Arguments which focus on venting resentments rather than problem-solving are of no benefit to children, but parents can teach their kids appropriate forms of conflict resolution by handling their own arguments well. Try following these simple tips the next time a discussion gets a little heated.
Argue as though the neighbors can hear you. Try to avoid name-calling, bad language, and raised voices, all of which set a bad example to children.
Use active listening skills. Show them you’re listening to each other’s point of view with gentle head nods and sustained eye contact.
Avoid blame by using ‘I’ statements. Instead of saying “You make me so angry when you don’t help prepare dinner” you could try, “I feel really let down when I get no help preparing dinner”.
Acknowledge your partner’s point of view, even if you don’t necessarily agree.
Call a time out if things get too heated and save the discussion for when the children aren’t around.
Don’t involve the kids. They should never be asked for an opinion or made to choose sides.
Make sure the topic is appropriate. Never argue about finances or the kids themselves in front of your children; they’ll only hold themselves responsible or become frightened and insecure.
Don’t let it get physical. Children should never witness violence or physically intimidating behavior.
Never argue when drinking. Things can quickly get out of hand and children can become intimidated by a drunken parent.
Don’t let it happen too often. Arguing once in a while lets children see disagreements are a normal part of family life, more than that becomes distressing.
Makeup in front of them. Damage is minimized if children see how the argument was resolved. It teaches them problem-solving skills and lets them know solutions can be found even when people are emotional or upset.
Apologize to your child and reassure them that you still love each other. By explaining how you might have handled things better you can help them take a lesson from the situation too. You might say, “Dad and I work things out much better when we listen to each other to reach a compromise. Shouting gets us nowhere.”