Do You Fight in Front of Your Kids? I Do. Sort of.
Some parents never fight in front of their kids, and their kids grow up fine. Some parents scream at each other day, and their kids grow up fine. And some in each camp end up with kids who either think a fight means the end of the world or that love is best expressed by yelling and cursing.
What's the right thing to do?
I can't even begin to answer this question without first defining "fighting." Do we mean a civil disagreement? Or do we mean throwing cats? Because I personally believe even screaming at each other is fine as long as you are both fighting fair and you end the whole affair by apologizing and accepting responsibility for the emotional meltdown in front of your kids, as well.
Every couple has a fighting style, just as every individual comes out swinging in his or her own unique way. I'm a writer, so I tend to want to turn every argument over and over, talking it to death long after the other participant has walked out of the room in disgust. Nothing makes me more angry than being ignored or being shut down before I've said my piece. So if I'm ticked off about something, I want to have it out, get resolution, and move on as quickly as possible. I don't like to sit and stew in my own juices, which tend to be acrid.
My husband would die if I wrote about our personal fighting style on the Internet, so I'm not going to drag him into this post. Suffice it to say that in eight years of marriage, we've had to accept our differences and learn to agree to disagree. We've learned to really examine whether or not we care about the subject at hand. I'm always tempted to win every argument just for the sake of winning it, and I had to learn to just let it go. Winning an argument doesn't mean you are better than your opponent. It just means you either cared more about the topic or were more willing to invest yourself in winning it. That, in and of itself, is both freeing and a good example for kids -- in my humble opinion.
As parents, I think we have to model fair fighting. It's nearly impossible to never fight in front of your kids, but I'm not sure you should have your knock-down drag-outs in front of them. Arguing over who's going to wash the car? Game on. Arguing about how to parent or money? NUNCA. I don't think you should argue about anything that might make your kids feel insecure in front of them. Kids don't understand money or parenting the way we do, and they may either fear life as they know it hangs delicately in the balance or that they somehow cause all of your arguments if you thrash that stuff out in front of them.
If you do happen to let loose (and we all do at some point), at the very least explain to your kids that just because you two fight doesn't mean you don't love each other or them. Adults fight just like kids do, and kids get that. The important part is letting the argument have a beginning and an end -- old arguments that drag on and on aren't going to win you any parenting awards.
Also? I think as often as possible you should agree to disagree in front of your kids. It's the foundation for civil disagreement, and kids don't learn civil disagreement nearly enough in their day-to-day lives, at least from my vantage point. Teaching kids when to stand up and fight and when to let it drop will be invaluable lessons to them later in life -- and can in fact even make their lives better and easier.
So yeah, I think you should fight in front of your kids.