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When is it okay to argue in front of your children?

You may be surprised by the answer to this question: it’s not what you think.  Believe it or not there is a right time – and more importantly, a right WAY – to argue in front of your children.

Look, you are the constant model for your children about how to behave in life.  How are they ever going to learn the appropriate way to negotiate and argue a point if no one ever teaches them?  Here are some basic “do’s” and “don’ts” about arguing.

  • Be polite.  Never, ever argue with the goal of hurting someone, especially in front of your children.  Never call names or belittle anyone. 
  • Be quiet.  Yelling is not arguing.  It’s trying to force someone to hear you.  A quiet voice is always more effective in an argument because it makes the other person more willing to hear you.
  • Come back to center.  Show your children how to effectively negotiate with someone, and how to still “be friends” when it’s all said and done.  I call this “coming back to center.” At the end of the disagreement, both parties should feel heard and validated and each person should always feel loved and accepted.
  • Remember that you are not the enemy of the person you are in conflict with.  You simply have different ideas about the best way to achieve an end.  Looking for common goals is a great way to diffuse an argument and turn it into an exploration of different paths.  Isn’t that a great skill to teach your children?
  • Never argue in front of your children about your children or their behavior.  A good teaching moment can be absolutely ruined if your child begins to be fearful or to take your comments personally.
  • Teach your children how to lose graciously.  Be a good sport and let go of resentment if you don’t get your way.  It’s okay to feel disappointed and there are appropriate ways to show that disappointment.  Then, learning how to let go of regret is a great lesson in life!
  • Be authentic, but don’t wallow in it.  It’s okay to be passionate about an opinion.  Children should know that there are things in life that are important and that we should feel passionate about.  However, don’t beat a dead horse.  Let it be over when it’s over and show your children how to move on.
  • Once an agreement has been made, throw yourself wholeheartedly into it.  In other words, don’t agree to turn off the television for a week then spend the entire week making snide remarks about it.  When you argue, come to an agreement that you both can live with, then do it.

As you can see, when two people respect each other, arguments become negotiations.  Learn how to see another’s point of view, respect someone who has a different opinion from you, validate another person’s feelings and learn how to make agreements that are empowering to both parties.  Then practice these skills in front of your children so they can learn by your example.  Also, give them the space to practice with you so they can hone this new skill.

Imagine a world where people respect each other and make empowering agreements instead of attempting to conquer and rule.  Our children will make this possible when they have the skills to do it.  It’s up to us to give them the tools and they will build a better world.

by: Shelly Walker



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