Thursday, May 29, 2014

Model healthy ways to Disagree


Some people advise that you should never disagree with your husband in front of the children.  Don't listen to them!  It is important that your child understands healthy ways to deal with conflict, and one of the best ways to teach that, is through modeling it for them.  (It is true that you shouldn't yell and scream in front of the children, but there are healthy ways to disagree, and it's important that you set an example, or else your child may have problems with conflict throughout their life and even into their own marriage.)

There are three different ways of dealing with conflict:

1. Yelling, fighting, defensiveness, etc...
2. Silent treatment, cold shoulder, etc..
3. Talking it out

Which do you think is the most harmful to a relationship?  Suprisingly, it is number two, the silent treatment.  This is because you have essentially cut off any means of communicating and fixing the problem.  If you thought the best way of dealing with conflict is number three, talking it out, you are right.  But there are ways to talk that are better than others.

The first step is to calm down before you start talking.  You may need to go somewhere private, or you may need to make an appointment to talk about it later.  But you won't resolve anything until your rational brain can think about what the real problem is.

The second step is to listen.  Listen to your spouse's complaint without interrupting and repeat it back so they know you understand their problem correctly.  Then it is your turn to talk.  They should listen and repeat it back to you until they understand it right.  This is called active listening.

The last step is to problem solve together until both parties are happy. This may take some negotiation or compromise where each partner wins something and maybe loses something they are willing to give up.

These are the steps you should be modeling and teaching your children:

1. Calm down
2. Active listening
3. Problem Solving in a calm way.  (If you can't be calm during this step then start over at number one).

Here is another good article on dealing with conflict: Solving Disagreements without Arguing

I will also write another post later on how to apply this method to sibling rivalry.


  1. Kersten, I totally agree! Another thought is that it is important to help the children see the end result. I find that my husband and I may disagree on something, then take break to cool down. We work it out later, but the children may not be around to see that we resolved it. Their own feelings of insecurity can be resolved if they know that mommy and daddy worked it all out.

  2. Awesome thought! Thanks for sharing that!