Raising children can be a significant challenge for parents. Many times, despite how they predict they will react, adults do not know how they will actually respond to specific situations until they are confronted with them. A common conflict that occurs between parents when rearing a child is whether or not it is acceptable to argue with your spouse in front of your child. There are many variables to take into account while making this decision. Not all parents consider all of these variables; some think it is okay to argue in front of children and will not damage them or harm them in any way while others believe that it is unacceptable. No matter what the adults believe, the conflict needs to be resolved between the parents in order to create a safe and happy environment for the child, or children, to live.
When deciding whether it is acceptable to argue in front of children, many variable need to be considered. The severity of the fight is very important. A small disagreement about completing household chores that evening can set a good example for conflict resolution, when handled correctly. This shows that in some instances arguing can be beneficial for the child. However, if the argument becomes a fight that involves yelling, or physical, verbal, and emotional violence or manipulation, it is unacceptable for the children to see this. Severe arguing and fighting such as this sets a bad example for children and, in many states, is considered a form of child abuse. If arguments get out of hand in this way, parents must seek a solution immediately in order to ensure their children’s safety. Luckily, many agencies around the country can offer help during these situations.
In preparation for if this hypothetical situation should ever occur I contacted two separate agencies that would help me get my family back on track. One agency was called Youth For Tomorrow. They have a phone number, which I called. But they are also available via the web. They offer youth counseling as well as family counseling as several locations across the country. It is good that I called because the fact that they are available across the country is information not available on their website. Centrally, they are located in North Carolina. The aim of Youth For Tomorrow is, first and foremost, to make sure that the children involved in the situation are on their way to being healthy and happy. They offer private counseling for children so that they have a place where they can express themselves without the threat of parents being involved. This area of freedom and space to express themselves is important for healing after learning bad habits, according to Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, authors of “How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk (2012).” They also offer family counseling where skilled psychologists will work with the family on behavioral issues, guiding parents toward better models of behavior so that children may feel safer in their home. Behaviorists also work with children to correct any bad examples that may have already been set. The services are on a sliding scale, based on income.
The second organization I contacted is called Family Outreach and Counseling Center, Inc. I was referred to this center by the directors at Youth For Tomorrow. Family Outreach is also located centrally in North Carolina with several other branches set up across the country. I contacted them by phone but they have a website as well, listing all of their services. They conduct support groups for families going through difficult times or times of transition such as divorce or the death of a loved one. What interested me most, however, was their workshops. They conduct a variety of workshops, one of which is on familiar communication. Trained behaviorists and psychologists work with families on how to communicate calmly and effectively with one another. They also separate the children and the parents, giving professionals a chance to instill good habits in children while explaining to parents how damaging fighting can be when witnessed by impressionable minds. Family Outreach and Counseling Center, Inc. accepts many forms of insurance. If insurance is not an option, support groups are free while the workshops typically begin at $50 for couples or $90 for families of four with $5 for each additional child.
I was happy to see that there were available resources on this topic. Many know that fighting in front of children can be very damaging to them, and can set bad examples. Children may grow up to mistreat their spouse or loved ones in the same way or think that inappropriate forms of communication like that is alright. They may also do so in front of their children, allowing the cycle of harmful communication to continue, according to “Parents, Children, and Communication: Frontiers of Theory and Research”, authored by Thomas Socha and Glen Stamp (2013). With intervention programs like the one mentioned in place to teach families how to communicate in a more appropriate manner, hopefully there will be less children learning bad communication habits in the future and more parents who are better informed on how to talk in front of their children.
Faber, A., & Mazlish, E. (2012). How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Socha, T. J., & Stamp, G. H. (2013). Parents, Children, and Communication: Frontiers of Theory and Research. Routledge.