What Happens When You Fight In Front of Kids?
As Shakespeare never really said, “All the world’s a stage and most of us are desperately under-rehearsed”, but does it hold? More than ever. This blog focuses on the vital question, what happens when you fight in front of kids?
We as people of the unavoidable society are sent to fulfill certain roles. The country we are born in, the community we are raised in, and the person we end up with all curate and demand different roles from us.
With our role as children, we begin the rotation of the wheel. While growing up our mind gets all the input which, in turn, gets reflected in our thoughts and actions as an adult, whether we want or not.
This article can be for both parents and children, struggling to know the reasons for their messed up mental state. Yes, passive abuse is as dangerous as passive smoking.
So, what truly happens when you fight, scream, or cuss in front of your kids? They do imbibe the toxicity. But, it is not so straightforward. Moreover, there is no singular design of outcomes when it comes to adjustment issues.
No matter how much the child claims to be “over it” in their adulthood, some residue of witnessed abuse finds a way to be played in the background.
“Kids are like counters of the emotional Geiger,” says E. Mark Cummings, Notre Dame University psychologist. He, along with peers, has written hundreds of articles on the subject for over two decades.
Kids pay careful attention to the feelings of their parents for details about how secure they are in the household, states Cummings. The collateral damage to children will last a lifetime when parents are toxic.
This toxic childhood can lead to the development of stranger-than-usual characteristics in adults especially. “Stark contrast to what one might expect, Cummings suggests, “Kids do not get used to it.
Let us start with children’s reactions and coping in ascending order according to age:
Fight in Front of Kids: Impact on Infant (0-12 Months)
Some research my E. Cummings shows that children as young as six months report the anxiety of their parents. It may cause early anxiety disorders and other mental health problems in children to experience frequent fights between parents.
They retain the feelings of their parents just like little sponges. The baby might also feel sad or alarmed if the parents of a newborn feel sad or worried.
Parental fight in front of kids can scare a newborn, causing her to break down in tears. Because of her parents’ battle, a newborn under stress will become fussy, eat badly, and become hard to comfort.
Infants may also suffer from sleep disorders if they see angry faces or hear harsh voices. Newborns need substantial hours to sleep, and any disturbance affects their brains’ growth.
Fight in Front of Kids: Toddlers to Pre-Schoolers (1-5 Years)
This is the age at which a child’s cognitive abilities start developing. The basic emotions of love, anger, and sadness are recognized by children at this age.
When you give them treats, they see that have happy and when you shout at them they cry or hideaway.
Sadly, this hiding away is projected in later years of the child too as they step into adulthood. More about that is discussed further.
At this age, children begin recognizing between good and bad; happy and sad, etc. For example, if they see either of their parent crying because of the other one, their minds quickly associate it with the latter being bad.
Hard times between parents may not last forever, but family chaos contributes to children’s behavior problems, above and beyond its negative impact on parenting effectiveness.
The impact of parents fight in front of kids is long-lasting.
Fight in Front of Kids: Pre-Teens (5-13 Years)
This is a very vague period to judge a child’s mind. First of all, they are getting acquainted with serious education, which is a responsibility again. Next, most of the children’s hobbies and interests are found and developed in these years.
It is quite obvious that an agile child’s focus is going to be derailed because of surrounding distractions. A tense and negative environment of their house may be one of the causes of this shift in focus.
Studies that follow children over a prolonged period demonstrated that children who were insecure in kindergarten due to the disputes of their parents were more probable to have adjustment issues in the seventh grade.
Children this age may try to become more active in their house. If they witness something really bad such as curse words or physical violence, chances are they try to copy that.
Unknowingly and innocently, children might repeat the same words to their parents in any stressful situations as their minds conditioned those as ideal. Remember the consequences when you fight in front of kids!
Amounting to such behavior, parents would either be guilty (if thoughtful and sensitive) or scold them again to not use such language. In the former case, there is scope for the parents to grab better manners to communicate when their child might be around.
However, children would get confused about whether to do what they see or do what they hear if their parents don’t practice what they preach.
Fight in Front of Kids:: Adolescence/Teenage (13-18 Years)
This is the age that requires the utmost dedication of a parent’s focus on their child. Often, the early signs of mental issues are seen in these years.
Your children realize that they are growing up. They have peer groups in school or neighborhood through which they share experiences and problems.
Once they begin comparing, teenage children notice every little detail. The feeling of being incomplete or dysfunctional rises in this very time.
Pressure Of Growing Up Faster
Unfortunately, conflicts in the family force a child to mature earlier than usual. They feel they are responsible as their parents cannot control themselves.
Maybe once in a while, your child’s intervention might have stopped you or your partner from getting violent, and this makes the teenage child think he or she always be there around.
Due to the constant fear of parents not ending up hurting each other fatally, the child’s focus gets shifted to his or her parents rather than their achievements.
In the case of siblings, the elder one becomes the younger one’s complete support system most of the time. They have each other to talk to, console, or simply make plans to lighten the mood of the house.
A single child might get lonely because of these experiences and turn into an introverted adult who was not the way since childhood.
Often, couples hold on to marriages for their children even when it is not working out. In times of distress, either of the parents might even admit the same to their child.
