Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Wedded Wednesday: In Front of the Kids?

Charlow Family asked: Do you discuss your disagreements in front of your kids? Right now we have a 1-year old and we are trying to find a healthy boundary line for discussing things in front of her as they arise, and waiting for when we are behind closed doors. I'm not talking about major issues here, just little things that crop up during the day. I don't want our daughter growing up thinking that having a happy marriage means you never disagree, but I don't want her to see her parents bickering all the time either.



(this is John, the husband)
I think I've swerved beyond the original question a little. For better or worse, we have a tendency to do what our parents did. Now I didn't say always, but sometimes, a tendency. I didn't see my parents disagree/argue much during my years under their roof. Meredith witnessed the opposite. So, as you might imagine, we're mutts on this one - a mix of yes and no, not always but sometimes.

We polled our kids tonight at dinner time on this one. They said we argue often and always in front of them. That's just great; last time we'll poll the kids. Yet note to self and others: perceived reality to a child is the reality. As we asked a little deeper we learned it wasn't so much our arguing that bothered them as our going to separate corners in the heat of the moment. Sometimes Meredith and I need to do that, give each other space, take a time-out. But in the eyes of our kids, they experience the conflict dividing us. It is no longer dadandmom, but dad and mom. If they should go to bed without witnessing us coming back together, then they've seen the sun set on their parents' anger.

So, just as when you discipline a child there has to be a moment of welcoming that child back to your embrace, so too there needs to be a visible re-union of husband and wife should the argument they decided to make public drive them apart. I'm not talking about some forced kiss-and-make-up for appearance sake, but an honest confession that we're still disagree, we still love you, and we'll be here when you wake in the morning. I believe there are times for fighting and times for ceasing. But I believe at all times we must remember the children



(this is Meredith, the wife)
Yes, we disagree in front of our kids. And according to them, we disagree often. Ha!

I think we're fairly cognizant of the need to table discussions, um, disagreements that pertain to the kids until after they're in bed. Or if it's something else we know needs to be discussed in private, we'll retreat. But little things? Yeah, I think it pretty much happens in the moment. Remember, I'm "mercurial".

I don't know if this is good, or if this is bad. I just know it's honest. Our kids know that we love each other. They see the mushy-gushy-lovey-dovey stuff as well as the we're-just-not-seeing-eye-to-eye-right-now stuff. And like John said, if they never saw us come back together and make up and forgive and move on, I'd start to worry.

12 comments:

averagemoreorless said...

My husband and I disagree in front of our kids more than ever, not because we're disagreeing more, but because we're more honest with and trusting of each now than ever before. I beleive you gotta show them reality. They're gonna live it so they might as well be prepared for it.

Becky said...

I'm a mix. I think it is good for your kids to see you sometimes disagree/argue then see you work it out. But I dont' think it's good when it turns to what I call bickering...diagreeing or arguing over little things that don't really matter.

My parents argued over everthing in front of us...important things as well as just bickering....and I couldn't stand it even as young as 7 or 8. Actually they still bicker all the time and it bothers me more at 31. Now I just want to tell them to shut up! Of course, I'm more tactful. :)

Gina said...

I liked the part about polling the kids. I'll remember not to do that unless I truly want an answer of the perceived truth!

Gretchen said...

I feel like we need to get you a Flash helmet to wear if you're going to be mercurial and all. ;)

Very interesting point/perspective that you and John giving each other space looks like a division. Maybe the next time I do this, I'll have to shout, "And another thing! We're not separate, we're cooling off!" Seriously...I had never thought of that before.


Our kids are so grossed out by our PDA. And so, of course we linger. And make it look much bigger than it is. Because we're cruel.

Charlow Family said...

Thank you! I have never considered kids perceiving it as separating, but it makes total sense. Filing one away...

Amber said...

What a great reminder that our kids might not "get" the whole picture regarding our discussions...ur....disagreements.

Kirk and I tend to do most of our fussing in private, but we definitely have our moments of tension out in the open.

Amber said...

What a great reminder that our kids might not "get" the whole picture regarding our discussions...ur....disagreements.

Kirk and I tend to do most of our fussing in private, but we definitely have our moments of tension out in the open.

Amber said...

What a great reminder that our kids might not "get" the whole picture regarding our discussions...ur....disagreements.

Kirk and I tend to do most of our fussing in private, but we definitely have our moments of tension out in the open.

Amber said...

Sorry....

Apparently I REALLY want you to read my comment.

:)

Carpool Queen said...

This makes me want to poll my kids and see what they see. We keep major disagreements away from them, but I've sure they've heard an arch word or two.

Mollie said...

Amazing what kids think?? Yes, we disagree- but try to keep it calm in front of the kids!!
B grew up NEVER EVER seeing his parents EVER have a fight!!
I grew up seeing it- yet they would sit and make up & PRAY after EVERY fight!! VERY HEALTHY examples!!
I did learn @ Sally's conference- the respect and honor that a mother gets from her husband- is the same way her children will respect & honor her!! Makes perfect sense!!

whimzie said...

Great post! I used to think you should never argue in front of your kids. Now I think you should never act ugly in conflict in front of your kids, but there is merit to having your kids see conflict resolved in a healthy manner.

"Perceived reality to a child is the reality." Wow. Good stuff to think about.