How many times have you gotten into an argument with your spouse in front of your kids, only to suddenly grit your teeth and hiss, "Let's talk about this later"? Well, now it seems that fighting in front of children could actually be good for them.
Experts have long warned parents about the dangers and possible psychological ramifications of fighting in front of little ones. But a new study released by the Journal of Child Psychiatry and Psychology suggests that kids might actually benefit from watching their parents sort problems out.
"In some ways, kids benefit from seeing their parents disagreeing -- and even being mildly angry," the study co-author told MSNBC. "It gives them a lesson on how you can come to a mutually acceptable solution through compromise."
It is possible to fight in a constructive way, experts say. The most important thing is to show respect for your partner and to remember (no matter how angry you feel) to always keep in mind why you chose this person to be your spouse.
• Listen to your what your partner is saying, make eye contact and let him know you hear and understand the point that is being made.
• Even if you're angry, don't forget to occasionally let your partner know you feel affection either through a physical gesture, like a pat on the leg, or by saying something nice and complimenting him.
• Always show respect. Nothing can turn up the heat faster than a stream of contemptuous, angry words. While it's OK to let some anger out (experts say none of us can look act like "The Brady Bunch," 24-7), don't let yourself lose control.
• Don't say things you'll regret later. Remember, you're working with your partner to find a solution, not to win a war.
Destructive conflict includes anything from name calling, cursing and physical aggression to forms of stonewalling, such as sulking, crying and "the silent treatment." In a constructive discussion, the parents didn't hurl insults and often complimented their partners as they worked toward reaching common ground.
Prior research on marital conflicts had focused on kids who were constantly subjected to nasty, heated battles. Those children were more likely than others to become aggressive and badly behaved or withdrawn, anxious and depressed.
In the new study, researchers turned to interviews with teachers as well as parents to determine the impact conflict was having on the kids. In families where parents' interactions were more constructive, the kids became more psychologically healthy over time. They were also more likely to show "pro-social" behaviors.
"They tended to be friendly to other kids, to be empathetic when others were upset, and to show concerns for moral issues and for the fairness and wellness of others," Davies says.
So go ahead, parents. Fight away!