I didn’t grow up in a home where my parents argued a lot, at least not in front of me. I do remember one day when I was about five when my dad punched the wall because he was angry. I think that I only remember it because we had to take him to the hospital. I still really admire the fact that he took his anger out on the wall like a real man, not on my mother. I think that my father specifically, was taught by his parents not to raise his voice. It was probably a learned habit.
Things must have been a little different for my husband. I learned this after we first started living together. At one point I slammed a cabinet door in the kitchen, and it spooked him so badly that he walked out the front door and down the street. He explained to me when he came back that he just couldn’t handle slamming cabinet doors. I have tried hard to never slam one since.
My husband and I are very blessed that we are not often compelled to argue. We talk a lot, we definitely discuss, and we try to always bring up the things that bother us, so we can sort them out before they blow up in an argument. We rarely ever argue in front of our kids. The last time that we did was in the car and the argument was about driving navigation. I was upset and scared because I believed that I was in a bad area past dark with my kids in the car. I panicked, and I was not cooperating well. Through the entire argument my husband and I did not call each other names, or yell, or label one another. In the end we explained ourselves and apologized. I don’t think that kids often see a better example of a healthy argument.
And so…we were at the Magic Kingdom the other day. I do not like roller coasters, but I love to people watch. I am almost always standing around and observing the scene while my husband takes my kids on those rides. That particular day I was standing in the shade next to a man. He had his two daughters with him; they were around three and six. When the mother arrived they launched instantly into a fight. The first thing that caught my attention was that they were having this discussion in public. People act far worse behind closed doors than they do around others…about one hundred percent of the time.
I know that the Disney parks are super high stress, and people tend to argue when they are in stressful situations. This is the very reason that my husband and I stay far away from one another when either is building, or doing computer maintenance. The argument that the couple was having in front of their children, and the whole world, started out as an argument over the fact that she had planned their whole vacation online, but he wasn’t following the plan. Then he insisted that she gave a bunch of directions, but he didn’t know how to get to any of the places she had listed, (pssst…they do have maps of the park). The argument escalated, they yelled at each other both insisting that neither listened to the other. They both played the martyr card; they called names and labeled one another. Basically, they did all of the big no-nos…and the whole time their two little girls silently listened.
Then it got worse. I actually felt bad that I did not step in and say something. I could only anticipate the kind of reaction I might get, however. Considering how worked up the two adults were, I may have helped to destroy the vacation for those two little girls, so I chose to keep my mouth shut. The mother started blaming the oldest daughter for not having any fun and ruining the vacation because she refused to go on any of the rides that her little sister was not able to go on. She went on putting blame on her six year old kid. The two of them continued arguing as they chose to move on, the six year following along, as they pushed the little one in the stroller.
It is never okay to blame a little kid for something that you are responsible for. You, if you are a parent, are basically responsible for everything. It is not okay to argue about your kid in front of your kid…ever. It is not okay to put down your spouse or call them bad names. It is not okay to hit, slam, or throw things. If you do any of these things you have an amazing opportunity to set a good example for your partner or your children by apologizing. It is just as easy as that…apologize. Recognize that the behavior was inappropriate, that it’s not the end of the world, and strive to do better next time.
Arguments are natural, and they can even be productive. It is extremely important to follow some rules though, and not to let arguments get out of hand. When they get out of hand, they can severely damage relationships. In regards to children, just observing inappropriate arguments can cause ongoing mental trauma. Remember not to carry guilt, forgive yourself, forgive your partner, apologize and move on…and do better next time.
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