I recently had an argument with my wife in front of my kids. Well, let me correct that, I recently over reacted in a conversation with my wife in front of my kids and I enticed my wife into an argument that resulted in me walking into the garage and staring at my freezer. Moments later my kids came out into the garage and gave me a hug followed by my wife who informed me the kids had decided, “Daddy needs a hug, from mommy too”. My kids are 6 and 2. So not only did I misbehave in front of my kids, I behaved in such an immature manner that it was even obvious to them. That realization coupled with the hugs of my kids effectively melted my heart and demanded an apology from me, not only to my wife but to my children as well.
“If it’s not a behavior I want my children to possess, it should be a behavior I don’t want to possess”
While I’m certainly not proud of my behaviors that day, I have given that situation a lot of thought. Did I drop the ball in parenting my children because I argued with their mother in front of them? Did I just example to them how they are allowed to talk to their mother? I have often heard parents claim that they go out of their way to keep from arguing in front of their kids. They will often boast the fact that “our kids have never seen us argue”. Is it healthier to hide the bad and display only the good for my kids? If that is true, is it also true for my marriage? Should I hide things from my wife that might show me to be something other than what I want her to think I am? What about at work?
After much deliberation, the following are reasons why I will not hide from my children when I’m disagreeing with my wife or anyone for that matter.
#1 – What are you saying or doing in your argument that your children should not witness? If it’s not appropriate for your kids to hear then it’s not appropriate at all! I’m amazed at how many people have an age limit on appropriate behavior. With society’s age based legalization of driving, drinking, and smoking, somehow morality got thrown into that mix as well. When you are old enough to drive you are old enough to cuss… or is it when you are old enough to drink you are allowed to cuss… I can’t remember.
Why do people even say “not around the kids”? Isn’t it because we are trying to convey to them the right way to behave by not exposing them to wrong behaviors. If it’s a behavior that I do not want my children to possess as adults, shouldn’t it be a behavior I do not want to possess as an adult?
#2 – Have a little self-control. If the reason you are ushering your children out of the room for your arguments is so you can have more freedom to say what you want, then it sounds like you are creating an environment in which you are free to lose control. What is the age that your children are allowed to stop losing control? How long does a couple have to be married before they are allowed to quit treating one another with the common courtesies they extend to strangers?
“My arguments with others should example… proper speaking and behavior.”
#3 – If your kids never see you argue they’ll also never see you make up. This can create in them an incorrect assumption that it is never ok to disagree with someone. If they ever do disagree with someone then they are not going to know how to bring it to a healthy resolution. Instead what we’ve effectively done is teach our children the importance of avoiding conflict. Then we wonder why they get mad and retreat to their bedroom and won’t talk to us when they become teens. When you usher your kids out of the room so you can have a conflict you are cheating them out of a learning opportunity to show them, nay, that examples for them, the proper way to argue or disagree and how to make up.
My arguments with others should show observers that even when you are angry there is a proper way to speak and behave. I should be modeling what it looks like to ask for forgiveness for raising my voice, storming out, or just being nasty and how to be the one to forgive. If my conflicts aren’t teaching my children healthy behaviors and expressions of emotions then maybe what I need is to work on being a better example and stop hiding from my need for improvement.