Children need good examples of how to put words on their angry and hurt feelings. Too often parents try to hide behind closed doors when having a disagreement. The truth is every relationship encounters strong emotions and conflict is a healthy part of all relationships. It is important to teach children that all relationships have disagreements and that its possible to lovingly and gently express yourself. We must show our children that we can love each other through the ups and downs of feelings.
I’ve heard children fear their parents would get a divorce when they overheard an argument. We don’t want children to feel as if arguments are the end stage of a relationship. Done well, arguments are what help relationships to grow, repair and love more deeply.
Next time you have a complaint, try to role model healthy resolutions, remembering that, “more is caught than is taught.” Describe your own feelings instead of judging your partner’s behavior. The best start up is a gentle one, which states, “When ____ happened, I felt _______, which means I really value/need _______. Does that make sense?” This model for communication effectively communicates what you noticed yourself feeling and needing in certain circumstances without the projection of blame, criticism or hurt. The final question of “Does that make sense?” sets your partner up to respond, hopefully with empathy, or to be able to ask a question for you to explain further.
These helpful rules of thumb can help you lovingly disagree with one another, whereby teaching your children how to express their own feelings the next time they feel angry or hurt rather than bottling it up or exploding which would NOT be healthy for children to witness, much less for you to experience.
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 4:31-32; 5:1-2)