My wife and I have an 8-month-old baby boy. Having a fight, for example debating, is something that we don't want to do. But sometimes, we can't avoid having a fight in front of our son. When the situation goes bad like that, what should we do in order to avoid the negative effects on our son, especially his emotions?
First off, you will argue. That's normal; that's part of being in a relationship, as I'm sure you've figured out. Having a child will only add stress to the relationship, so that means you will have arguments. Especially when you go on car trips together (close quarters for extended periods), visit relatives, etc.
Here's the thing: The way that you argue will be models for how your child argues with their spouse(s) in the future. If you are disrespectful to one another, then that will be how he reacts. If you are calm, considerate, and respectful, then that will be how he is.
The question is not whether or not you're going to argue in front of him; you will do that. The question is, what kind of argument do you want to model? That's really between the two of you. The way that you argue is part of the way you two interact, and if you don't like some aspect of it, then that's what you work on.
If you want to argue respectfully, here are some argumentative behaviors to avoid:
- Address the behavior, not the person. Never say something like "You always do that!", because then you're attacking the person and assuming that the behavior is intrinsic to them. Say something like, "Please don't do that." If you attack the person, then you start to associate your negative feelings about the action with the person, even if the person isn't doing that action you despise. Attacking the person builds long-term resentment, which is hard to recover from.
- Avoid getting stuck in a rut. If you find yourselves arguing repeatedly about a particular subject (money, school schedules, bedtime schedules, who changes the diaper, etc), try to head the argument off. Figure out what you can do together to avoid the argument (make a budget, make a schedule ahead of time, etc) to avoid the conflicts.
- Any argument between Mil and his girlfriend should be avoided (this is a bit of a joke; Mr. Millington has made a name for himself and his arguments with his girlfriend).
- As @Kith said, never, ever ask your child to take sides in an argument. There is no way for anyone to come out ahead in that situation.
Firstly, I would say there's a huge difference between having a fight and having a debate. A debate sounds like something healthy.
I would avoid raised voices and name calling. Avoid throwing things and slamming doors. Avoid saying things that you are going to regret. Anything that can be construed in anyway as violent, whether verbally or physically, should be avoided.
Walking away and taking some quiet time alone should be one solution you try, especially if you are going to allow your child to have quite time as one of the potential ways of addressing his frustrations as he grows up. This will be actually setting a good example.
One thing I’ve heard suggested is that if an argument starts in the child’s presence, it should also be resolved in his or her presence (i.e.: if you get into an argument, don’t take it to another room to spare the child). The reasoning is that the child won’t understand that the argument was resolved, so his or her tension remains. You also lose the opportunity to model the resolution of disagreements.
When the behavior that you are displaying begins either one of you can say, we need to table this until after the baby goes to sleep. Then be sure to pick it up at that time to get it out of your system. It is good to practice this now, as when the child gets older it becomes even more important. And if you do end up fighting infront of a child, be sure to explain that people who love each other sometimes fight, but then they make up and that is healthy and normal.