When does fighting become Too Much Fighting?

question: How would you define ‘fighting all the time’? My kids think me and my husband fight too much. We’re floored when they say that, and think their perspective is skewed.

We probably have a serious fight once a week. We’ve got an ill parent, we’ve just moved house, and my husband has a new job. I’ve been unwell, and we’ve just been under a lot of strain.

More often than we fight, we laugh and enjoy each other, dance when there’s music on, and make our kids yell, ‘yuck, gross!’ by being affectionate. So I’m upset that they think we fight a lot.


my honest answer: I think you are fighting too much when your kids tell you you are fighting too much.

They do not have a skewed perspective. All they have is their own perspective, and that is that you fight too much.

Having disagreements, meaningful discussions, and reaching a compromise in front of kids is, in my opinion, good. They need to see how the world works, they need to see that everyone doesn’t agree with everyone else all the time, and they need to witness people disagreeing politely, and reaching a resolution.

They do not need to see their parents fighting. Maybe you’re using that word lightly, and I’m giving it more weight than I should. But to me it implies raised voices, and some anger. It’s not just a disagreement. I don’t think they need to see that.

And, to be honest, I don’t think that’s necessary for a good marriage.

Sure, we all have times we disagree whole-heartedly. If you ever revert to name-calling, or bringing up other unrelated issues, or dragging up the past, you have crossed a line.

There will, of course, be times when you are going to have a serious disagreement. I do think that some arguments are best settled in private, behind closed doors, when the kids are not around.

I can appreciate you’ve all been under a lot of strain lately. But there are some things in life that you cannot make better, such as as ill parent. It is what it is. And I’m really sorry you’re going through it. But taking out your frustrations on one another is not the solution, it’s not good for your marriage, it’s not good for your mental health, and it’s not good for your kids.

Full-on fighting once a week, would, for me, be too much. I wouldn’t want to live with that level of disagreement in my life, I would find it tiring. Maybe it’s fine for you and your partner; we are all different. But regardless of whether you are happy with your relationship, you also took on a greater responbility by having children, to provide a safe and healthy environment for them to grow up in.

I think this is a wake-up call that, with all the stress you’ve been going through, that safe and loving home hasn’t been too high on the agenda. There’s no point beating yourself up about it, just resolve to do better in the future.

You know there is a problem, or you wouldn’t have asked the question. Don’t justify your way into ignoring it by dismissing your kids as having a childlike perspective. They are kids. It’s the only perspective they have.


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20 Responses to 'When does fighting become Too Much Fighting?'

  1. Jennifer says:

    This is such a difficult question. It’s one thing to have a healthy and respectful argument and another thing to be screaming at each other and throwing around the F-bomb. I think it totally depends one which end of the spectrum the fights are on. I do think some arguing is natural and kids need to learn that parents are human and have to work things out, but that they still love each other.

    • my honest answer says:

      Yeah, this is what I wasn’t sure about. To me ‘fight’ sounds serious. If the phrase ‘disagreement’ had been used my answer would have been different. And that’s the problem with one-way conversations: it’s hard to establish whether we have the same understanding and interpretation of key words. Because either reading (shouting and cussing or reasoned debate) could have been true from the details in the letter, depending on what you took ‘fight’ to entail.

  2. Stasha says:

    Regardless of what I think of my childhood I can tell you for sure that even as an adult and knowing better, I still model my marriage to my parents. Don’t fight in front of kids too much, they learn about love from us.

    • my honest answer says:

      It’s hard to do something different to that which you’ve always known, right? So I agree that we should show kids the relationship we want them to have. That’s how they will learn how to do it. And no, I don’t mean you should hide all the difficult stuff. But to have inconsequential fights constantly – I don’t think that’s a good relationship for anyone.

  3. Ado says:

    While it’s not good to “fight” in front of kids, it’s impossible not to let them see you have disagreements – we think it’s good that they can see us have a disagreement and then resolve it so they know that people who love each other can get mad and then make up – it’s all part of love. But you’re right, fighting in front of kids is never good.

