The Tantrum: Is Yelling in Front of the Kids Okay?

July 26th, 2010  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  7 Comments


I came across a poll in Parenting magazine the other day, which asked the question: Is it okay for couples to fight in front of their kids?

Not surprisingly, 82 percent of the liars parents thought it wasn’t.

And it probably isn’t. But does that mean it isn’t going to happen? Likely not. Granted, while I was married to JP’s mother, fighting was part of our daily routine, as ingrained into our daily life as coffee with breakfast and armed robbery. Not saying that’s good, but it was. In fact, in our case, it was bad, done freely in front of JP, and eventually, led to our divorce.

But that doesn’t mean that my girlfriend and I have never disagreed (although our first argument came eight months or so into our relationship, which I thought was a miracle). We’ve even disagreed in front of JP. Nothing like what went on when I was married, and the fact that I can communicate well enough with my girlfriend to avoid most arguments and shorten those that can’t be avoided likely means we’re a good match.

The real question, though, is whether or not it’s bad to fight in front of the kids. My answer is: not really. First of all, what’s the point of calling something that’s definitely going to happen a bad thing? It just sets up an expectation that can’t be met. Second, successful conflict resolution is a good thing for a child to see (and yes, what constitutes successful is a matter of debate).

Anyway, surveys like the one on Parenting seem to me yet another example of the ways in which those of who are perhaps less than perfect role models for our children–but still good role models–are failing compared to some absurd ideal. It’s like anorexic models and teen girls (only not).


  1. JP says:

    July 26th, 2010at 8:46 am(#)

    I think we do too much sheltering and insulating of our kids from the real world. How do we expect them to be able to function in the “real world” if we don’t expose them to it and teach them? Part of that would be teaching our kids positive conflict resolution. But, it holds us parents to a much higher standard…we have to be on our toes. Of course, we’ve known that from day 1 when we realized what sponges these little human beings are. Unfortunately, a lot of adults don’t practice positive conflict resolution anyway, so perhaps it’s best to not expose the kids to the dirty tactics we practice on each other.

  2. Didactic Pirate says:

    July 26th, 2010at 11:25 am(#)

    I agree with JP. Adults argue. Kids will see it.
    Sheltering your kids from conflict of any kind is bad. In fact, in many ways, it can be worse. Kids who don’t see parents arguing are probably seeing those parents sitting at the table in cold, angry silence, pretending (badly) that everything is and always will be fine.

    It’s about how you argue. When kids witness their parents occasionally disagreeing, and even arguing, while still showing each other respect… that sounds healthier to me.

  3. scottstev says:

    July 27th, 2010at 9:12 am(#)

    I’d like to join in the pile-on and agree. I think this also ties into Theodore’s post from a couple weeks ago about parents trying to stifle aggression in our children. There is going to be conflict and adversity in your life. We need to prepare our kids to handle this fallen condition, and not the lollipop and pony-ridden world in which we wish to have bequeathed them.

  4. doug says:

    October 24th, 2010at 8:08 pm(#)

    What’s the chance that you’re going to exhibit successful conflict resolution techniques when pitching a fit in front of the kids?

    Kids aren’t typically privy to the details of the issues between parents. They haven’t had much experience, and throwing them into the middle of a full-blow years-old feud isn’t going to be pretty.

    I was stopping with the kids by the ex’s place to pick up some of their stuff. The youngest got clingy and didn’t want to leave, and she got daggers in her eyes and said “this is why you shouldn’t stop by, i don’t want you here.” That got us out of the house, but now the youngest is convinced that she was talking about him, not me, and that his own mother doesn’t want him.

    Not good. Can it in front of the kids. If it’s important, take time later to talk about it — on the phone after they are asleep, if nothing else.


    The Tantrum: Is Yelling in Front of the Kids OK? Part 4 | DADWAGON
  1. The Tantrum: Is Yelling in Front of the Kids Okay? Part 4 | DADWAGON
  2. A Week on the Wagon: Keep your voice up edition | DADWAGON

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