overly vocal. So when I got married and my husband would yell, and stomp his feet, and grind his teeth (all figurative, of course), I would internalize, and think something is wrong with me. Something is wrong with my marriage. Why can’t it be like Mom and Dad’s?

    Over the years, I have finally learned to vocalize instead of internalize, and we are all a lot happier.
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  23. I’ve read that it is actually better for kids to see parents fight (constructively) than to not witness fighting at all.
    There is nothing that pulls my kids away from legos and wrestling than my husband and I hashing something out. It’s better than TV! Which is a good signal to me to keep it PG and as loving as possible.
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  24. Great post- giving your children an example of how to resolve differences is quite a gift. My husband and I both didn’t have great examples of how to ‘fight fair’ growing up, and this is an area where we have struggled.

    I like your qualifier about arguing in front of the kids ‘sometimes.’ I think it’s important to have time where your kids see you resolve issues, and time where you & your spouse hash things out with no one else around. We tell our 4 year old that we’re talking about adult things & need him to play in another room when we need to talk privately.
    Audrey @ Mom Drop Box´s latest post: Book Review: Is It a Big Problem or a Little Problem?

  25. I have nothing to teach you! I grew up in a family with a mom, a grandparents and an uncle under one roof and no one fought. According to my grandmother, none of her 3 kids fought as kids. I think from day one everyone was taught to suppress all of that. Hold it. Let it steep and really get to you.

    I was always different in my family, but no one would fight back – calmly or angrily. And it turns out my husband is the same way. He will not fight. Or discuss. If I try to hash something out, he will shut down and go mute. It’s SO FRUSTRATING! I’m at the point where it’s like Why Bother? You can’t fight one-sided. I’m not happy. He may be because he avoids it all and therefore sort of gets his way.

    Maybe you and your wife could come to our house and do a demonstration. :-)
    Dee´s latest post: Disappointment

  26. Wow, what a timely post. I also had parents who never argued in front of us. My husband on the other had had parents who did with name calling, screaming, throwing things and basically anything unfair and disrepectful they could come up with. We at this point try not to argue in front of our kids because we’re still trying to figure out a healthy way ourselves. It does happen though, and at least they see that we still love each other.

  27. The one thing I’ve learned through my kids that also affects my husband and I is that often the fight is about not being met somewhere else. Sometimes I get mad at my husband for not doing the dishes, but really I’m upset that he had to work late all week and I never talked out my feelings about that. So I’ve learned that if someone seems to be upset about something that isn’t really a big idea, I try to be extra accomodating and not lash back with a “That’s a ridiculous thing to be angry about” and I try to see what is really wrong. Man those kids are good teachers too!

  28. I am a therapist and have never seen guidelines for productive conflict I liked nearly as well as these. I agree with the premise of the article as well.

    If these guidelines were designed into something that could be attractively framed, I would buy it in a heartbeat. Wish I were also a graphic designer–maybe in my next life :)

  29. I grew up in an abusive household where screaming was the main mode of communication. I married a very quiet man whose family despises raised voices. He has taught me so much about how to communicate and argue without yelling and channeling anger into saying something helpful, not destructive.

    We don’t have children yet, but I can’t wait to show them the way we “fight.” I hope they learn faster than I did that arguments can and should be settled in a calm, direct way.
    Jennie´s latest post: Simply Life

  30. I love your check list! It should be a printout on everyone’s fridge!

    When I first disagreed with my hubby, he thought I was fighting. It took him a while to realize that we each have different opinions and may express them, with earnest discussions sometimes. It was not arguing or fighting. We had to learn to not to be offensive or defensive.
    This all came from being brought up differently. His one parent was always very quiet and submissive = hardly any arguments. My family has lots of talking and discussing and arguing, but strong love.

  31. Thanks for such an honest, frank post. My husband and I argue in front of our children and they argue with us. When we as a family disagree we talk about taking a break, going for a walk, letting off steam… before we sit down and negotiate an agreement. You know the way our government used to operate!
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  32. avatar
    Cynde Kaply says:

    Wow, I didn’t know so many others went through what I did. I never saw my parents fight until the night my dad walked out, and that was in the middle of the night and I woke up to the fight. When I started dating, I thought 1 fight and that was it, so I did anything to never cause a fight. I learned the hard way, and I do not want my children to go through that, so my husband and I do the same….we fight in front of them, and we make up and get over it in front of them.