    • my honest answer says:

      I totally agree Ado – presenting a fake world where everyone agreed on everything would not be helpful either.

  4. Erica M says:

    Love your new blog design and your new Q&A format!

    Fighting is bad, modeling in front of the kids how to resolve conflict is good.

    Thanks for linking up this week.

    • my honest answer says:

      Hi Erica, thanks! The new design caused me one or two grey hairs, but I love it so far. Thanks for hosting, as always.

  5. Katie says:

    I think this is a great answer to that question, and I’m like you I would want to know how much weight I should be giving the word “fight.” Some of us (myself included) exagerate certain situations by using certain terms to describe them. Arguments and disagreements resolved calmly in front of children = no big deal. Yelling and screaming fights = not so great.

    I love your format here. I think this is a great idea! A kind of Dear Abby thing.

  6. I think you responded appropriately, honestly, and truthfully to the question. You made your key argument in the first few sentences. If your kids think it’s too much, it’s too much. I would be exhausted by that level of conflict. You acknowledged the difficult circumstances without letting her behavior off the hook. Great!

  7. I don’t think you hit the nail on the head. If your kids ask, it’s probably too much for them to process. If you must fight, and we all do, maybe you can take it away from their unknowing eyes. No marriage is perfect and everyone fights. If someone says they don’t, they probably fight more than others.

  8. Citybia says:

    I 100% agree with your answer. My daughter asked me if her father and I were going to divorce when she was 10. Her father fought with me all the time. When I say that, I mean that he was belligerent and hateful. He would call me out of my name and say the most vile things. I always tried to keep my cool and just take it. Occasionally I would yell back. Either way, I had been thinking about divorce. When she asked me that I felt like someone had smacked me in the face and realized that I was setting her up for failure. I was showing her this is what a marriage is and this is how a husband treats his wife. We divorced a year later, and I have to say we are all better off for it. I agree “fight” has a negative connotation. Hopefully the person who posed the question just didn’t chose the best word. Great, thoughtful answer.

    • my honest answer says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience. It certainly sounds like you are all better off, and setting a good example for your daughter of how we all should be treated – with respect and kindness.

  9. Jackie says:

    Got to agree with Erica. It’s conflict resolution they need to learn!
    Great post to get the mind thinking!

  10. Lenore Diane says:

    My parents were fighters. No, I don’t know if that is accurate, my Mom was just a loud yeller. (smile) Rob and I fight, and we’ve fought in front of the kids. I’m not proud of it. That said, I do believe conflict resolution is a skill – an asset, even. When/if we fight in front of the kids, we make sure the kids see us come to a resolution. Then, I let the kids know what had just taken place, and we’ll talk about it.

    Great post.

  11. Mayor Gia says:

    I agree about the difference between disagreement v fight, and how we’re not sure exactly what she means. But really, that’s way too often in front of the kids, in my opinion. You need to be able to control yourself in front of your children and wait until you’re alone to have some conversations — if they don’t have the ability to do that, then they are probably having fights (versus disagreements). Not good.

  12. ali says:

    A very well written response. For me you hit the nail on the head with ‘you are fighting too much when your kids tell you you’re fighting too much’ although I think this article I just read has some interesting points on how to argue http://simplemom.net/why-i-argue-in-front-of-my-kids-sometimes/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+simplemom+%28Simple+Mom%29
    It’s like everyone has said I guess, always but especially in a home there is a big difference btwn a fight and a discussion. A good topic to bring to debate, thanks.

  13. Great insight. You are right that a child’s perspective is, like any grown-up’s, their own and should be taken seriously. Although pretending conflict does not exist can prevent development of strategies for disagreements, it is best to keep heated arguments to a minimum. I made the mistake of arguing a lot with my ex, and to this day, my kids avoid even minor conflict. It sacres them, understandably so. We are working on it.

Do you have any advice to give? We always love to hear different ideas.

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