As a couple, respecting and caring about each other does not necessarily mean that you have to agree with each other all the time.
Arguments and conflicts are bound to happen in every marriage, but the key is to know how to handle conflict. That is, how to argue in an appropriate manner. When there are children involved, the ‘how’ of arguing becomes an even more important matter for two main reasons; on the one hand it is crucial to be a positive role model for your children, and on the second hand it is important to provide children with a calm and secure home. Follow these tips to avoid letting arguments get out of hand.
Be a good role model
Children learn from their parental models in many respects. They can learn that it is healthy to have different opinions, and that having such different opinions does not make a person ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ We, as parents, must teach our children that when expressing an opposing point of view, we must express our opinions carefully and logically, and in an acceptable manner.
Provide a secure home
Prolonged and frequent arguments in front of the children will probably provoke feelings of unease and worry, especially in younger children. In the case of very young children (up to seven or eight years of age), it is probably best for parents not to argue in front of them as they tend to be ‘concrete’ at that age, and cannot yet understand that one may argue with a person and not hate him. If you have regular and frequent disagreements, this should be done away from the children, and if they do notice, they must be told that this is only disagreeing or arguing and that the parents still respect and love each other. This will allow the children to feel more comfortable and secure in the knowledge that their parents are not going to leave each other (in an extreme case scenario).
If handled correctly, successful arguing can actually strengthen the bond between couples and allow both of them to ventilate their feelings, improve communication and reduce resentment. Keep our “Do” and “Don’t” tips in mind the next time you and your spouse have an argument.
• Talk. It will almost always help. Fighting never does.
• Leave the argument in a ‘win-win’ mode, with both feeling that they have won and nobody has lost. This way, both partners have expressed their views and an acceptable compromise that both parties can live with has been reached. Resentment can build up if one feels that he or she has ‘lost’ and their spouse has ‘won.’
• Pinpoint the issue or concern at hand. Stick to the point of disagreement and don’t widen the argument to include last week’s, month’s or year’s disagreements.
• Talk in a calm, respectful tone of voice.
• Choose the right time and place to talk, when both of you are relaxed and are not tired or worried about another matter.
• Avoid blaming one another. Use statements to explain how you feel, instead of ones that may ‘point the finger’ at the other person.
• Keep the disagreement between the two of you without bringing in third parties, such as your best friend or his sister.
• Be flexible and show a willingness to compromise. You can make a list of choices of solutions that you are both willing to try. Sometimes there just is no “right” answer – at times the answer is to agree to disagree.
• After any disagreement and before a decision or resolution has been reached, it is important for parents to take a reasonable amount of time to actually think about everything that was said and discussed at that point. In this way, they give themselves, and each other, the time to consider the points that were discussed and the options that were reviewed.
• Apologize if you are wrong.
• Don’t interrupt one another. Listen and allow your spouse sufficient time to state his/her case.
• Don’t allow the argument to take too long. It is probably best to limit the length of the argument, and then pick it up later, with the understanding that in the meantime, neither of the couple should hold a grudge.
• Don’t “give up” and walk out in the middle of an argument or disagreement, or revert to such extreme measures such as an ultimatum threatening to end the relationship. Such stands are usually unrealistic, very disruptive and do not resolve anything.
• Don’t give in to sarcasm or belittling the other’s self-image and self-esteem. This will only cause resentment.
• Don’t “fight to win.” Fight for your relationship and your marriage. Remember to stay in a “win-win” mode.
• Never forget to forgive and don’t let your pride get in the way of your asking to be forgiven.
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