  33. A whole hearted “AMEN!” from me! We were sort of discussing this on Motherhood . . .you way . . . after Mandi mentioned that she learned to fight in front of the kids. This is all so eloquently stated and simply redefined. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this. I want to share it with everyone!
    Andrea Despain´s latest post: Motherhood

  34. I love this. My husband and I do argue in front of our kids and it does involve some raised voices but we really need to work on arguing the healthy way. I think that is wiser than trying to pretend like everything is perfect. Thank you for this perspective. Now I won’t feel so bad when disagree in front of them.
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  35. Such a great post. Sounds like you have an awesome wife! Giving your kids the tools to ‘fight fair’ is such a gift; I hope my kids will get that from my husband & I as well.
    Audrey @ Mom Drop Box´s latest post: That person who doesn’t like you

  36. Don’t engage in a fight if: H.A.L.T.

    H: Are you hungry?
    A: Are you angry?
    L: Are you lonely?
    T: Are you tired?

    If you are any of the above address that issue before engaging in a debate… the fighting will be a lot calmer.
    example: “i really am tired, hungry, and you have been gone all day so i’m feeling lonely… can we talk about this after i eat, get some rest, and/or have cuddle time?”

    My wonderful husband taught me that.
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    • The H.A.L.T. was something I learned at a church in Missouri when we were talking about being emotionally healthy as a church and having good conflict resolution. I think that’s a great component for sure!
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    • That’s a great tool regularly used in AA. I learned it from a friend and added an “s” – sick. Not good to make decisions or argue when you’re sick. :-)

  37. Oh how I wish someone had taught me how to fight well. Constructively. I hold it all in and end up in resentment and no idea HOW to express myself. At my age I doubt if it will ever be different but I am going to try. THANK YOU for this post. XO, Pinky
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  38. avatar
    Christina Lang says:

    Thank you for this excellent post!

  39. This is a great post. My husband and I rarely argue. A blessing, yes, but my son doesn’t really see that side to our marriage. I need to think more on this…..
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  40. What a refreshing post. I try to hold on to a calmness when I need to argue. It tends to allow me to think before I spew.
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  41. Fighting the good fight, eh?
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  42. This is a timely article for me. I was recently confronted with the fact that I tend toward internalizing my anger, which leads to passive-agressiveness and resentment, both of which are bad. Basically they’re getting revenge instead of communicating my feelings honestly. So that’s my goal – to learn how to admit I’m angry, and say so in a respectful way, rather than letting it come out in hurtful, relationship-damaging ways. I really like the idea of modelling for our kids how to fight well. Thank you.

  43. Thanks so much for this post! I think the fact that people aren’t willing to learn how to fight well is a huge reason that the divorce rate is so high. I think that it is okay to admit that we can be wrong sometimes. I think it is much more honorable to work it out and figure out a solution together (give and take) than it is to insist on getting your way and being right.

    I REALLY wish there was a way to teach everyone to be PEACE MAKERS and FIGHT WELL – the world would be such a better place!

