It’s best to let rip, because kids pick up on suppressed rage (unlike my husband).
I read this brilliant article today in the supermarket queue, that basically said it’s OK to row – even swear (lightly) – in front of your kids. I was happy to leave it at that and start making up for lost time right away, but since they’re at school, I read the whole piece. The key is that through witnessing “healthy conflict” between their parents, your children learn that a) it is OK to express annoyance or anger when something negative happens and b) that (and how) resolutions can be reached.
‘Hurrah’, thought I. All these years I’ve been holding back, suppressing and suppressing to the point of heartburn, and here I have permission from scientists to have a right old go, even when the kids are around – indeed, especially when the kids are around!
Point a) I am all over you! And with the weekend coming up, I am excited for all the learning opportunities for the children as I tackle Point b). I can think of three rows just off the top of my head that I know will have the little darlings’ emotional intelligence romping off the scale, and that’s not even counting any roving or spontaneous blow-ups that may arise.
So, for the suppressed like me, here are three easy rows to have this weekend – for the sake of the kids.
1. The ‘Driving Somewhere’ Row
Whatever you’re up to this weekend, chances are that at some point, all of you will be in the car at the same time. May the distance be short or long, there will be a niggle: driving ability / choice of route / “why can’t we stop for a Starbucks? / “I thought you were going to put it in!” / “why the hell are we going anyway?”. Don’t turn up the radio to drown out your hisses of dissent – turn it off and let the back seat hear the lot. Then calmly acknowledge that it is the situation, not your partner’s undying stupidity, that is at fault, and say sorry. Nicely. And buy mummy a Starbucks.
What the kids will learn: the olds always row in the car. But they will get a Happy Meal / giant golden coin out of it.
2. The ‘Saturday Afternoon’ Row
Saturday afternoon dawns after a morning of football, homework, gymnastics, parties etc, and we revert to our pre-kids type. I want to be mooching around the shops – I’m hardwired to spend Saturday looking for a new going out top; my husband wants to watch sport. We both desire to be drinking by 5pm. We just have three problems: our children. And the fact their homework is still not done, two of them have parties on opposite sides of the county and that IKEA wardrobe is not going to build itself. All you can do here is make peace over the mutual mourning of Saturdays past and celebrate all they are now.
What the kids will learn: They have at least an hour of unsupervised TV-watching, sofa cushion den-making and / or carpet-colouring while I glare at daddy’s back in front of Sky Sports, and he chunters as I get lost on ASOS. And that we make the reluctant adjustment to ‘Saturdays Present’ in the end.
3. The Sunday Lie-In Row
The king of all rows. Of course, the kids only hear one side of it – the loser’s. Who is downstairs slamming cereal bowls around while the victor snoozes on, hopefully choking on his own smugness.
What the kids will learn: Not to wake their parents up at 5.45am on a Sunday.
Of course, there’s one easy way to vent in front of your kids with them being none the wiser – by the medium of What’sApp. There’s nothing about healthy conflict and resolution that an emoji cannot cover. So, though I plan to have constructive rows in front of the children starting as soon as my husband’s home, I know I can always resort to ‘red angry face’ and – most cutting of all – not signing off a message with an “x”.