The study by Cardiff University states “Yes”, you should have arguments in front of your kids. Here’s how!
A study from Cardiff University, spanning three years and 500 families, determined that it’s better to have constructive discussions in front of your children – if you can set a good example – rather than to have abusive confrontations or to never openly show disagreements in front of them at all. Children who watched their parents resolve disagreements constructively did better academically and socially than those whose parents adopted destructive and abusive arguing styles, or simply walked out to avoid disagreements. In fact, researchers said seeing parents walk out on an argument rather than stay and resolve the issue could do more harm than good.
The team identified three main parental styles of arguments:
- Constructive discussions in which differing opinions are resolved.
- Productive discussion-like arguments in which disagreements are not resolved.
- Destructive, abusive arguments with raised voices and possible physical violence.
Let’s leave aside for a moment that there are many more variables to argument styles than those three and look at their findings. Of course, setting a good example by having constructive, calm, discussion-like arguments helps children to develop their own healthy systems for coping with disagreements. And, this early foundation in rational, calm, reasonable problem-solving will benefit them far past the three year mark at which this study ends.
However, it’s not easy to always have constructive discussions, especially when both parents feel passionately about the issues at stake. While finance is the most frequent cause of disharmony, the second most frequent topic for argument is about the best way to raise children. Couples disagree on how strict or permissive they should be, how much money to give or spend, what religious faith to introduce, and the daily issues children bring home from school, their peers, and activities. These issues tend to provoke impassioned arguments on both sides, which is why it’s so important to take the emotion out as much as possible.
To prevent arguments from becoming destructive, you and your spouse must commit to being flexible and receptive to the idea of putting aside your anger, opinions, and even personal values and convictions, in order to negotiate what is truly best for your children.
Display constructive problem-solving behavior by writing a list of all the issues on which you and your partner frequently disagree. Then write down what is, in your opinion, the best way to handle each situation. Do this separately from one another so you can compare notes later (and avoid antagonizing each other in the process). Then, come together and calmly take turns presenting your cases. You may find that both of you agree on more issues than you thought. Write those down. Next, write down which issues you cannot readily agree on. From that list, determine which approach is the most beneficial for the child, weighing the pros and cons of each.
If you liked this post you might also want to read: Marriage and Arguments.