How to Stop Fighting with Your Spouse in Front of the Kids
Losing your cool in front of your kids? Not cool at all, obviously. But if you want to spread a layer of awful onto your guilt sandwich, try fighting about the kids right in front of them. To make family time more fun and less charged with fury, follow these six steps to calmer co-parenting.
Tag yourself out
So your husband is obsessed with table manners, when your priority is just getting your toddler to eat something (literally anything) that is not a hot dog. If he’s pushing his napkin-in-the-lap agenda, rather than fight him on it (i.e., derisively point out his ridiculously high expectations), step aside. Let him handle lunch while you take over for dinner, giving each other a chance to run errands, shower or relax (!) while the other person cooks and feeds. Yes, eating meals together as a family has established benefits, but less so if tension and drama are on the menu.
Put small potatoes arguments on ice
If your spouse does something that drives you insane (like sanctions a Peppa Pig marathon after you’d nixed Saturday screen time, just so he can read the paper), make a mental note—or actually write one down—then bring it up later when the kids are safely out of earshot (read: REM-cycle asleep). And no yelling. Chances are if you table the discussion for a few hours, you’ll be able to hash things out more smoothly—if you even remember to bring the issue up at all.
Even if an argument between their parents has nothing to do with them, kids will inevitably see themselves as the cause, experts say. And you’re not fooling anyone with your stealthy use of the silent treatment (kids are like emotional bloodhounds and can sniff out passive-aggressive behavior from miles away). But resolving a fight in front of them has an unexpected upside. "When conflicts are handled constructively, kids learn compromise, compassion and to use humor and warmth to solve disagreements," one expert told GMA. "They also learn that conflict with someone you love is not the end of the world."
Get a mantra
One expert tells herself, “I’m having a miserable day, but getting angry will just make things worse.” But mantra options are infinite. Repeating a calming phrase to yourself (we like “Soften to the feeling”) in moments of white-hot rage can give you the space to shift your perspective—and keep you from screaming like a banshee.
Involve the kids
Wait, what? But hear us out. There’s an argument to be made for openness: “If you have all of your fights behind closed doors, or tell the kids, ‘We're not fighting,’ when it's clear that you are, they won't learn to trust their own perceptions—or you, for that matter,” writes one parenting expert. Instead, explain to them that you and your spouse got upset with each other, but that you both apologized and love each other very much. Quick and simple. And emphasize to your kids that they were in no way at fault.
Notice your body
Feel your feelings—literally. Is your heart racing? Is your jaw clenched? Are your fists balled up? Is your head reeling? That’s your cue to take deep breaths, or take a walk. Simply becoming aware of anger’s physical red flags can be enough to give them the red light.