How Arguing Parents Affect Their Kids
Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. There are no affiliate links included in this post. All thoughts are my own and no other. This post is now in the guidelines of the FTC
We’re so used to the idea of married couples arguing and fighting that we feel a little awkward if we don’t see it. A married couple that keeps conflict buried is, we’re confident, prone to exploding at any point and falling to bits. Arguments are the necessary price we pay for familial stability.
But is this true? And what is the effect of all this on children?
Like it or not, your children are watching everything you do. They have to. If they don’t, they won’t learn the tools that they need to negotiate the social world. You’re the biggest influence by a considerable margin.
PAvoiding conflict entirely is probably a bad idea. Conflict arises naturally in human relationships because we all have different needs and can’t contain all the desires and preferences of those around us in our mind simultaneously. It’s HOW we deal with those conflicts that has the greatest impact on our kids.
How You Deal With Conflict Makes A Difference To Your Kids
Think about the last time you got into a conflict with your partner. If you’re like most people, you displayed in a range of behaviors that are probably not beneficial to your children’s capacity to resolve conflicts in the future. You may have engaged in some eye-rolling, passive aggression (like the “silent treatment”), or name-calling. And you may have even threatened to go to an uncontested divorce attorney in the heat of the moment. Oh, the terrible things that you’ve said!
The worrying thing is that your children don’t have the cognitive capacity to evaluate your behaviors and think whether emulating them in their personal relationships is a good idea. What happens instead is that they take cues from you and then deploy them, almost unconsciously, in similar conflicts in the future. If you threaten your spouse that you’re going to a divorce attorney every time they leave the toilet seat up, then your kids are liable to do the same.
It Increases Anxiety
Parents might think that they rely on each other financially and emotionally. But the survival of the parental relationship is arguably much more critical to the child. The parents can go their separate ways and function as independent adults after a divorce; the child cannot.
Arguments, therefore, create a profound sense of tension and anxiety in children. Kids want their parents to stay together so that they continue to provide a home in which they can mature peacefully into adulthood. When that’s threatened, it can unleash a torrent of unpleasant emotions.
Things get worse when the relationship starts to break down irretrievably. If parents don’t communicate with their kids during a separation, then it can lead their anxiety to go into overdrive, putting their health and future happiness at risk.
Children Can Feel Like They Need To Care For The Parent
PChildren might not have the emotional sophistication of adults, but they can sometimes feel responsible for the conflict between parents. Kids will often put themselves under pressure to resolve the dispute, even if it has nothing to do with them directly.
Of course, children aren’t in a position to make things right. They’re not trained therapists with an understanding of the emotional landscape of adult romantic relationships. But they can nonetheless see putting things right as their role, and when they can’t, blame themselves for family breakdown.
Children are, of course, innocent in the struggles between spouses. While their presence might be the immediate cause of the conflict, the real source of relationship breakdown lies within the parents themselves. Arguments can flare up, and kids believe that they need to make things right, but, of course, they can’t. They don’t have that kind of power. Only the parents do.
Things Work The Other Way Too
It’s not all negative. Kids also learn about the positive aspects of their parents’ relationship and emulate that too. If parents are secure and relaxed around each other, it frees up children to explore the world around them, unencumbered by concerns about what a parent is thinking or feeling. Ideally, kids should be predominantly focused on the task of “mastering” their environment, not the psychological status of their caregivers.
Ultimately, the project of a good parent is to convince their children that they are in a position to take care of their own emotional needs. A child should believe that a parent can cope with the vicissitudes of life and don’t need their help in navigating choppy waters in relationships. The most secure children are those who accept that there will be conflict, but also feel confident that the parental relationship will continue.
Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. There are no affiliate links included in this post. All thoughts are my own and no other. This post is now in the guidelines of the FTC Arguing Parents