  44. i think it is both important for kids to see that their parents don’t always agree and see their parents be affectionate around them. some arguments/ discussions, especially disagreements about parenting issues, i think should be reserved for behind closed doors. but it is important for kids to know that you can have different opinions, and even have conflict, and still really love someone and be fully available and affectionate towards them. i would add forgiveness is so important to live out in front of children.
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  45. My wife and i fight a lot . Its never physicle . words ya know , or rather disagreements . we have been together 6 years or more . growing up in a family that was very violent , and abusive ; I never really saw fighting as healthy . but it was’nt just the violence , there were other things that i just don;t care to mention now because it really strays from what the point of this particular post is all about . so lets just stick to the post . my wife and I always work it out , because deep down the love and the faithfullness is always been our concrete base . we have a 3 year old daughter and I have always been worried about the fights in front of her , because i can be loud and agressive while arguing . after reading this , i feel more normal, although my family was’nt . I think the best advice in all of this , is that , you always need to respect each other by not using bad or unforgiveable words while fighting ,even if the kids are not around (good practice ) . but more important that while in front of the kids , you show how to make up or agree in the end …thats real love !!! . everything else is just fairytale .. I appreciate this post , and have learned the difference between a healthy arguement and an unhealthy one . coming from a very disfunctional family a fight with my wife , always scared me . but in all of my sad life i have never had someone who really loved me like my wife does . most women left me after a couple years of fights , although i was never physically or verbally abusive . just normal fights ,ya know , money ,bills , the usual , and then she came into my life and now I know it’s normal to argue . I can’t stress how important it is to be respectful and never physicle , as these things are not healthy or acceptable . I would never subject my kids to what my sister and i suffered . i just want to say , that most people who leave a marrige or relationship because of arguements , need to grow up !!. it’s not a perfect world and no one is perfect . if your wife or husband is not cheating on you , the problems will always work their way through the hardships because deep down you really love each other and want to work it out . those who left you before you were married just left because it’s easier to walk away than to fight . Lets face it , real love is hard and takes a lot of time and effort . If you are willing to do that and there is no physicle or verbal abuse , such as degrading one another. then love will always find a way . i can’t imagine being with another ever . mainly because i never need to worry about trust or abandonement andreal love exists . sometimes I thank God for that ,and other times i wonder if he really is there . in the end what really comforts us and what we really have here on earth , is each other , and our family . seeems america has lost alll of that ,our careers our bills our poor family realationships , stress , and a million other distractions . lets get back to the basics . listen to each other , and work it out , thats love , and none of that is easy . so before you divorce or give up on a partner try to understand none of us are perfect . If there is no abuse move forward and grow with each other . I now trust and love and argue healthy . I never had that in my life , until now . work at it , thats love . These are hard times ,the greatest thing of all is real love , respect each other and grow . bless you all , and remember; your reading this because you want it to work . as long as your partner feals the same way you’ll be ok ….

  46. My sweet hubby and I have been married for 20 years. We have finally learned the art of saying we are sorry and asking for forgiveness. Really meaning it. Our son too is taught this same principle. When he has wronged someone that he too needs to apologize and ask for forgiveness. The on thing that we impress upon his heart that when he has wronged someone he has also wronged God and that relationship too needs to be restored. He also learns that when Mommy and Daddy mess up that we to apologize to him and to God. My husband and I learned many years ago when your vertical relationship with God is broken then any relationship you have horizontally will also be broken. Both must be restored in order for their to be unity.
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  47. Great post!…and well said!
    Learning to “fight” well has been a process for me since I definitely didn’t see it modeled growing up. Thanks for your integrity and transparency!…..and thanks for being a dad who blogs!
    Lori Lane
    Heart of the Matter

  48. Love it! That is so true. Arguments and disagreements don’t need to be kept in secret like they don’t ever happen. Too often I struggle with “feeling wronged” and often when I believe an option that my husband is advocating is detrimental to our marriage or to his health or whatever…it is very hard to remain calm. Darn emotions! :) But thank you for showing how to better be peacemakers as Christ. It’s so not easy, but hopefully year by year, hour by hour, we’ll be better peace makers and a lot less better at “standing up for ourselves.”

    http://munchtalk.blogspot.com/
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  49. avatar
    Kari Scare says:

    My parents never fought either, and I was shocked when they decided to divorce after 20 years of marriage. I thought not fighting meant they got along. But it turns out that working through conflict is what makes us stronger. Avoiding it makes us weaker. Because I am am introvert and don’t think quickly, I try to think through what I am going to say before I argue with my husband who is gifted at quick thinking. That helps me a lot. We also try to fight well in front of our kids. Sometimes, we “joke” fight, which they think is funny but is still making a point too.
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  50. What a thought-provoking post from a unique perspective. Thank you for articulating this. I have never thought about it this way. You’re a great dad!
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  51. Wow. So this is how you argue properly. None of that body language that serves only to diminish the person in front of you. I think I may just have to print this post up and put it somewhere that I can see regularly. I grew up in a family that didn’t know how to fight well though they did indeed know how to fight poorly, and I’m married to a man who doesn’t need one more ounce of pummeling because he had too much growing up. My not knowing how to fight well has caused him more wounding than I would like to admit. But this, maybe this will help a bit, and it will certainly help us not pass on our styles to our little boy.
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  52. I really appreciate your point of view. I don’t remember my parents fighting a lot, and I don’t feel that my husband and I fight a lot. But I do need the reminder to calm down, use a nice tone of voice, and respect his side of the argument, even though I do not agree :)
    Thank You!

