Like almost all couples, my wife and I fight sometimes. More often than not, the fights break out within earshot of our kids, if not directly in front of them.
After the anger or frustration has run its course—and a little mutual understanding has worked its way into our heads—it’s time to heal wounds and move on. Sometimes this is a tricky process that can feel personal and vulnerable, so we usually retreat to our room or take a walk. We’re no longer near our kids, so they don’t see the healing.
That’s a problem.
Reconcile in front of your child
Our kids are seeing us fight, but they’re not seeing us make up. They’re seeing the conflict, but they’re not watching how we resolve the conflict.
Like everyone’s kids, ours are watching our actions closely when emotions run high. When we fight in front of them but reconcile in private, we’re depriving them of a critical part of our marriage formula: our ability to reach out to each other and heal wounds, even when emotions make that difficult. As John Medina says, it doesn’t make any sense to let your child see the wounding but not the bandaging.1
Conflict is inevitable and fighting is going to be a part of life. People can’t understand and respond to each other in deep ways unless there is a little open-air skirmishing.
Quality of reconciliation matters
Happily, research shows that the amount of fighting is less important than the quality of reconciliation.2
“If you have a fight in front of your children, reconcile in front of your children,” Medina writes. “This allows your child to model how to fight fair and how to make up.”3
In some cases, you really will need more privacy and time to work through a difficult topic. You can’t reconcile in front of your kids. In these cases, I suggest talking to your kids later, together. Tell them how you made up. Let them share in the positive feelings!
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