It is natural for couples to disagree on occasion. But does that justify fighting in front of your children? Every couple has arguments due to a wide range of reasons. Many of these arguments in fact concern the well-being of the children. But fighting in front of your children is actually detrimental to them, and can damage them psychologically and emotionally.
There are a number of ways your child is negatively impacted if they watch you fighting with each other, especially when the fight involves mature subjects that they cannot understand. Children interpret fights between their parents, and are affected by it, depending on the stage of emotional development they’ve reached:
Parents fighting in front of child who is a toddler makes the child prone to adopting the same body language that the parents exhibit while they are struggling. This is the age when they reciprocate the things they see. Thus, watching their father yelling at their mother, or vice versa, while growing up, might lead to them emulating these behaviors.
Children who are in the age group of 3-5 years are highly sensitive, as this is when they start to grow emotionally. Thus, whenever they see their parents arguing, they start to believe that they are the cause of the fight. They may develop an exaggerated sense of their importance in their parent’s lives, and start to lose touch with their own fledgling sense of self.
This is the stage when a child develops both emotionally and physically. If they sees their parents arguing constantly, and yelling at each other all the time, they might start to avoiding both of them. This is because, by this point, the child has started to develop a life beyond their family, with teachers, classmates and friends becoming an important part of their daily lives; and this prompts them to regard their warring parents as a negative aspect of their lives that must be avoided. So if you are fighting in front of your kids, be aware of the fact that you run the risk of pushing them away, and losing their love and respect. Another possibility is that the child will become depressed, or rebellious; and may start to identify with one of the parents and take sides against the other one.
This is the most vital stage of a child’s physical and psychological development, when they start to truly find themselves and build their individual identities. If you are fighting in front of your adolescent kids, then you run the risk of making them unstable during an already tumultuous period in their lives; as well as pushing them away from the family at a time when they are already naturally inclined to reject their parents.
Having explained how parents fighting in front of their child affects the child at various stages in their development, we shall explore in more depth the negative impact on the children:
- Constant fighting between parents leads to a sense of insecurity in the child – both with regards to themselves, and also with regards to their relationship with their parents. Children become conscious, anxious, frightened and helpless – all feelings that are not at all good for their mental and physical health.
- Kids experience a sense of guilt, as they presume that their parents are fighting because of them. The constant fighting of parents also makes the child ashamed of them; as they fear that their parents will fight in public, and thus embarrass them in front of their friends, teachers and acquaintances.
- Over time, watching their parents constantly fight causes the children to lose their sense of self-esteem – making them feel unwanted and unworthy. This, if not handled at the right time, might grow into depression. In the worst case scenario, this can even lead to suicidal thoughts in the child.
- Children might find it difficult to support one of their parents. They are forced to become diplomatic and ignore bad behavior since they can’t be seen taking sides. This hampers their behavioral skills in the long run.
- Parents are role models for the child. So when they fight in front of the child, the child either assumes that their behavior is normal and acceptable – and emulates them.
- Besides a host of behavioral issues, most children who watch their parents fighting start perform poorly in their academics. They may also fall into bad company and bad habits. This has the potential to ruin their lives in the long-term.
What parents need to keep in mind:
- As a parent, you must understand the negative effects of fighting in front your child. You must lower your voices while fighting, and make sure that the children can neither see nor hear you’ll. You must absolutely avoid shouting or screaming at each other in front of your child.
- If you couldn’t hold your anger, and yelled at each other in front of your child; make it a point to apologise to each other in front of the child, so that they are reassured that everything is okay.
- Seek the help of a professional psychologist, if you cannot control your anger.
- If you’ll can’t get away from your child to voice your disagreements against each other, then writing on a piece of paper or texting would be a much better alternative to openly fighting.