Is it okay to fight in front of the kids? The answer to this question is “no” because you and your spouse should not fight.
Is it okay to disagree? Yes. Disagreement is a natural by-product of two individuals trying to operate as one unit, but fighting is the by-product of two individuals putting their own needs above the needs of others.
To fight is to wound in hopes of gaining something for yourself. It is to use a hateful tone of voice and/or say things that you should never say. It is to manipulate and put down.
Children should never have to hear their parents fight. If that is what you and your spouse do, then, by all means, take it outside. Close the bedroom door. Step away from those who are powerless to intervene and could get caught in the crossfire of your words. Handle your immaturity like a grown-up, if that’s even possible.
To disagree is to have differing opinions, and there’s nothing shameful about it. In fact, acknowledging the fact that you and your spouse disagree sometimes can be beneficial to your children if you handle it correctly. Denying or hiding the fact that you disagree paints an incomplete, incorrect, and unattainable picture of marriage for your children and sets them up for self-doubt, disappointment, and confusion when they experience conflict and/or disagreement in their own marriages someday.
Look at disagreements between you and your spouse as opportunities to teach and model healthy problem-solving techniques for your children. Here are a few tips:
- Identify the conflict and stay on topic; don’t chase rabbits.
- Take turns speaking; don’t interrupt.
- Listen to understand and clarify when necessary.
- Keep your head; don’t allow emotions to escalate.
- Respect and affirm your spouse; tell them when they are right or when you agree with them.
- Use “I” more than “you,” and don’t use conflict as an opportunity to find fault in or judge your spouse.
- When necessary, agree to disagree and make the most conservative joint decision possible.
Of course, use common sense. When conflict arises over an issue that is not appropriate for discussion in front of children, spare them what can wait until they are older.
Ultimately, the goal in learning how to handle disagreement and conflict is not to find a happy medium between Al and Peg Bundy and Ward and June Cleaver—though you should definitely lean way toward the Cleavers if you need a visual! The goal is to learn to love your spouse, considering their needs before your own, and to love your children in the process, training them up in the way they should go.
Is it possible to disagree and show love at the same time? The answer is a definite “yes.”