Today, as I was driving to one of my small talk engagements, I was humming along with John Lennon’s Imagine and the music really resonated with me. Partly because I was always a teeny bit jealous of Yoko with her white dress and white headpiece and white room and white piano and – wow – I totally could have been Yoko. I could have been John’s muse! I already have the hair.
But, all jealousy aside, the lyrics really are stunning. Can you imagine “living life in peace”, maybe for just a day? It sounds lovely in our imaginations. But in the real world, discord happens. A lot. So the question is: how do we fight fair?
There are the basics that we’ve all heard and know like no name-calling, no hitting and no putting your sister in the washing machine (Yes, I actually said that to my son once. Okay, twice.), but when it comes to the grown-ups fighting, things can get really ugly really fast. Especially when children are involved.
Some experts claim that children won’t be able to solve their own conflicts unless they witness constructive marital conflict; yet others feel parental discord can damage a child’s self-esteem and sense of security. Still, the facts are, fights happen between everyone – colleagues, friends, and spouses. And while it is always in everyone’s best interest to fight fair, in the family dynamic it becomes crucial.
A recent article by Andrea Petersen delves into some great detail about fighting the good fight. While that phrase sounds like an oxymoron, a healthy fight is not impossible. Here are some highlights:
Watch the Clock: Adopt the five-minute rule to avoid an all-night argument.
Little Ears: Babies can’t talk, but boy can they hear! Research shows that infants exposed to fighting actually experience neurological changes. Sadly, even infants sleeping like, well, babies, absorb the stressors of a fight. So waiting until the baby is sleeping doesn’t really do anyone any good – especially the baby.
Do Not Divide to Conquer: Presenting a unified front about all things kid-related is crucial. If you disagree about curfews or allowances or washing machines, do it privately.
Keep An Eye On the Kids: Literally, watch for physical signs. Crying, freezing up, and misbehaving are all serious signs that children are experiencing trauma.
Silence the Silent Treatment: Giving your spouse the cold shoulder is scary for children; shutting down causes children to imagine a scenario that could be much worse than the actual argument. You could be silently stewing about the Thanksgiving menu, but the kids might be imagining financial woes or worse.
So, the next time you are ready to duke it out with your spouse, remember to fight fair. In the meantime, if you see someone dressed as Yoko Ono at your door this Halloween, just hand over the candy and don’t judge.