My husband and I heard a talk at the Texas Book Festival a few years ago in which the author, Po Bronson touted the benefits of children seeing the occasional parental argument (stress, occasional) and resolution play out. The gist was that children can tell when there is conflict in the home anyway, and it is best to not hide all disagreements. He spoke about the value in modeling how to respectfully resolve the conflict and how this can help children develop their own, good conflict resolution strategies.
I have seen a lot of conflicting opinions out there. I know there are many people who believe that it is not in the child’s best interest to be privy to disagreements, that it causes undue stress. As is the case with many parenting issues, I think there is a lot of gray area here. I don’t think that it would be beneficial for a child to witness his parents in a knock down, drag out screaming match, and it goes without saying that seeing any form of violence would be detrimental. I don’t think many people would argue those points. But I do think the idea of allowing a child to see conflict resolution has its merits.
Having the tools to successfully navigate your way through conflicts is essential to functioning well in society. Children are people too, and they will be involved in conflict of one type or another from time to time. As an elementary school teacher, I dealt with this (several times and with varying intensity) virtually every day. You take 20+ kids in a classroom together every day, and it’s going to happen. There were some children who showed remarkable maturity and grace in these situations-some as young as 6 or 7 years old. These children were able to calmly work through the disagreement and, in many situations, guide the other student toward a resolution. Some of them would even act as mediators in the conflicts of other children. You might be able to chalk some of that up to the temperament of the child, though I highly suspect that good conflict resolution modeling at home also played a role.
Like all couples, my husband and I have our disagreements, and we have never made a point of hiding them from our daughter. But we do make an effort to let her see that we have resolved the issue--usually with a hug. It’s not always a neat, solve-it-in-30-minutes-t.v.-show kind of resolution. Sometimes it takes a few days to work things out. Our hope is she will understand that, despite occasional differences, we still love and respect each other. Letting our daughter see how we deal with our conflict is one of those make or break decisions we had to make as parents. The outcome of it is not of minor significance, but we both believe she will be better off for it.
What are your thoughts on this topic?
More from parenting