I took a pause, then turned it off. The question stayed with me throughout the day though.
On one hand, I think it's one of the worst things possible for a child to be filled with fear as their parents hash it out. On the other, however, is it really good for them to live in a "Pollyanna" world? How else are they supposed to learn about conflict resolution or the basic fundamentals of constructive arguing?
That's when I realized. The key word is "constructive".
My parents really didn't argue a lot. I didn't grow up with much screaming or fighting other than the arguments my brother and I had with each other. I knew that I could be as bull headed and stubborn as they come though.
Back in the late 90's when Adam and I began to date, we were as lovey and infatuated with each other as any two people could be. We never fought. Never disagreed. He could have told me that the sky was purple and I would have smiled and sighed.
Then one night...on 9/9/99, (yes, I remember the date) there was an awards show on. I think it was the Mtv Music Awards. Anyway...I was at Adam's place and I had made snacks to sit and eat during the awards show. My college roommate and I always used to sit with bowls of popcorn and goodies during award shows so I wanted to share that with him. What I forgot to consider though, was that he was a guy. Not only a guy, but a fighter pilot with a crazy intense check ride the next day.
Needless to say, he didn't care about the popcorn...or the show. As I sat and ate my popcorn alone, a pit grew in my stomach. My throat began to tighten and I felt hurt and angry that he didn't want to be with me. Deciding to leave so he could study, I got up and told him "bye" from the other room.
"You're leaving? I thought you wanted to watch the show!"
"I did. With you. I'll see you tomorrow."
Getting up, Adam stopped me at the door. "Are you angry?!"
"I gotta go."
"You're MAD?! Do you know how big of a deal tomorrow is for me? I don't care about some stupid awards show! I have to study!"
It was the first time he had ever yelled at me. I wasn't used to it and it stung. I felt my eyes well as I pushed him out of the way.
He followed me back to my place and we hashed it out. It was a doozy. I tried to explain how I felt ignored and he tried to explain how I was acting like a total chick. He was right and I knew it...but that's where the stubborn thing came in.
Since then, we have a laugh when award shows come on and he actually makes popcorn for me just to poke fun. Over the years, we've tried to learn how to argue and disagree without the aggression.
Sure it's next to impossible to avoid heated debates. We try to check ourselves when the kids are around and pay attention to their reaction.
I heard a saying once that the greatest gift you can give your child is the security of knowing that they are loved unconditionally and that they have a safe foundation to fall on.
Do I think parents should argue in front of their kids? Yes. Should they scream and lose control of the situation? No.
Constructive arguments with problem-solving, conflict resolution and the ability to disagree on things - is a learning tool for children to use. Yelling and shouting are not.
At the end of a long day when you've just had "enough" though, (and we've all been there) try to move it away from the little ones. There's no good that can come from scaring them or making them worry...and working towards their happiness is the greatest fight of all.
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