Why It's Good to Fight in Front of Your Kids

New research suggests exposing kids to conflict might not be as bad as we previously thought -- but there's a catch.

The conventional wisdom is that it’s never okay for couples to quarrel in front of the kids, but that rule can go right out the window when your husband fails to put the dishes in the dishwasher AGAIN. But new research suggests that perhaps it’s not so bad after all, since it can model healthy conflict resolution, according to The Wall Street Journal. Researchers found in a 2009 study that “constructive” marital conflict is actually associated with an increase in children’s emotional security.

That doesn’t mean you should left the criticisms fly whenever you’re annoyed. Developmental experts say following these rules can help minimize the harmful impact of fighting -- and maybe even teach your kids how to be good partners themselves someday.

1. Put some rules in place. Before you’re in the heat of an argument, decide at what point you’ll table the conflict to resolve later when the kids are in bed. You might agree to five minutes of fighting, or stop when one or both of you can’t resist the urge to yell. You might also decide there are some topics that are always off-limits in front of the kids.

2. Fight fair. You know when you’re landing a low blow; and it’s important to resist that urge. Don’t dredge up old stuff, call your spouse names, or stomp off in anger.

3. Watch for signs of stress. Clearly, if your kid starts crying, that’s your cue to halt the argument. Other signs are more subtle: standing frozen still, slumping over, misbehaving in an effort to distract or trying to intervene.

4. Remember the baby. Think your baby is immune to the effects of loud arguing? Wrong. A study published this year, according to WSJ, found that even in their sleep, babies showed signs of stress when they heard their parents fighting.

5. Be sure to make-up in front of the kids, too. This is super-important: kids should see you make up, or at least get back to normal, so they can see that people who love each other can bump heads but still get back to normal.

Mom of two Sasha Emmons is a writer and editor. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

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