• 3 Most Important Things Your Child Needs to Hear When You Fight in Front of Her

    Seeing mom and dad fight can be scary for a small child. Here's what to do when this happens
    by Jillianne E. Castillo .
3 Most Important Things Your Child Needs to Hear When You Fight in Front of Her
PHOTO BY torwai/iStock
  • It happens. Your patience wears thin and end up yelling at your partner. You get into a heated argument and while your toddler may be in another room, it is likely she hears it. Handling the situation and figuring out what to do next can be tricky, but experts say communication, reassurance, and learning from the experience is key.

    How parents fighting affects your toddler

    Always keep in mind that your toddler is a big copier and learns from how you behave. Their brains are learning everything they can from their environment — and you.

    “Toddlers absorb almost anything they see and hear, much like a sponge,” explains Jardine Davies Torno, M.D., a fellow of the Philippine Psychiatric Association. 

    And, yes, your toddler does know when you and your husband are angry at each other, even if he can’t understand a lot of the words or what you’re fighting about.

    “Even 6-month-olds are acutely sensitive to all types of conflict between Mom and Dad — that includes bickering, hostility, and defensiveness, as well as physical fights,” says psychologist E. Mark Cummings, Ph.D., to Parents

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    How to talk to your child after your fight with the hubby

    Step 1: Tell him, “This isn’t your fault”

    “Toddlers are still egocentric and self-centered, and they think everything that happens around them is in reference to them,” says child psychiatrist Anna Josefina Vazquez-Genuino, M.D., a founding fellow of the Philippine Society for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. “So if a child witnesses a fight, he would think, ‘Maybe they are fighting or hurting each other because of something I did.’” 

    It is important that parents explain the situation to the child. “Parents need to clarify that the child is not to blame for anything — that the fight has nothing to do with him,” advises Dr. Vasquez-Genuino. You can briefly explain what the fight was about but you don’t need to go into detail. 

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    Step 2: Reassure him: “Everything is okay”

    “Maybe Mom and Dad can hug afterward to show that they have patched things up,” says Dr. Vazquez-Genuino. “Show the child na nagkakasundo rin kayo after a fight; let him witness the reconciliation, too.”

    Step 3: Declare “everyone in this family loves each other”

    Finish up by letting your child know that you’re still a strong family, says psychotherapist Amy Morin, a licensed social worker, in an article for VeryWell. “Explain that arguments happen sometimes and people can lose their tempers. However, you all love each other, despite your disagreements.”

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    When your child sees you fighting again

    “Take a close look at how you argue. Just because your fights don’t get physical doesn’t mean they aren’t harmful to your kids,” says Morin. 

    Destructive disagreement tactics that could negatively impact your toddler include insults, name-calling, threats of abandonment (“Iiwan ko na kayo!”), any form of physical aggression (throwing things or punching things), walking out or withdrawing from the argument, and capitulation (giving in to your partner “para matapos na”). Avoid these. 

    Explains Morin, “If you and your partner treat each other with disrespect, your kids will grow up thinking that it’s OK to do the same—and perhaps they’ll believe it’s OK to let others treat them poorly too.” She adds, “Your kids see how you handle disagreements and they learn problem-solving skills, emotion regulation skills, and conflict resolution skills from you.” 

    So, learn from this and forgive yourself (and your partner), mom. These things happen. Now, go show your love to your hubby and little one!

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