When is it appropriate to fight in front of the kids? In John Medina's book Brain Rules (Updated and Expanded), he talks about "One of the greatest predictors of performance in school turns out to be the emotional stability of the home... Given that stress can powerfully affect learning, one might predict that children living in high-anxiety households would not perform as well academically as kids living in more nurturing households. That is exactly what studies show. Marital stress at home can negatively affect academic performance in almost every way measurable, and at nearly any age... Careful subsequent investigations showed that it was the presence of overt conflict, not divorce, that predicted grade failure.” (Brain Rule #4: Stressed Brains Don't Learn the Same Way, emphasis mine).
Therefore, we can consider ways to reduce how much we fight in front of the children, and how we teach them conflict management strategies. Some ideas:
- Having a regular time when we bring up conflicts when the children are out of earshot, so that conflicts don't build up over time.
- Looking for regular ways to express fondness and affection for one another, so that we can maintain the positive perspective.
- Taking breaks to calm down so that problems don't escalate.
- Focusing on keeping mealtimes positive, so that kids develop a positive association with eating.
If you think a certain topic may be upsetting to you or your partner, try to avoid talking about it in front of the kids. Wait to bring it up when you are alone.Starting at around age 4, we can have small disagreements in front of the children, but it is important that they see us physically make up at the end.