In the interest of full disclosure, let me start by telling you I am an attorney. My profession is to argue and I enjoy it. I love painting witnesses into the proverbial corner. In court I spar with opposing counsel, attacking the logic of his points, and then shake hands and wish him well.My husband Steve and I do fight in front of the kids. And by fight I mean we argue. We “use our words.” I would never ever condone parents using their hands on each other ever let alone in front of the children. We made a promise to each other years ago to work problems out. So we work them out as they arise. We respect each other and don’t want the other to feel bad until it is convenient to talk. We have discussed whether we should disagree in front of the kids. I think we may have actually argued about it. I feel strongly that the kids and us are part of a team and we need to be transparent with each other. For us, the fights always get resolved. The persuading, compromising, criticizing, negotiating, and forgiving, are all practical skills you learn from observing. I do my best to keep my sailor’s mouth in check, even when I am mad, because I know it is important to my husband that we don’t cuss in front of the kids.My kids will sometimes pick sides when they see us argue. It depends on whose side is more closely aligned with their own interests. If I am making the case for a trip to Disney, they take my side. A few months ago my four year old interrupted a heated discussion with “Mommy don’t fight with Daddy, he loves you and you guys are married.” Steve and I cracked up laughing and forgot what the dispute was.I remember my parents fighting in front of me and my brothers, heck, they still do. They have been happily married for 41 years. Even when they fought I felt they were in it for the long haul. I never once worried “oh no my parents are fighting they are going to get divorced.” I want my kids to have that same security, that mom and dad can work anything out and will never give up on each other.In my house we play a game called the Martin Luther King Game. Here are the rules.- if someone has a problem, and it can be anything, we use words to work it out. They use words to state the problem, explain how it makes both sides feel, and then express a solution. For example, if my daughter took my son’s toy and he is about to throw a fit I say “Martin Luther King Game!” They will take turns back and forth until there is agreement. Maybe it is my background as an attorney, but I really want my kids to solve their own problems with words.I think it is artificial to create an environment for the kids without conflict. The real world is full of conflict that our children will have to navigate. Not in the future, but now, on the playground or in preschool. They fight over toys, they fight over taking turns, they fight over friends. I hope that my children will have the language to resolve these conflicts. Last year I was volunteering in my son’s kindergarten class, and I saw two kids fighting over a puzzle. I was watching, waiting to see if I needed to intervene or if they would work it out, when my own son came over with a second puzzle box and said, “here now you both can have one.” It melted my heart that my son offered himself as the peace broker during this classroom scuffle.My son was late to talk, so the speech therapist told us it was important to give him language to express his feelings. We had a chart he could point to with different stick figure faces that were happy, sad, bored, etc. I love that now, as a six year old, he is so eloquent when expressing his feelings. He will say things like “I am so frustrated right now that it makes it hard to think.” He knows to define the conflict, and seek resolution. I think he has this ability because his father and I express our feelings to each other.
The preceding is the background I used for the interview featured on Today.com