Grandma Argues With the “New” Experts About Arguing in Front of Children

arguing-in-front-of-childrenIn the Wall Street Journal, September 23, 2013, was an article by Andrea Peterson, titled, “The Family That Fights Together:  New Thinking for Parents Since the Days of “Not in Front of the Children.”

The article starts:

It is a quandary every couple with children eventually faces: Should we fight in front of the kids?

It seems that the previous thinking not to fight in front of the children has child psychologists now rethinking the previous wisdom of not fighting in front of children.

The answer is complicated. Child psychologists who study the issue tend to say yes-if parents can manage to argue in a healthy way. That means disagreeing respectfully and avoiding name-calling, insults, dredging up past infractions or storming off in anger, for starters.

 “Kids are going to have disagreements with their friends, their peers, co-workers,” says Patrick Davies, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester. “If they don’t witness disagreements and how they are handled in constructive ways, they are not well-equipped to go out into the world and address inevitable conflict.”

Does this mean that children need to be burned to understand that fire is hot?

Dr. Davies and fellow researchers found that “constructive” marital conflict was associated with an increase in children’s emotional security, in their study of 235 families with children ages 5 to 7 published in 2009 in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. Other studies have linked constructive marital conflict with the healthy development of children’s problem-solving and coping skills and even happiness.

This Grandma agrees with the American Academy of Pediatrics which says that you should NOT fight in front of your children.  Those professionals know the past history of what conflict does to children:

A growing awareness of how and where to fight with a spouse when kids are involved is being spurred in part by a proliferation of research linking children’s exposure to a lot of unhealthy marital conflict-characterized by hostility, threats and insults-with a greater risk of anxiety disorders, depression and behavior problems. Also, a generation of young parents who grew up as kids of divorce in the 1970s and 1980s are now scrutinizing how their parents fought. Some vow to do things differently with their own progeny.

You don’t agree with this Grandma yet?  What about this:

Even infants can be affected by angry disagreements-even when they’re asleep. A study published in May in the journal Psychological Science took 24 babies from 6- to 12-months-old and exposed them to various tones of voice (very angry, mildly angry, happy and neutral) while they were lying asleep in an MRI scanner. Those infants in families with higher levels of conflict between spouses had elevated responses in parts of the brain associated with reactions to stress and emotion regulation when exposed to the very angry voices during the study. Babies “are still sensitive to things even when they’re asleep,” says Alice Graham, a doctoral candidate in psychology at the University of Oregon and lead author of the study. “The idea of it being a time to let loose when infants are asleep is probably not accurate.”

 The article goes on to explain to parents how to fight fair and be role models for children.  The article goes on to give parents hints as to when to know children are in distress when the parents are fighting.  In reality, though, emotions are high during an argument and remembering all the “rules” goes out the window, as the American Academy of Pediatrics confirms:

Still, beyond universal agreement against physical confrontation, opinions vary on the right approach. Some experts say parents should keep arguments away from children because it’s just too hard to fight well. “If [parents] are going to have disagreements, they should do that in private as much as possible,” says Thomas McInerny, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “It is the rare instance when [couples] can keep it rational and keep it calm.”

So, this is one case in which this Grandma thinks the “modern studies” are completely wrong.  Children cannot learn conflict resolution by how parents really fight, unless the fights are artificial and staged to teach the lesson of fighting fair.  Hmmm. That’s the only way the tips are helpful.  This Grandma says parents’ fighting undermines the emotional security of the child in the family structure.  Parental conflict destroys children.

With long years, this Grandma believes in the wisdom of “Not in Front of the Children.”






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