Open Parental Conflict: Taming Your Inner Lion

Posted December 3, 2009 by

Two recent articles on Empowering Parents sharply caught my attention. James Lehman’s recent article, “Differences in Parenting. How Your Child May Be Using it Against You”, and EP Editor Elisabeth Wilkins blog, “Is Yelling the New Spanking” both hit home. I’m ashamed, but I must admit: My fiance and I occasionally roar at each other in full view of the children.

The day after we hollered at one another in front of the kids, I had a discussion with my fianc about our yelling. Specifically, how it’s detrimental to everyone. My point was precisely what James said in his article: if you disrespect your spouse in front of your kids or talk about them behind their back, you’re setting up a very serious situation. Indeed.

My belief is that parents who openly argue with each other (in front of the kids) can unknowingly provide a subconscious opportunity for kids to divide and conquer their parents. To continue with James comments, open parental conflict is inviting your child to be disrespectful to your spouse. He will use that information to split the two of you and manipulate you against the other. And if you don’t get on the same page, that’s going to create real problems in your family.

Openly yelling at each other not only sets parents up to be manipulated, but I think that it may frighten the kids, too, because palpable tension is embedded in the hollering. I think that fear, immature coping skills, and lack of objectivity can cause the yelling to be potentially detrimental to a child’s self-esteem — they lack the emotional language and wisdom to process painful experiences, and thus kids tend to think that they are the cause of their parents’ disharmony (which is rarely the case).

I view yelling between parents at its best, as divisive and unconstructive, and at its worst, personally and socially destructive. And I don’t like it. Okay, I loathe it. Perhaps I just have an unusual sensitivity to loud noise — that’s certainly possible. But in talking with other parents, as well as reading related articles, I sense that screaming in the household isn’t all that admirable or desirable. And it tends to be quite guilt-provoking.

So, what to do I really want to live up to James admonition to do, not say — a more effective method of role-modeling as to how to deal respectfully with adult arguments (particularly when in front of the children). I’d like to learn constructive ways to cope with frustration that preserve the personal integrity of both parents. I’m working on it by addressing my concerns with my fianc, as well as trying to practice the techniques in the Total Transformation Program but I have a long way to go.

Any suggestions on how to manage open disagreement in a more mature, productive manner and reduce the amount of roaring in my den in front of the cubs


Susan Engel is a mother of two, writer and parent blogger for Empowering Parents.

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