I would love to tell you how even-tempered my husband and I are, how we never ever raise our voices. I'd love to tell you that on the exceedingly rare occasions that we disagree (because really, we never, ever disagree), that one of us just gets a quiet little smile and raises an eyebrow, as a signal to the other that This Is A Topic Better Taken Offline, Where Young Ears Will Not Be Affected By Words of Discontent. I'd love to say that when it comes to the topic of arguing in front of our daughter, there's really no discussion: it never happens.
I'd love to tell you that, but that would be a Big Fat Hairy Lie.
In our home, when it comes to even tempers, my husband corners the market on this -- he's fairly good at remaining silent when something is bothering him, holding his tongue, and keeping his thoughts to himself.
Naturally, this infuriates me. I'm the type of person that rarely keeps my mouth shut when something's bothering me, often in a sudden explosive outburst. To my credit, once I've spoken my mind, I'm over it -- I'm definitely not a grudge-holder -- but this necessarily means that if something's on my mind, the people around me are going to hear about it, regardless whether one of Those People happen to be our 5-year-old daughter, Alex.
Now, although I am quick to anger, and am not afraid to raise my voice, I wouldn't say that I'm particularly abusive with my anger -- I don't resort to name-calling, or throwing things, or cursing -- and the good news is that my husband and I do actually argue infrequently. Still, it's not something I'm proud of doing in front of our daughter. I've gotten better about asking Alex to please leave the room when I know I can't hold my tongue any longer, so at the very least we're not fighting in front of her, but I don't know if that's much better.
I have to say, however, that I was heartened several months ago while watching an episode of Momversation that dealt with just this topic. In this episode, the lovely Asha Dornfest pointed out that perhaps it wasn't necessarily a bad thing for a child to watch her parents argue, as long as there wasn't abuse, because it teaches her that arguments will happen, and that there are ways to resolve anger constructively. And I think there's some truth to that.
What about you? Do you argue in front of your child? How have you managed to do so (or not do so) effectively?
Karen is a writer and a photographer in Houston, Texas. You can read and see more of her work at Chookooloonks.
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