Fighting Fair – Do you argue ‘well’ in front of your children?

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On Monday I read an article about a really interesting study released by relationships charity OnePlusOne that said, parents who argue and don’t resolve them are putting their child’s health at risk.  Apparently exposure to family feuds can lead to long-term mental health problems, as well as headaches, stomach pains and reduced growth, according to the research.  I thought at first this was a bit of an over-the-top claim but as I read more about the findings it was both compelling and disturbing.

The study identified that ‘Destructive’ conflict – including sulking, walking away or slamming doors – puts youngsters at greater risk of a range of social, emotional and behavioural difficulties particularly in terms of their development in these areas.  It made me think about the fact that there is good conflict and bad, or as the study labels it, destructive conflict.  Disagreements are a part of life and we should not necessarily shield our children from the fact that parents may not agree and even fall out. However, the way we go about resolving issues of conflict, if at all, is key.

Dr Catherine Houlston, the study’s co-author said:

‘We know conflict is a normal and necessary part of family life.  It’s not whether you argue but, how you argue that matters most to kids.

Depending on the issue or subject, it actually can be healthy and helpful even for a child to witness their parents disagree, discuss and then work a resolution out in front of them.  This shows the child that not all conflict has to end in drama.

It’s easy to forget we are modelling life to our children in what we don’t say as well as what we do say.  Giving the silent treatment to a partner for hours (or days) on end teaches children to be manipulative, passive aggressive and simply to ignore a situation or person they’re not happy with.  Teaching a child that where there is negative emotion there can also be positive solution, is a valuable life lesson.

Speaking of arguing well, I also came across a fantastic article this week in the Huffington Post which perfectly details that moment when a partner comes home from work to the partner who has stayed home with the kids and asks, ‘How was your day?’ Have a read and see if you can identify!

In good, happy, healthy, strong relationships we need to make sure we’re asking the right questions, listening intently to the answers and when we do argue, make sure we do it well!

Check out the OnePlusOne website as they have some fantastic resources to support all relationships and you can also order a copy of the OnePlusOne parental conflict report here.

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