Two weeks ago I was walking with one of my sister-friends in the SoHo neighborhood of New York City and a presumed husband and wife were going at it hard right in front of their two children. The couple seemed to be tourists fighting over the day’s activities and what was to happen next. It was so harsh that it stung my sister-friend and I. More importantly, the look on their children’s faces told the story. Clearly, this was common and was having an impact on the kids.
The sad thing was that if two strangers could see that the couple’s fighting was negatively affecting their kids then, the parents should have been able to see it and stop their bad behavior. Adults are going to have arguments, but when parents have arguments in front of children it can have a lasting impact on the child, especially frequent fighting. With this couple, it ended with the mother going one way with their son and the father going another way with their daughter. Not only had they’d argued in front of their children, they had forced them to take sides.
Although my parents ultimately were divorced, they never fought in front of me during their marriage or after. Even when I was in trouble neither my mother nor my father ever raised their voices to irate levels when scolding me. I credit them with me being able to disagree in my relationships – romantic and friendships – without a knock down drag out argument. I didn’t grow up in a contentious household so I tend to avoid contention in my personal relationships. Thankfully, my parents’ good behavior had a positive, lasting impact on me.
To the contrary, one of my other sister-friends consistently finds herself in arguments with her husband, her boss and her other friends. It makes it difficult to like her because if you disagree with her she goes from zero to sixty before you’ve finished your statement. We had a “friend-tervention” where I learned that she’d grown up in a very hostile environment. Everyone in her family fussed, cussed and screamed. No wonder she was unable to confront conflict without a blow-up.
The impact of her childhood environment was that she had not learned how to properly manager her anger. We all know this person. We see it on reality TV every day. You can spot someone who grew up in a contentious household a mile away; they always have anger management issues. I encouraged my friend to get help so she can end the cycle with her kids.
Even if we are unable to control our anger amongst adults, parents owe it to their children not to breed the same bad patterns in them. Most of the parents I know only want the best for their kids and they want their kids to live better than they have. One of those ways is to not create a contentious environment at home by not fighting in front of your kids.