Fighting in front of the kids is a silent epidemic. While yelling and screaming are anything but silent, the silence comes from the children who don’t have the power to speak up about the pain they’re being caused. (Dr. Phil McGraw)
Have you ever thought about the emotional damage you inflict on your children when you fight with each other in front of them? Let me repeat. Have you ever REALLY thought about how you victimize your kids when you fight in front of them?
Are there times when you’re so caught up in the “heat of the moment,” bent on getting your points across to each other, that you’re oblivious to your children located in the room with you, or nearby? We confess that regretfully, we’ve been there and did that in the past, and are sorry for it to this day. We hope to spare you these regrets by sharing this message with you.
Fighting Reality Check
A while ago, we watched a TV show with Dr. Phil McGraw. The show was titled, “Fighting in Front of the Kids.” We watched a married couple (who had cameras placed in their home to observe them) screaming furiously at each other. As they were doing this, their children were watching and listening. Sometimes they even stepped over or past the kids to verbally assault each other. Their children were visibly upset as they watched the two “adults” they love most in this world, act out as they did.
We wish every spouse could view this show because it demonstrates how blind we can be to the harm we inflict upon our children when we subject them to this type of drama. As this couple watched the video of themselves verbally combating with each other they were stunned as they saw the emotional trauma their children experienced.
As Dr. Phil remarked, “When you fight with each other in front of your children, you forever change who they are.” “Fighting in front of your kids is nothing short of abuse” (which we totally agree).
Stop the Assault
If you’re subjecting your children to this type of behavior, we hope you’ll make a point of joining together to ask God to show you how to stop assaulting them in this manner.
The Bible says, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control” (Proverbs 29:11). And keeping ourselves under control is so we don’t hurt our children is an important reason to stop acting like fools.
The Bible also says in Philippians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that they may benefit those who listen.” How is fighting in front of your kids “building them up” as they listen?
At the Drphil.com web site you’ll find a lot of helpful info. One of many free documents you can download is titled, “Stop Fighting in Front of the Kids.” It gives important points to consider.
Some of them are:
• Children learn what they live. Stop and think about what you’re teaching them.
• What goes through your mind when you do it? How do you justify doing this? Why do you think you’re entitled to fight in front of your kids? You’ve got to look at this and say, “This ain’t workin!” Stop justifying it. The kids are picking up the tab.
• You have a choice: either vent your impulse or love your children. Those are mutually exclusive. When you fight in front of your kids, you are putting your need to explode ahead of your kids’ best interest and peace of mind.
• What are you fighting about? What’s your goal when you call each other names? Is it worth trashing your children’s harmony? Can you even remember what was so important last week that you were willing to trample over your children? What “victory” were you looking for? Is it worth it? Do you think your kids think it’s worth it?
• There are important issues in every marriage that need to be discussed. Turn the volume down to deal with them.
• Stop being a “right-fighter.” The kids don’t care who’s right. “They want you to shut up,” says Dr. Phil.
• Don’t say you can’t control your anger. That’s not true. It’s that you don’t control your anger. Have you had fights at your boss’s house? At church? At a restaurant with friends? You don’t do it when you can’t.
• The only person you control is you. Choose to control your impulses.
So how do you stop the fighting? Here are a few suggestions (that we agree with) that Dr Phil gives in another free document he offers:
Avoiding Fights in Front of the Kids:
Once you’ve made the decision to never fight in front of your children again use this strategy for sticking to your plan.
- Decide on a visual cue with your spouse —holding up a card, for instance. This is to signal that a fight is starting and it’s time to nip it in the bud.
- If you’re going to have a discussion, take it somewhere private. Conduct it hand-in-hand with your mate. Deal with your partner closely and personally. It makes it easier to communicate, and much harder to argue.
- Take the word “anger” out of your vocabulary. (Words like “steamed” or “ticked off” aren’t allowed either.) Instead, replace it with what is at the root of anger —possibly fear, hurt or frustration.
- Express your needs to your partner. No, he/she may not already know what those needs are. Be articulate. State what you need plainly and specifically. Remain calm.
- Work the problem. Cooperation, not competition, is the idea here. So take some time to calm down before finding a solution to the issue.
- Share a moment of peace to reaffirm your bond once a resolution or decision has been reached. This might be, for example, a silent 60-second hug. Or it might be looking into one another’s eyes for a minute.
If this message brings conviction to your heart, please take the necessary steps to change this behavior NOW. It’s the best gift you could ever give your children and your marriage.
Cindy and Steve Wright
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