Life is stressful. 😬
Some say that has to stop, 🛑 and I agree.
But it seems that life has other plans!
That means there’s only one thing we CAN do—regulate ourselves.
Since fighting with a spouse or a child is one of the most stressful things we do, here are 5 Tips for Fighting Productively with Your Spouse or Kids.
My parents never fought. I’m not kidding.
When I look back on my childhood, I can only remember one fight my parents had, and it was a whopper!
Then one day, out of the blue, they announced they were getting a divorce. My sister and I were shocked!
During the first few years of my marriage, when hubby and I had a fight, I was sure we were headed for a divorce, just like my parents.
Hubby didn’t see it that way, not at all.
His position was that disagreements are fine, as long you’re working towards resolution.
His concept felt like a great goal, but it blew up each time things got really real. Our fights were rarely mean spirited, but there were times when hurtful words were said.
Those words not only hurt—but nothing was resolved. The words were surrounded by resent and buried, destined to surface again and again. That was not only unproductive, but it also taught the kids to act the same way.
Kathleen E. Finnegan, MA LPC, from Family-Marriage-Counseling.com has this to say about the impact fighting has on kids,
“Verbal conflict with demeaning put downs on the other partner, or sudden outbursts and threats, is toxic to a child’s emotional and physical well-being…(and) continuous exposure to battles desensitizes them to aggression.”
Wow, no one wants that! 🤦
Here are some ideas to help you work towards resolution when you fight, and model better ways to address disagreements.
1. DON’T Fight in Anger 🥊
You might be saying, wait a minute, fighting only occurs because you’re angry! That’s true.
However, it’s what you do after you feel the first blush of anger that counts.
Waiting until you’re really angry to express how you feel creates mean, nasty arguments that are hard to resolve. Anger can consume you and take the place of thinking or accessing how you really feel. It also teaches your kids that nothing get resolved unless there’s a fight first.
DO Speak Up 🗣💬
Express what you feel, when you feel it, the moment something comes up. Tell the truth about how you feel, always, and in all ways.
When siblings fight, we ask them to use their words before they get angry, so they don’t hurt one another’s feelings.
That same concept needs to be applied to grown-ups as well. Saying what’s true for you when it bubbles up allows you to express yourself far more calmly. Waiting till you can’t take it anymore causes things to erupt into an emotional explosion.
If you fail to tell the truth, the moment when you feel it, all is not lost.
The moment you feel that twinge, the one where you realize you may have just betrayed yourself or the moment you realize you just swallowed your feelings instead of finding a way to express them, take a breath and speak up.
2. DON’T Nit-Pick ⛏
Nit-picking hurts all involved. When you nit-pick, the love between you begins to be replaced with bitterness, defensiveness, and revenge.
DO Look at Yourself 🤳
Take an honest look at what’s bugging you. The little nit-picky things are simply a mask covering up a bigger issue. Once you find the true source of your anger, begin looking at what your needs are, and what you want to do about it. Taking action teaches your children how to be responsible for their feelings, too.
3. DON’T Stop Listening ✋
Fighting when your angry stops any “true” listening from taking place. It also teaches the kids that fights are more about determining who’s right and wrong, than listening to the other person’s point of view.
DO Repeat What You Heard 🤔
The best way to “truly” listen is to make sure you’ve heard, and understood, what the other person wanted to say. Restate what you heard the other person say, “This is what I heard you say…am I correct?” Doing that allows any misunderstandings to be corrected immediately, versus fighting based on the miscommunication.
4. DON’T Blame 🤐
Blaming is a defensive act attempting to absolve you from any responsibility in the situation. When you blame someone, you’re actually rehashing unresolved feelings which then tends to motivate you to use attack words. The way you handle your issues either teaches your kids how to dish the dirt, or how to resolve disagreements.
DO Resolve 😌
You know the ole statement, “It takes two to tango?” When you begin to blame someone, stop and look at your own involvement in the situation. I used to say to my kids, “What’s your 50% responsibility here?” When you feel the automatic urge to blame someone, stop and think about the feelings you’ve repressed, because that’s what’s underneath the leap to blaming. Instead, vow to resolve whatever is motivating your need to blame. Say what you feel, when you feel it, and work on the issue until both parties feel it’s resolved.
5. DON’T Repeat the Same Fight 😧
When issues aren’t truly resolved, they show up in fight after fight. Circle of Moms member Laura L. agrees: “I am trying lately to avoid arguing with my husband because when we argue it just goes back and forth and nothing ever really gets solved, and I can only speak for me, but I always end up feeling worse than when I started.”
DO Problem Solve 👫💗
You know the old adage, what’s happening in the now, has its roots in the past. Many people say, stay focused on the present situation only, and that’s a great place to begin. But if you don’t address the past misunderstandings and miscommunications, if they are not resolved, then the situation will surface again and again because the root has not been resolved.
Here are six steps to get you started. 🔔
1. When feelings come up stop, breathe, and think about how long you’ve been feeling these feelings? Make sure to remember that this is an issue, not a threat, so no need to attack or emotionally run away…unless there’s a threat of some kind. If you fear, or have experienced abuse, deal with it immediately.
2. Each person involved needs to state the problem, as they see it, so you’re all on the same page.
3. Each of you needs to suggest three options for how this can be resolved.
4. Discuss any possible consequences that may come out of handling the problem as suggested.
5. Choose how you want to resolve this.
This way of handling fights may feel strange in the beginning, but experts agree that remaining angry, with no resolution in site, not only erodes the love between you and your relationship, it also models bad habits for kids, and can affect your health.
Now, go hug your kids!
P.S. For those of you who sent in a question…never fear, answers are coming.
For those of you who haven’t sent in a question, there’s still TIME.
Send me a return email with a question you have about your kids or parenting, 1-2 sentences ONLY. I’ll be answering them in a new format soon!
Thanks and have a great week.
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