Bickman suggests a few ways for parents to have healthy arguments in front of kids that can set an example for good behavior.
The internet is flooded with parents and experts hyping up gentle parenting methods. One of the most important aspects of gentle parenting is to practice positive reinforcement with the kids so that they grow up to be optimistic adults. Also, there's a common notion that parents fighting or arguing in front of their kids might negatively impact the kids' mental health. But a mental health expert, Samantha Bickman, says that when children witness disagreements between parents, it teaches them a crucial life lesson. As per Scary Mommy, Bickman suggests a few ways that can help parents handle arguments in a healthy way.
Bickman is a licensed mental health counselor at Calming Tides Counseling and preaches mindfulness and value-driven actions to help people tackle life with optimism. The expert shared how parents can navigate through their disagreement so that they set an example for their children to adopt a healthy mindset. "Having disagreements in front of your kids can role model to them how to disagree on something and remain calm," Bickman said and added, "It shows them that it happens for all of us and it doesn't mean that we love each other any less. Disagreements are normal within all relationships." She validated normalizing disagreements to help kids understand that voicing out their opinions is important too.
However, there are certain ways to deal with disagreements and shouting at each other and being condescending is not one of them. "If the parents' disagreement leads to yelling, name-calling or any other disrespectful or aggressive behavior, then the kids are learning that disagreements are always intense and lead to high anxiety and distress," said the expert. Bickman points out that such behavior can make children scared or concerned about expressing their emotions and having difficult conversations. Most importantly, children might be convinced that heated arguments and disrespectful remarks are acceptable.
So, what's the right way? As per Bickman, parents need to try their best to pause disagreements when things get too crazy and put it off for some other time when kids won't be around. But if the situation demanded an argument in front of the kids, she said, "Take the time to talk to them about it. Explain what was going on, let them know that parents sometimes disagree and get upset and let them know that it wasn't OK to use that language or yell at each other - whatever it was that wasn't appropriate or that could have been confusing for the kids to hear. And open it up for discussion and curiosity." The therapist insisted the parents acknowledge their children's concerns and doubts about their disagreements so that their emotions don't go unaddressed.
Children are greatly influenced by their parent's personalities and behaviors. So, Bickman said that even during a frustrated argument, parents need to use a 'leveled calm tone' and avoid disrespectful comments. She asked parents to handle disagreements the way they would like their children to behave in the future. "Disagreements are normal and a part of life," said the therapist. So, by having healthy disagreements, parents can lay the foundation for kids to have better relationships with their partners or spouses in the future.