  53. Amen. I think being an example for children in any type of communication is a wonderful, lasting gift. We do disagree in front of the kids and work it out. Sometimes they even chime in with suggestions!

    One thing I would like to add, I try to teach the girls to give others the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes I struggle with this, but because it’s something I hope to instill in my children, it forces me to do this for Husband. As a result, I have heard my oldest over and over again giving other children the benefit of the doubt. For example, the other day my daughter was hit but a close friend. I was asking her about and it and apparently it wasn’t a big deal to her, she said “I think I was probably just in her space.”

    Thanks for the post!
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  54. My husband and I have been married 30 years. We were 2 messed up kids from 2 messed up homes, who only by God’s grace have made it this far. I would say that we still don’t have fighting fairly figured out. I think we still sweep things under the rug too much. I know that we should defer to our partner on occasion, but I think my husband backs down more than his fair share and I push for my own way too often. I see my young adult son having difficulty in his relationship in resolving conflict. I wish we had been better at it, gave him (and the others) better examples of fair, godly conflict resolution. But I know that God’s grace will help carry them through the gaps and wounds we left on their lives as well.
    I love how you intentionally let this happen sometimes. And kudos to your son, he’s getting it!
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  55. I am so grateful to have read this! It’s been a long road of trail and error when it comes to fighting in our home, but this really helped me to find the balance we have been missing.

  56. Thank you so much for sharing your insight! this was such a thoughtful post that gave words to something I’ve been thinking about for a while now. I grew up in a home where there was a lot of arguing, belittle-ling, very loud, angry and filled with animosity for days on end…so my struggle has been quite opposite…should we argue/disagree in front of the kids? Knowing how painful and confusing it could be for a child to be the audience of such behavior. Luckily for me, in God’s great mercy, he allowed me to marry a true peace-keeper, not an avoider but someone who truly loves peace. We have settled on quite a good way of respectfully disagreeing but I have still struggled w/doing in it in front of the kids but your post helped me to fully understand why it is so important for them to learn from us. Either extreme is not good, right? Either fighting or no fighting doesnot teach them how to deal with disappointment/disagreement. Thank you so much for sharing from such a place of humble wisdom.

  57. My husband and I don’t fight. We’ve been together 9 years, and I think we’ve maybe had 2 fights in that time. I don’t want to hinder my children’s development, but I also don’t want to pretend to fight so they can learn. I hope they, instead, learn how to listen to people who disagree with them and voice their opinions in respectful ways.
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  58. avatar
    Jacqueline says:

    This is the best thing I’ve read in… maybe forever. I too, have never seen my parents argue and it’s made me a something of a relationship leper in my adult life as I do not know how to argue and I avoid conflict at all costs. My husband works at me constantly to be a better communicator when things are bothering me as I can’t bring myself to have the argument. For a long time I thought that would signal the end of a relationship rather than a healthy debate and a clearing of the air. I’m still not much of an arguer but I am getting better at sitting down and having a rational adult conversation when I’m upset. I think this may be as good as it gets for me. And yet I hope my children are better than me, that they inherit their father’s ability to think on his feet in an argument and stand up for himself. It is something I still need to work on because I don’t want this to be something I pass on to my kids. I’ve always thought it was such an anomaly to grow up this way, it’s nice to see so many other people have the same issues.

  59. In my nineteen years at home with mom and dad I never saw them argue. If my parents fought at all it must have happened behind closed doors.

  60. I spent last hour crying from the emotional guilt of arguments with my husband over the years. My husband and I both grew up in dysfunctional families. The first time I knew it was wrong to have disagreements in front of your children, was when I heard a famous tv psychologist preaching about how wrong it was, on tv. I stopped arguing, but it was too late by then. I had estranged one daughter, and my youngest now suffers from depression. I did my best to love my children, and do whatever I needed to do. Reading your blog, finally stopped me from beating myself up. Maybe it wasn’t totally my fault. My eldest daughter says I was a great mum, and that she had a wonderful life. I found out my husband was on the autism spectrum, which explains my arguing and his stonewalling, but I wish someone was there to help me over the years. I’ll always live with that regret.

