Fighting in front of your kids is a big no-no. So what do you do if you're already way past round one?
You're in the middle of a heated discussion with your beloved. It starts to escalate to yelling, and soon you find yourself smack-dab in the middle of a knock-down, drag-out fight. Then, out of nowhere, you hear, "No Mommy yell!" You look down, and there's your toddler, hands over his ears and fear in his eyes.
Sound familiar? It's a complete role reversal -- you're the child being reprimanded by your much, much wiser toddler. There's no worse feeling. To realize that the entire conflict has been observed, processed and filed away in that absorbent little brain make us vow to never, ever raise our voice in front of our kids again. But that's easier said than done.
We asked family counselor Rosanne Tobey, LPC, how to put the kibosh on conflict when our kids are within earshot. Here's her advice:
Change more than the subject. Whatever you and your partner are arguing about, drop it. Then one or both of you should leave the scene, so you don't re-engage.
Pick up where you left off. It's easier to let a conflict drop for the moment if you know that later, there will be a forum to discuss the issue. You both need to agree to talk about it later -- then make sure that you do indeed talk about it.
Switch the focus to your child. Apologize for fighting in front of her, and for frightening her. Comfort and reassure her.
Don't beat yourself up. It's all right for children to see parents disagree or bicker occasionally. Allowing children to witness low-level conflict -- followed by some resolution -- will help them learn that people can disagree and still love each other. With that in mind, be sure to save the big guns for when the children are not around.