Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Should Parents Let Their Children See Them Fight?

In Billy Graham's autobiography he mentions the fact that several times his children told him that they never saw him and Ruth fight. About anything. Ever. It seems like's not sure on how he feels about it:

One day one of our daughters, who was discovering how the little ripples of disagreement with her husband could swell into crashing waves of confrontation, said to Ruth, "Mother, I can't remember ever hearing you and Daddy argue."

Ruth probably chuckled inside as some of our "discussions" flashed across her memory. But her reply revealed a principle we had followed: "We made it a point never to argue in front of you children."

We thought that concealing our disagreements would spare them unnecessary pain and insecurity. Now I'm not so sure our approach was entirely correct. The girls have said that never seeing us argue left them wide open for surprise and disillusionment when the inevitable conflicts flared between them and their husbands. When the harmony of their households was disrupted, they assumed that their marriages weren't normal. Well, if the television soap operas and sitcoms set the current standard for marital bliss, I much much prefer the route Ruth and I chose, in spite of its possible shortcomings.

I have heard this a few times from people "I never saw my parents fight" and the person saying it is usually strongly in favor of it (proud) or strongly against it (resentful for the same reasons Billy mentions). I wonder if there is some middle ground: displaying conflict sometimes (as long as it does not get to intense) but also showing how to resolve and bring closure to it? I would suggest that such "public" arguments should not be those of a personal nature (spousal relationship issues) but be limited to a few key issues that aren't that personal or important. Another solution to the problem might be never fighting in front of the kids but teaching them the ways to fight "fairly" and authentically and to handle disagreements in a Christian way. This could be done by modeling and verbal instruction. Perhaps there are there other ways to handle this topic as well?


Aneta said...

I actually don't ever remember my parents 'fighting', either, but they were both pretty quiet people. I did know when my mom wasn't happy, though.

Ideally, it would be best to see parents disagree and then work something out, as the children are watching. But...usually tempers are hot, or someone's feelings are hurt, and the 'silent treatment' might begin. So I would think sitting down at that particular moment and working through the disagreement would rarely happen.

Sometimes, however, if it's not a real 'hot spot', we do tend to get over our disagreements in front of the kids and 'make up'. And I think it's always good for kids to see their parents affection for each other.

I know my own kids are fairly uncomfortable if we are having an argument. They usually slowly gravitate to other rooms. I hate confrontation, and I think the kids have caught that trait, too.

Jobina said...

Kids should be able to see their parents disagree and resolve things. They need to see apologies in action from the people who constant want apologies from them. I don't remember parents fighting, I hardly even remember them disagreeing. I was pretty disillusioned when we got married and every time we argued I felt very insecure about our relationship. No kid should have to sit there and listen to their parents raise their voices at each other, but to hear disagreements and resolution I think could actually be a benefit to them...if it's done right.