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Q&A: Should Children See Parents Argue?

Kids learn how to resolve conflict by watching us do it.
By Dennis and Barbara Rainey


Is it appropriate to resolve conflict in front of younger children? Should we let them see us arguing and making up?

Barbara: Many parents set a policy of not arguing in front of their kids. There are some good points about this policy, but I also think it is good for our children to see us disagree and have an argument, as long as we keep those to a minimum and don’t frighten the kids or make them feel insecure. Kids can learn how to resolve conflict by watching us do it.

Dennis: When our kids were still at home, there were moments where suddenly the kids would realize, “Oh, my goodness—Mom and Dad are having an argument here.” Barbara and I had to realize that our children were fixed on us like radar units and we were their most secure reference points.

When the children would see us in a disagreement, we took a “time out” from the argument to reassure them. We said, “Mom and Dad are having a disagreement. This happens in marriage. Marriage is between two people who sometimes differ, and your mom and I differ. However, we are still committed to each other, we love each other, and this is part of a healthy married relationship.”

If your argument is a yelling match, then that’s not part of healthy love; even in your disagreements you should model Christ’s love for your kids. They need to see you working through a conflict, resolving it, and forgiving each other. They need to be reassured by seeing the reconciliation as well as the argument.

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