Earlier in the year, my husband and I were arguing at the family dinner table. It wasn’t over anything particularly big, it wasn’t heated and there were no insults or raised voices – we were simply discussing the topic at hand and exchanging our different points of view. Part-way through, I glanced at my son’s face and noticed that he was looking rather alarmed. I asked him what was wrong and he said he was worried that my husband and I didn’t like each other anymore because we were arguing. We assured him that we love each other very much and explained that it’s okay for people not to agree with each other all the time & good to be honest about how we feel, to talk things through.
This made me think that the old adage that parents should never argue in front of their children is, perhaps, not quite right. If we never argue in front of them, they won’t learn how to argue well. Without the skills to argue effectively and fairly, they’re more likely to become people who either avoid conflict altogether, leaving unresolved issues to fester, or who, like bulls in a china shop, end up hurting themselves and others when disagreements arise. It seems to me that children run the risk of losing either their voice or their relationships if they don’t know how to argue kindly and respectfully.
I don’t think it’s as much a case of we shouldn’t argue in front of the children as we need to make sure we argue well in front of them. An argument doesn’t have to be a fight. It doesn’t have to be shouting, stamping and insults. This list below shows both what a good argument looks like and what our children can learn from it –
12 THINGS CHILDREN CAN LEARN FROM A GOOD ARGUMENT
That people see things differently and some degree of arguing is inevitable, normal and okay.
How to manage their own emotions in order to communicate well with another.
How to really listen to and acknowledge another person’s point of view.
How to truly care about the other person’s point of view and ask questions to understand it better.
That their own point of view matters and how to express it with respect.
How to explain their point of view clearly and give reasons for their position.
How to express disagreement with the other respectfully, without insulting them.
How to tolerate someone disagreeing with them or showing emotions such as anger and frustration without taking it personally.
How to reach a solution – eg. compromise, negotiate, back down or “win” graciously.
How to let go rather than carrying a grudge about an unsolved issue or something that doesn’t go their way.
How to apologise sincerely.
How to forgive honestly.
WHEN NOT TO ARGUE IN FRONT OF THE KIDS
Of course, if we’re going to argue in front of our children, we need to know that we can handle ourselves and be a good model of the things above. If we’re feeling triggered and we’re really not sure that we can keep our cool, then, for me, that particular issue needs to be one dealt with in private. To be the positive example to our kids that we want to be requires a tremendous amount of self-awareness and self-control on our part.
To make it clear, I am not suggesting we fight in front of our children. I am also not suggesting that we argue about our kids, issues of an adult nature, or big decisions that may make our children feel insecure (such as whether to move house or not) in front of them.
We humans thrive in honest, caring relationships in which we can express what is within and feel heard by another. In a good argument, we validate one another, even if our positions on the topic differ. When we argue well in front of our children, they hear the language, see the attitudes, and absorb the subtleties of respectful arguing. We give them a model of how to remain connected to another through disagreement.
Much love to you and your little souls,
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How many times have I heard grandparents declare that it’s their right to spoil their grandchildren?
They go on to say how great it is to treat and enjoy the kids without the weight of responsibility they had has parents…and to hand them back to us when it’s time.
But they say these things with a mischievous glint in their eye – because they know they’re not entirely right.
When the ways they spoil their grandchildren conflict with the parents’ values for their family, it’s not right.
When the children see that their grandparents don’t respect their parents’ decisions, it’s a poor example to them.
When spoiling their grandchildren sabotages the parents’ parenting efforts, it creates another mountain the parents must climb.
I have, at times, allowed my own children’s grandparents to spoil them in ways that bother me because I feel guilty. All that help they give me as a parent and all that love they shower on my boys – I feel that I’m being ungrateful if I don’t let them enjoy their grandchildren in the ways that they want to.
But, recently, I’ve decided that letting them spoil my boys weakens my own efforts as a parent and I have had polite but firm words with both sets of grandparents about where our boundaries are.