  61. My husband grew up in a household that did not allow arguing. None. Ever. If he or his siblings got into an argument, they were immediately sent to their rooms, and could only come out when they were “over it”. The situation was not allowed to be brought up again. That may have led to a peaceful household, but it made my husband into a person who has no idea how to confront anyone, or even how to have a civil disagreement. Please do not raise your children that way. It’s devastating. We’ve spent almost our entire marriage with him walking out the of room anytime someone raises their voice or has a disagreement. It’s been extremely tough. And only now, after 26 years of marriage is he finally seeing it. I have vowed to teach my kids how to argue, how to stand up for themselves, and how to state their opinions with respect. My inlaws don’t like it, but I’ve seen the result. My husband still struggles with it, and he struggles with the kids when they do it. He constantly wants to turn and run, and still does at time. To this day, he still can not disagree with his parents, or even have a discussion of differing opinions. I’ve watched it. It’s sad. Thank you for saying it “out loud”. It’s so important to teach our kids to fight well because in a marriage, it is very much needed for good communication. It took me a long time to really figure out what was going on, and that’s why after all these years, he still struggles.

  62. This was a terrific reminder this morning! Thank you for sharing. When we get mad, my husband and I have to force ourselves to take a step forward – coming physically closer to each other in order to hold hands and remind ourselves that we are in this together. Thank you for sharing!

  63. I love this, Shaun! My husband has been leading the way in resolving conflict in front of our kids, too. Like you, sometimes we do it well, and sometimes we don’t. Conflict with them and conflict with each other. I think owning it and asking for forgiveness when we don’t get it right might be as important as modeling it when we do get it right.
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  64. My parents fought all the time, and though they did it the loud and yelling way-I learned that disagreements don’t end a marriage. But then I married a guy who never saw his parents fight, and had no idea how to hand conflict in marriage. We’ve learned a lot together. And now, well-it’s rare to have a voice raising fight. When it does happen, the kids worry that we’re ending things. We reassure them that we are working out our disagreements, and then model for them the right way of doing things. Our kids need to see this, especially in a culture that treats everything as though it’s disposable.

  65. avatar
    Cyndi Torres says:

    I loved this when it was originally posted, and appreciate it just as much now. My parents didn’t model constructive fighting behavior and I’ve learned a lot in my marriage. We rarely ever disagree on anything, but this is a good reminder to talk out issues in front of the kids so they learn how to do it well!

  66. This is probably the best explanation of fair fighting I’ve ever seen. I naturally gravitate toward shutting down or sulking, but I’m trying to do better. Thank you so much for the timely advice and wisdom.
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  67. I realized recently that my DH and I don’t argue in front of our son. I realized it when we did argue – over whether he should’ve turned off the slow cooker or put it on warm – and my son was so upset he ran to his bed and hid. He’s 12! I guess the plus is that we don’t feel a whole lot of need to fight/argue/disagree, and that’s with a whole barrelful of issues. But my son should see arguing between two adults. There’s plenty of arguing/negotiating/discussing adult on child/child on adult. But DH and I need to show that marriage isn’t all sunshine nor is it all work.

  68. I can only remember my parents fighting in front of me and my sister once or twice. The only way I learned healthy confrontation was actually more in the arguments I had with them myself! When I got married, my husband and I had to really work on this (we still are!), as both of us are non-confrontational since he comes from a divorced family and felt that conflict meant separation, while I didn’t feel I really knew how to deal with it within marriage.
    Thank you for sharing this. Our first baby is due in the summer, and I know that this will bring a lot of change and some friction, and that this is something I really needed to hear as we think and talk more about parenting and the future.
    So thank you. :)
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  69. Such an excellent point. And well said. So much of our work as parents is in modeling healthy habits, and this has to include conflict resolution. I love the point you make though that while you value modeling these skills for your children you are also judicious about when these lessons are provided.

  70. We are adopting next month and I have been thinking a lot about how this will change our lives. We come from two completely different “arguing” backgrounds and it’s been a journey coming to a place where we are better at it. I wondered about arguing in front of the baby/child.. some say you shouldn’t but I do agree that it’s important for them to learn fair arguing from us. Who else is going to teach them? And the importance of not only try to make a point, but being willing to say ‘I am sorry.’ Thanks for this!

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