After that, whenever the child witnesses their parents fighting, he or she might think that “they might have been happier if I wasn’t there” or “they have to tolerate each other because of me. What was my fault?”
This guilt persists until the child doesn’t grow up and move out. They see the condition of either or both parents who have to bear the weight of a marriage only because of a child and his upbringing.
The real issue stands, “Is this how children are to be brought up? “Is parenting something you can do halfheartedly?”
Indeed, kids should not be the only priority for parents, but they should be a great deal. Meaning, two people who mutually decided to procreate this life have no right to make it feel like an unwanted pebble in the way.
Furthermore, if the topic of the fight has something to do with the child, (for example their diet, or play and study timings), the child feels double the guilt. Your son or daughter might think that, “I am the cause my mother and father now despise one another.”
Teens Fall Into Bad Company
With substance abuse and party culture reaching its dark heights, teenage children can very easily fall prey to predators in society. Being vulnerable to peer pressure, they are often taken undue advantage of.
When a child does not receive the much-needed care or attention from his or her parents, they tend to seek it from outside the house. Chances are they can be cheated for money, drugs, or even sexual advantages.
Stress and anxiety could drive your kids in search to achieve ‘highs’ when you let them ‘down’. People out there seeking money might lure them into having harmful drugs that would ruin your child’s life.
Unbothered parents might not care enough to look into what their kid is getting into. On the other hand, control freak parent(s) might exercise extreme watch and pressure on their child. So much that they make their child’s life like a jail.
Such parents don’t understand privacy, always doubt their child (especially daughter) for stuff they never have done. All this is because of the lack of control over their spouse’s life.
Men generally need at least one woman to exert authority on. If their wife doesn’t comply the next target becomes the daughter.
Such behavior not only encourages the child to spend more time away from the family but also makes them find a permanent escape mechanism like going to study out of the city or country and later on, marriage.
Adulthood And Beyond (18+ Years)
There is always a 50-50 chance of the wheel of luck spinning in your favor. In cases with adults having childhood trauma, there can be two possibilities – either the child repeats history unconsciously OR makes a decision in their mind to not repeat this pattern at any cost.
However, breaking the wheel was never a cakewalk even for the mother of dragons. Unconsciously, even adults project certain behaviors due to childhood trauma.
Ill-effects of childhood trauma can be mainly seen in two roles of individuals: As a Partner and as a parent.
As A Partner
Since the role of loving parents in a normal household is not efficiently portrayed to them, adults who grow up from a traumatic childhood often face difficulties adjusting.
Fear Of Commitment
Children who have seen and tolerated fights between their parents grow up to be emotionally unavailable and commitment-phobic. They often develop the mechanism that they do not want to fall into the same category as their parents.
This cautious thought makes adults build up walls around them and flinch at the softest brush of possible love. Adults among those who believe they don’t want to repeat history don’t prefer to fall into the relationship and marriage trap at all.
These individuals turn into commitment-phobic, emotionally unexpressive, or unavailable people. Finding the right partner becomes more of a quest for them. The “Chandler Bing” syndrome is real.
Such people don’t ever let their vulnerabilities get projected and are happy being behind the curtains in their own life. If they ever begin to believe in the institution of marriage and children, it would take a very persistent and patient partner to make them.
Normalize Toxic Behavior
After a certain time, we learn to make peace with what hurts us. Not because it is okay too, but we need some sort of peace to move on with life.
For example, let us consider a woman who has been the prey of extreme verbal or physical abuse. When she was a child, she has seen her mother tolerate the same and live her life. She would think that this is a normal reaction of anger and one is not supposed to leave or act otherwise.
Same way, a man who has seen his father growl and scream at his mother as a child may unconsciously repeat similar behavior. This may ruin the mental health of his wife and the possibility of a healthy relationship.
In short, fight in front of kids leads them to believe that fights are common in every house and there is nothing that can be done about them.
Extreme Sensitivity And Lack Of Co-Operation
This might be paradoxical to the above point, but many people who have witnessed domestic abuse become extremely intolerant.
Loud voices, thudding noises, and crashing plates ignite a sense of fear within young minds. When they grow up, they relate this with conflict or fights they don’t want to be part of.
As a result, these individuals become extra-cautious for every little sign of discord. They cannot handle the slightest of raise invoice, because that gets directly associated with abuse and trauma.
When things go downhill, adults may choose to separate overstaying and fighting with their partners. They may be termed as selfish or non-cooperative, but deep down they don’t want to be miserable like their parents were.
As A Parent
The adaptation of the ‘theory of imitation’ by the Greek philosopher Aristotle suggests that art imitates nature. Art is not always bright and beautiful. It is the version of a product or action every individual creates as a result of their observation.
Having a toxic parenting model and its memories don’t let these individuals be normal parents.
When the children who saw abuse become parents, they provide an excess of emotion, vigilance, and control over their children. They become over-anxious of their kids.
Chances are, such children may also become abusive adults and parents because they have no model of the perfect home or perfect parents.
Learn more about positive parenting here.
Concluding, fight in front of kids has long-lasting detrimental effects. While it ruins childhood in many ways, abuse scars don’t go away so easily and leave their existence in adult life as well.