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Posts tagged ‘healthy disagreements’

The Dangers of Fighting Around Kids

SOURCE:  Andrea Atkins/

How you handle squabbles and manage disagreements has a direct effect on kids’ behavior.

Some families believe they should never fight “in front of the kids.” Others could care less, letting loose with stinging invectives whenever a disagreement erupts. It turns out that neither style of conflict resolution is very good for children’s emotional development.

“Conflict and anger are not bad,” says Patrick T. Davies, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, and co-author with E. Mark Cummings, of Martial Conflict and Children: An Emotional Security Perspective. “It’s OK to be angry, as long as it’s managed in a constructive way and the parents are making some progress toward resolution. In those cases, there’s value to anger, and there’s meaning in it. It’s good when kids see parents manage that and work together as a team to increase or maintain family harmony.”

But when families fight in an unpredictable way—when conflict arises out of seemingly innocent mistakes or small disagreements—kids suffer. Name-calling, door slamming, stony silence, one-upmanship, or aggressive physical actions threaten kids security, can have lasting and serious effects, and can color the whole family’s dynamic.

When parents fight that way, says Davies, kids spend so much time watching and worrying about their family members that their development may be affected. They can’t focus on the business of childhood: playing, learning, and exploring. In fact, those who grow up with constant fighting may develop lasting symptoms that include:

  • Clinginess
  • Belligerence
  • Sleeplessness (and tiredness during the day)
  • A habit of playing loudly to drown out the noise of yelling and screaming
  • Stomach aches
  • Headaches
  • Uptick in anxious behaviors: nail-biting, finger sucking, hair pulling and twirling

These same kids also spend less time with their parents because battling spouses don’t have the energy left to take care of their kids. And they often aren’t very nice to their children. “There’s something called anger spillover,” Davies explains. “When the parents fight, there’s a tendency for residual anger, stress, and preoccupation to spill over into their relationship with their kids. For many kids, conflict is a reliable precursor to their parents being in bad moods.”

Be sure that you are not exposing kids to toxic fighting by sticking to these guidelines:

Limit expressions of intense anger: “It may be difficult not to yell at times, but try to keep yelling to a minimum so it is rarely expressed in your conflicts,” Davies says. And when you have to yell, make an effort to make up with your partner, that way your kids will see harmony or affection in the face of disagreement.

Fight fair: Look at each other and, if possible, sit down, since standing fights seem more aggressive and threatening to children. Avoid the silent treatment, slamming doors, or walking out on your partner, since those actions are seen, especially by children, as signs of anger or disrespect, Davies says. Avoid name-calling and vicious language.

Stay in the moment: Don’t bring into each fight perceived wrongs from disagreements past.

Don’t try to be right: Try to reach a compromise or a solution. Doing that is much better than arguing about who is “right.” “Try to generate possible solutions that will work for both of you rather than going into the conflict with the mentality that you have to win the argument,” advises Davies. Demonstrate that you understand your partner’s perspective. You can nod your head, say, “I see,” or offer other non-verbal cues. If possible, repeat back to your partner your understanding of his or her viewpoint.

Avoid the Silent Treatment: “Kids pick up on nonverbal anger—even pre-schoolers do. And in some cases, that’s more distressing that mild verbal anger,” says Davies. “Kids can’t process it. They don’t know what is going on, but they know something is not right…it sets off a smoke alarm in their heads—they know something is wrong, and it becomes a bigger deal to them than maybe it really is.”

Sometimes agree to disagree: Sometimes there really is no resolution, but being able to acknowledge differences and move on sets a good example for kids, according to Davies. Instead of seeking to be right, seek to be heard in an argument, and let the other person know that you have also heard what he or she has said.

Talk to your grandchild: Sometimes big shouting matches do occur. Once they’ve passed, you can casually reassure your grandchild that the disagreement is over and all is back to normal. Warning: Don’t make that assurance if it’s not true.

“That’s critical,” Davies says. “You can say everything’s OK now as long as you’re not holding a grudge. If it’s not going back to normal the kids will see that and be confused by what you say.”

Kids who grow up around fighting tend to learn destructive tactics when it comes to resolving conflict in their own lives, Davies says. So before you explode at your spouse, realize that he or she is not the only one hearing it.

Arguing Well: 5 Helpful Tips

SOURCE:  Counseling Solutions

It is impossible to live and not argue or disagree with another person. From birth to the grave, disagreements are part of our life. The odds are so stacked against us that you will not be able to get through life without conflict. Because this is true, it would be good to learn how to argue or disagree with others.

Here Are Five Helpful Tips To Help You Disagree Well

Expect the Obvious – A right understanding of the doctrines of man and sin will bring your expectations down to a realistic level. There are no authentic, innate, self-righteous people in the world today. We all are sinners. No one has escaped the curse of Adam. I think when we are surprised by another person’s sin, we have forgotten the obvious: sin is the one thing we do very well. I am not making a case for you to sin more or making light of sin, but I am stating the obvious: we are sinners.

Be Suspicious – The only time when suspicion is allowed is when you are suspicious of yourself. Jesus told us in Matthew 7:3-5 that if you realize the log is in your eye, then you are in a good place to engage another sinner. I am well-aware that I’m self-deceived and because of this, I’m typically not understanding the conflict correctly. A person who is humbly suspicious of himself is a person who has true understanding.

Remember Who You Really Are – This one thing I know: I killed Christ. Because of my sin, the Father executed His Son on the Cross. Because of my sin, the Son willingly chose to die on the Cross. It was my sin that put the Son on the Tree. I am the biggest sinner I know. All of the things that have been done to me do not compare to what I have done to Him. All other sins cannot compare to the sin I have committed. Paul understood this, even at the end of his life. He also understood that his great God showed mercy on him, the chief of sinners. Most assuredly, I can extend a similar mercy toward others.

Ask Questions – Typically I charge into conflict making statements, rather than asking questions. I’m rarely suspicious of my tendency to be self-deceived and, therefore, I state my opinion with insufficient data. More times than not it would have been better for me to ask more questions before stating my opinion. Because of my high opinion of my views and the rightness that I generally feel, I tend to not ask enough questions, choosing rather to make more statements.

Little to Die Over – As I reflect over my past arguments, it is hard to remember any of them that were important enough to sin against God and others. I remember as a kid getting into an argument with my four brothers over a Snickers Bar. We were very poor and on that day we had only one candy bar. One brother measured the candy with a ruler, but did not divide the five parts equally. An argument ensued. Sadly, many of my arguments have not evolved much beyond the trivialities of dividing a candy bar.

How Can You Respond to this Article?

Perhaps you are currently in a disagreement with another person. Let me ask you some questions, based on the five tips above and encourage you to respond to God first and then to the person you’re in conflict with:

  1. Expectations: Are you really surprised your offender has done wrong? (Assuming they have done wrong.) Can you extend grace? If not, why not? If not, then you have totally missed the point of the Gospel.
  2. Suspicious: Are you more suspicious of yourself? …or your friend? If you are genuinely more suspicious of yourself, then will you respond in grace to your offender?
  3. Remember: Who is the biggest sinner you know? If you say anything other than yourself, then you have some heart-work to do. But if you really believe you are the worst sinner you know, then you can extend mercy to your offender, because mercy has been extended to you. This is the point of the Gospel.
  4. Questions: Do you really think you have all the facts? Ask yourself if you are missing anything. Assume you are. Get more data. Ask more questions. Make less statements.
  5. Trivialities – How important is it for you to be right? How important is the issue you are arguing over? Is this really a hill to die on?

Will you go to the person you are in conflict with and seek to reconcile the relationship? This is the point of the Gospel.

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