Mothers Speak: Fight or Flight

{image via Ruth Burnet’s Flickr page}

Clark and I were hanging out with some friends the other night and the conversation veered towards our childhoods. One girl spoke up and said that she never really saw her parents fight. This made me curious. Let’s be honest. We occasionally get into it with our significant other, and when the tension is high, sometimes it can be difficult to wait until the little ones are snug in their beds to duke it out. Quarreling lovebirds have to get creative when baby birds fluttering about, impressed by every word, tone, and gesture. I remember one time Clark and I were awfully heated about something, and before we resorted to a spelling the four letter words, Clark and I consented to e-arguing. I imagine its sort of like internet dating, only not as warm and fuzzy and there’s no monthly fee. We spent hours one Saturday angrily typing until smoke ascended from our keypads. We sent some pretty strongly worded emails back and forth to each other all morning until we finally came to some kind of resolve. By the time we were friends again, the kids had no idea anything was even wrong. Salem was too busy drumming along to David Gray’s Late Night Radio, and Mia was too small to care about anything but her next feeding. I believe strongly that when children are this young, they should not be exposed to adult disagreements. I may have dozed off during Child Psych a few times, but I’m pretty sure parents ought to avoid exposing their children to things that they are not emotionally mature enough to handle. But what about when a child makes their approach toward adulthood. Is it healthy for them to learn conflict resolution first hand by witnessing how their parents resolve disagreements? I’m not suggesting that going blow for blow and verbally annihilating your partner is a positive teaching tool for interpersonal communication. Good heavens. You ought to put yourself in time out if that’s the case.

So, my question is this: Is there a healthy way to teach an older child how to resolve conflict by allowing them to witness a marital struggle or disagreement, or should parents avoid discussing their differences in front of their children no matter the child’s age or emotional maturity? 

I love to hear your thoughts. There’s some pearls of wisdom out there, and believe me, I’m taking notes from a couple of you mamas.

I hope you enjoy a picture perfect weekend!



  1. Alexis said,

    June 10, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    I can remember when my sister and I were growing up, my parents would have a disagreement and resolve it in front of us (small things though). The heated conversations were saved for behind closed doors. I appreciated that. Kids shouldn’t have to carry the burden of whatever mom and dad are trying to work out. Same principle applied as we got older too. We learned conflict resolution by watching the small stuff. 🙂

  2. Donna Davis said,

    June 10, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    I never heard my parents argue–really. But, they were only married 13 years before Mommy died. We were young and might not have noticed. RKD and I tried not to argue in front of the kids (well, while they were growing up). I agree with Alexis–watching one’s parents come to a compromise or resolution over small things models the way for one’s children. My mom was hands-on when it came to solving problems between my brother and me. We knew what language wasn’t allowed; we knew there could be no physical violence (at least not in front on her); and we knew that we would have to apologize to each other–no matter who started it.

    A great blog!

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