When Dad and Mom Fight in Front of the Kids

Edric and I had an argument today, in front of four of our kids. Elijah was out for swimming practice so he missed the drama.

The discussion was one of those unnecessary ones, but it happened nonetheless, over a sliding screen door. Edric was irked that the screens weren’t returned to their proper position after they were washed a few days ago. Upon investigation, I proposed that the one screen (of two) be flipped around to face the right direction. His opinion was, “It’s not that simple. There’s a gap that doesn’t make sense if we do that.”

I insisted on being right, and he didn’t like me butting in on him while he was making his point about the problematic gap. In turn, I felt annoyed that he was getting irritated with me and raised my voice. This caused him to flare up. We didn’t shout but there was very obvious tension between us, and words were exchanged in a disrespectful manner.

Edan actually left the breakfast in table in tears because he was upset about our fighting. The household help looked on quietly because they too didn’t know what to say, even if it was their fault for not returning the screens properly. The rest of our kids were observing us as well.

After we took the screens out and put them back in place facing the right direction, the gap issue still wasn’t solved. Edric was right and I was short-sighted about my solution. It turned out that one of our household helps actually removed an important piece of the screen without informing us. Thankfully, we were able to retrieve it and they will sort out the issue tomorrow.

In the meantime, Edric and I had to reconcile and apologize to everyone.

Honestly, I didn’t feel like saying sorry to him because I felt like he was the first one to be reactive about the situation. However, I knew that I had also been disrespectful, which escalated things between us. Thankfully, we both asked for each other’s forgiveness, as well as forgiveness from our kids and our household help, for our bad examples.

Edric made sure that we processed what happened with the kids, to make sure they were okay. Edan, who was the most disturbed, returned to the table with his eyes still swollen, explaining that the really didn’t like it that we fought, which is why he exited the scene. By this time, he saw that Edric and I had resolved our conflict, and he calmed down.

Edric even said, “Watch kids, mom is going to kiss my cheek.” By then, I was willing to, since we had both humbled ourselves and acknowledged what we both did wrong. Edric knew his tone hadn’t been kind and he had been reactive. And I knew that I had been disrespectful toward him.

Generally, Edric and I avoid arguing and having tense discussions in front of our kids. We know that it can be stressful for them to see us fighting, even when there’s no shouting involved. Irritation and mean words can be damaging, too. However, in this instance, they were at the scene of “our crime.” So, it was necessary to assure them, as soon as possible, that the conflict had ended, there was no more issue, we both loved one another, and loved them.

The day went on and there wasn’t any lingering hurt in their hearts. The same was true for Edric and me. We didn’t just put on an apology-show for our children’s sakes. We really wanted to resolve what happened between us.

Conflicts are inevitable in a marriage and family. It’s really what we do with these conflicts, and how we respond to them, that make them positive or negative. Our kids are seeing the realities and challenges of married life, but if we can model conflict resolution to them, then it will also help them to practice the same thing in their own relationships.

Tonight, we ended our day with a family devotion, “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” (1 John 3:18) In other words, we should demonstrate love through actions, sincere ones. Talk is cheap. There’s no way Edric would have been able to impart that message to our kids if we hadn’t settled our conflict earlier!

What’s the lesson here? When dad and mom fight in front of the kids:

  1.  Avoid being defensive. Humbly ask how you can improve.
  2. Acknowledge what you did wrong.
  3. Apologize to one another (in front of the kids), and apologize to the children.
  4. Assure them that you love one another, that you love them, and will continue to improve and change for the better.
  5. Do this as soon as possible!

 

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