Arguing In Front of Children – Is it Really a Bad Thing?

In an article posted on the BBC, they talked about the negative affects of arguing to children.

This is going to be less a post about actual scientific research, and more just my opinions on it. I might come back through at a later day and add research, but for now, this is just my current take on arguing and its affects on children.

What Damage Does Arguing Do to Children?

There’s no doubt that persistent, destructive arguing can be damaging to not only children, but of course to the parents themselves. Maybe it’s not as bad as smacking children, but it’s still not a great thing to over do. The article even says “when parents engage in conflicts with each other that are frequent, intense and not resolved, children do less well.”

When it comes to raising a healthy, stable child, I like to take the Brain Rules for Baby approach. In that, John Medina basically says that one of the best ways to raise a happy child is to work on your marriage or relationship. And of course, one way to do that is to work on your arguing. Could you just hide the arguments from your children in the hope that if they don’t see it, they won’t be affected by it? Sure. But it’s probably not a very good idea.

It’s also true that intense arguing can be a bad thing even for babies. I said in my post about colic that “the happier the relationship between the couple, the lower the amount of colic experienced.” So even babies recognised the danger of a situation and went into survival mode.

Argue in Private or In Front of Children?

You’ve probably heard the phrase “not in front of the kids” before. And on paper it seems like a good idea. If the children don’t witness the argument then perhaps they won’t think something is wrong, and then they won’t be affected by seeing their parents verbally abuse each other. Makes sense, right?

Well, not really. Think back to the last time you argued badly with someone. How did you feel after the argument was over? Were you still irritable? Perhaps you were still a little stressed, agitated, or even worked up in some way. Now translate that over to your next interaction with your children.

What happens if you’re irritable or short with them? Chances are they’ll wonder what they’ve done. Wonder why their mummy or daddy is suddenly mad at them. But if you’re upfront and honest, and let them see the argument. Then they’ll understand why you’re like it. I’ll even be honest enough with Isabelle to say “sorry, daddy isn’t feeling the best, I’m a little irritated because I’ve argued with mummy.”

It’s also important to note that if you do argue in front of your children, then try to let them see you make up too. That way they get to see both sides of what happens with arguments.

me and Rachel with Isabelle. We do argue in front of our children, or child, but we're not doing it here

Well, we’re not arguing here, this is just us with ‘angry’ faces

Arguing is a Natural Part of Life

What I aim to teach Isabelle is pretty simple. Arguing is a perfectly natural part of life, and you have to give in to the theatre of it. It’s a good thing getting things off your chest via an argument. I’ll be teaching her that It’s better to say something, even if it upsets someone, than keeping things held in and slowly allowing them to eat away at you.

Things might get said, but they’ll be coming from a bad place. So once the argument is done it’s a literal case of ‘end scene’. You have to respect the fact that the person might not have really meant what they said. And anger does things to people that they sometimes can’t always help.

I’ve done it with Rachel. We’ve said some harsh stuff to each other, but once we’re done we laugh it off. Especially me. If she had me with a good insult, I’ll respect it and find the funny side. Maybe not in the moment. But I will after.

Purpose of an Argument

You also have to teach children the purpose of an argument. These days it feels that the whole point of arguing is quite stupid. Just shout a lot, get aggressive and tell the person that your opinion is the only possible right one. Social media has ruined people’s ability to argue. And the elitist liberals haven’t helped either. Just because you’re morally right going into an argument, doesn’t mean you have to ram your point over.

No, to me, arguing is about understanding. It’s about trying to understand the other persons point and relating to it. Do I always get it right and take my wife’s opinion on board? No. I’m human. And sometimes I dissolve an argument into a verbal point score. But I acknowledge the fact I cocked up when I do. I could’ve easily turned a recent Facebook post into a big argument. Luckily, that didn’t happen. And it was a great example of how things can be easily talked about when people stay calm.

Try Not to Argue in the First Place

Here’s a great, albeit patronising bit of advice. If you don’t want your children to witness you arguing, then try not to actually argue in the first place. Of course sometimes they can be unavoidable. At times, they can even be of great benefit. But if you constantly find yourself feeling stressed, over-worked, and under vocalised, then chances are you’re going to argue more often.

You have to be fully aware of how you’re feeling and try to keep yourself in a better place. Calm, relaxed, open-minded people just don’t argue as often as people feeling the opposite. Do I have proof? Of course I don’t. But it makes sense to me so I’m going to say it as if it’s factual.

Get into meditation if you can, be open and honest with your partner, and seek help if you find yourself feeling regularly stressed. It’s not necessarily that simple. But it’s basically up to you. If you don’t want your children to be affected by arguments, then put yourself in a position where you don’t argue that often. And when the inevitable happens, just be open and honest with your children. Don’t bother sugar coating stuff. Life is life. And by that I simply mean whatever happens in life is just a part of it.

Children are far better off being exposed to the truth rather than some distorted version of it. But that’s my take. You might have a completely different idea, and personally I think that’s bullshit. Come and tell me I’m wrong so we can violently argue about it on Facebook or Twitter! Hopefully you’ve noticed I’m being ironic with that one.

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Ross

I’m a 26 year old married father of one. I started blogging after suffering postnatal depression when Isabelle was born. These days I talk about much more than just that.

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