Let Children See Disharmony Resolved

Expert Author Susan Leigh
In any family or relationship disharmony occurs on occasion. It is a fact of life that people will not agree on everything all of the time. All too often though when a potential row seems to be brewing children will either be asked to leave the room or the disagreement will be put to one side to be forgotten about or to be continued later, in private.
If this happens children may never learn about the process of resolving disagreements. All they will see will be the early stages of how a row begins, with perhaps niggling and tension. And then they will witness the after effects, perhaps long cold silences, or everything suddenly becoming fine again because the air has been cleared.
Children need to appreciate that disagreement is an accepted part of life and that there is a useful positive skill and talent in being able to navigate through a row to a satisfactory conclusion. Arguing can be done in a positive or a negative way. Teaching children about disagreeing with respect and learning to reach a positive conclusion afterwards is teaching them one of the most important lessons in becoming a rounded, confident adult.
- Constructive arguments are when issues are raised, talked through, then resolved. Everyone has their say, feels listened to, respected and then a satisfactory outcome is reached and everyone feels pleased that it is a good result for all.
- Productive arguments are when issues are raised but are not always resolved. Often it can take a lot of courage to raise these issues, especially when another person's views are known or suspected to be different to ones own. Raising matters and discussing them gives everyone an opportunity to discover how each other feels and hopefully reach some understanding about why they hold that opinion. A productive argument means that the discussions have been respectful and appreciative of each other, even if they then agree to disagree.
- Destructive arguments often include shouting, anger, loss of control and maybe even violence. These situations are often highly emotional with a lot of pent-up feelings finally being released. Often no one gets heard at these times. There is too much going on to make much headway with these discussions.
Children sense when something is wrong. Being sensitive to atmosphere and underlying tension is part of our natural human survival instinct. So bringing problems into the open is a more honest way of acknowledging that something is wrong and then trying to deal with it. Children find it easier when parents argue in front of them. They can make sense of it, rather than wonder and speculate about what is the matter, or wonder if they are in some way to blame or responsible for any of the problems that are causing the disagreements.
It is more traumatic for children if their parents suddenly divorce after having had no apparent problems. In a way arguing paves the way and informs children that all is not well. That way they can then be a little more prepared if the situation does deteriorate into a breakup.
Teaching children about arguing and disagreeing in an appropriate way is part of a child's education and preparation for later life. This way they learn about discussion, not taking things personally and about listening and negotiation. All these skills are valuable qualities for interacting and forming successful relationships with others throughout life.