We are all guilty of it. We act like children in front of our kids when we get into an argument with our spouse. It's a sad state of affairs when our sons and daughters get an earful of our immaturity and at the very worst, end up becoming emotionally damaged by it. So why do we do it? Parents have this magical ability to forget that their children are within earshot of what they are saying. Or they think the children are too young to understand the content of the argument while neglecting to realize that it's the negative tone of the conversation that kids pick up on. Kids do as we do and not as we say, though we often wish the opposite was true. If they see us resolving disputes with petty arguing, they are going to learn the same tactic.
What should we do if we disagree with our spouse while our children are in our presence? Just that. Disagree and drop it for the time being. Shelf the matter until a future moment and bring it back up when the kids are asleep or outside playing. It's unfair for them to see Mom and Dad fight ugly in front of them and they can't help but take sides. A child should never be in a position where they're choosing one parent over the other. Nothing makes a child more insecure than feeling like Mom and Dad aren't a united team, and if they aren't on the same team, then the child feels like they need to go one way or the other.
One of the worst things to argue about in front of the children is how to parent them. Major parenting decisions should be made before a couple even has children. Things such as sleeping arrangements, schooling, discipline, belief systems, and allowances are some examples of important parenting matters. Not having a game plan and then fighting about differing parenting styles will do nothing but inspire a lack of respect in your children for Mom and Dad. Get it together and not in front of the children either. If you aren't natural authority figures, then fake it till you make it. Part of being a good parent is about playing the role well.
One of the worst side effects of living in a hostile environment is stress. Stress really shouldn't be a part of a child's life. Some healthy stress such as challenging school work, the thrill of a new experience, or normal changes in a child's life are good, if not welcome to help him or her grow as a person. However, the negative stress brought on by living in an unhappy household full of conflict is awful for a child's physical and mental health. Consider this the next time you fight about whether Junior should take soccer versus piano lessons. While you're at it, get your child's input on his preference.
Learn to choose your battles. If you're a nit-picker who constantly takes your mate's inventory, perhaps the problem lies more with you than with him or her. What's more alarming is that you may also parent your children the same way. Brow-beating and berating a child is a sad and ineffective way to motivate, encourage, or inspire him or her to ultimately become the best adult he or she can. Worst of all, the name-calling that often accompanies an argument can leave a permanent impression on a spouse or a child who may not understand that it was hurled in the heat of the moment.
Is there ever an age that a child reaches when it would be appropriate for him or her to witness an argument between parents? Probably not. No matter how old a child is, whether in grade school, a teenager, or an adult who may also be a parent, hearing his or her parents fight is awkward, uncomfortable, and depressing. It's dubious that even a senior citizen would even feel okay watching his or her parents get into a scrap.
If you do find yourself constantly arguing with your spouse, whether in front of the kids or alone, perhaps you both need to work on your personalities. The library and book store are full of self-improvement books that can help you to have a more harmonious marriage. Some people treat strangers more kindly than they treat their mate. Be nice and respectful to one another and your children will benefit from the peaceful environment in which they are being raised. Lean how to control your temper, manage your anger, and perhaps be a bit more compliant and accommodating, and you'll end up being a more pleasant person to be around in general.
Arguing is about control. One person insists he or she is right while the other is wrong by default. Having to have your own way all the time is a personality problem that needs to be worked on. Picking fights and being nasty make you unlikable in general, but dangerous as a spouse or parent. Consider if hurting everyone's feelings is worth being right. Wouldn't you rather be happy and make others happy in return? Sit down and think about what you can do to be a nicer, more gentle person, spouse, and parent.
If arguing becomes a problem in your marriage and you can't seem to keep it between the two of you, seek counseling. Worse than constantly arguing in front of your children is ultimately getting divorced. Then the children have no choice but to be on Mom or Dad's “team” when custody is determined. Few, if any, children of divorce state that it was a positive experience. Lasting scars are usually the result of a fractured union between parents. If you don't want to make your marriage work for the sake of you and your spouse, consider the kids' feelings. All children deserve to grow up in a peaceful, stable environment!