I really value the role of grandparents in my children’s lives for so many reasons. The delight grandparents take in their grandchildren is a gift to them both. But I realised that letting my boys’ grandparents spoil them had the potential put a wedge in the relationship – I’d become reluctant for them to have time with Jake and Thomas if I expected I may be undermined or treated as a spoil-sport if I spoke up.
So here are some of my guidelines for my boys’ grandparents. You may feel differently but I hope that reading them will help you to define your own –
3 WAYS I DON’T WANT MY CHILDREN’S GRANDPARENTS TO SPOIL THEM
By feeding them unhealthy food. It’s hard to teach our children good eating habits and develop their taste for healthy food in a world full of junk food. I care about my boys’ health and well-being and want help taking care of them. I don’t want them plied with chocolate biscuits at morning tea, chippies in the afternoon and ice-cream for desert all in the same day. And especially not an hour before dinner time! One treat per visit with the grandparents is enough. (I wrote about the importance of good food in my post Is What I Feed My Kids a Spiritual Issue?)
By buying them things, especially toys. In a materialistic culture, I’m trying to help my boys understand what really matters. I also don’t want them to equate receiving gifts with Love or to expect a gift every time they see their grandparents. Birthday and Christmas presents are welcome, but gifts for no reason aren’t necessary. (And so many of our children’s toys are forgotten within a week, anyway, filling our houses with more clutter.)
By letting them have their way. A few examples – Bedtime is bedtime, no matter whose house my boys are at. Whoever’s cooking chooses what’s for dinner – they can take into consideration what Jake and Thomas like but, once cooked, there’s no making a second meal to their preference. Screentime should be monitored just as it is at home. Our children are equals with everyone, they don’t rule the roost.
3 WAYS I WANT MY CHILDREN’S GRANDPARENTS TO SPOIL THEM
The thing is, my parent and parents-in-law are welcome to spoil my boys in other ways. I understand that grandparents shower their grandchildren with treats as an expression of love. But I want Jake and Thomas to understand what true expressions of love are and there are plenty of ways their grandparents can “spoil” them without spoiling them – with the kinds of things we can’t have too much of. Here are 3 –
By showing lots of interest & giving them lots of attention. I am working on giving my boys my undivided attention more often – it’s hard to do when there’s a house to run etc. Grandparents more easily put everything else on hold when their grandchildren arrive on their doorsteps and devote themselves almost entirely to the kids for the length of the visit. That kind of attention is gold to children. Coming along to school events, swimming lessons and other special occasions are also great ways of affirming grandchildren.
By telling them stories about when you were little. This is a great way for children to get to know their grandparents. They also love to hear how “old-fashioned” things used to be and they will remember the interesting details of the stories they hear. Further, children use their imaginations, ask questions and learn to listen carefully when being told a story so story-telling is a great way for grandparents to contribute to their development.
By creating memories together. Doing fun things together creates golden memories that will live in the children’s hearts. My memories of going on roadtrips with my Poppa and of feeding the birds with my Nan are ones I cherish now. Grandparents can take their grandies on outings (they don’t need to be elaborate or expensive), teach them new games or skills and have fun together at home.
IN SUMMARY – PLEASE PARENT WITH US, NOT AGAINST US
I don’t want the added stress of having to manage my children’s grandparents as well as my children. It’s important to me that my boys’ grandparents are involved in their lives for both their sakes but I need to trust that my parenting efforts will be supported, not sabotaged. Grandparents have the ability to genuinely help us parent if they’ll back us up – it takes a village, after all. I’m fortunate that, on the whole, my children’s grandparents do understand and stick to our rules but I know there are other parents for whom this is a bigger issue.
You’ll likely have different ideas to me about what is and isn’t okay with you when it comes to grandparents spoiling your children. My main point is that each parent needs to know what kinds of “spoiling” they are & aren’t okay with and each grandparent needs to respect that.
Much love to you and your little souls,
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