Researchers reveal why it’s okay to argue with your partner in front of your kids

Do you find a quiet spot to air your grievances with your partner, well out of earshot from your children?

The ‘not in front of the kids’ approach is now being shot down by experts, who say it can send conflicting messages to our kids and make them less responsive.

A new study, published in the journal Emotion, has found that parents settling their differences in front of their little ones actually helps them learn how to deal with healthy conflict.

new parents fight

Why it’s ‘good’ to argue with your partner in front of your kids

New research is now contradicting the common advice of you should avoid showing conflict and negative emotions in front of your children.

Researchers at Washington State University looked at 109 families in San Francisco.

They gave the parents a stressful task of public speaking with negative feedback provided by the audience.


Then one group was given an activity of assembling a LEGO project to complete with their kids but told to suppress their emotion while another group were told to act naturally.

Parents and children were hooked up to a variety of sensors that monitored their heart rate and stress levels.

Experts found that those trying to suppress their stress were less positive to their partner and in turn their kids were less responsive to their parents.

“The act of trying to suppress their stress made parents less positive partners during the LEGO task,” says Dr Sara Waters, lead author of the experiment.

“They offered less guidance, but it wasn’t just the parents who responded. Those kids were less responsive and positive to their parents. It’s almost like the parents were transmitting those emotions.

“[Kids] are good at picking up emotion cues. If they feel something negative has happened, and parents are acting normal, that sends conflicting messages. Let them see the whole trajectory.

“That helps kids learn to regulate their own emotions and solve problems. It’s best to let them know you feel angry and tell them what you’re going to do about it to make the situation better.”

The Fights All Couples Have On New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day

“Kids are good at picking up emotions from their parents”

Dr Waters added that there are dozens of studies that show children are good at picking up ’emotional residue’ from their parents.

“Kids are good at picking up subtle cues from emotions,” she added. “If they feel something negative has happened, and the parents are acting normal and not addressing it, that’s confusing for them. Those are two conflicting messages being sent.”

All the fights new parents get into and how to solve them

This mum’s open letter to husband resonates with all mum: ‘I need more help’

Healthy Kids and The Healthy Mummy

For more Healthy Mummy articles relating to children’s health, you can read our archive of articles here.

To keep up to date with kiddie-related health news, kid-friendly recipes and general updates follow our Healthy Mummy Healthy Kids Facebook Page.

The healthy mummy parenting page slider - Rhian and Jake


Be part of our friendly and supportive community


Daily Healthy Recipe Newsletter

Delicious recipe ideas plus fitness tips and support, delivered to your inbox.