All couples fight from time to time. And when the two of you have children, some of these arguments are bound to fall during times when the kids are around and are firsthand witnesses to the conflict. This is inevitable.

What really matters is the manner in which parents argue and the way they resolve their differences. Not all conflict is created equal. Healthy, reasoned arguing can teach children proper conflict resolution skills, whereas the more typical fighting can cause significant stress and damage their development. Here are some rules and guidelines that will keep your disputes on the healthy end of the spectrum:

How to argue: Rules for fighting in front of kids

  1. Try to put a time limit on your arguments. Agree that if the issue isn’t resolved within 10 minutes, you’ll call it quits and address it some other time. Continuing to hash things out after this tends to just make each person frustrated and angry, so it isn’t productive.
  2. Tone of voice is extremely important, especially for younger kids. You could be showering each other with praise, but if you do so in an elevated voice and aggressive tone, kids will fell stressed and scared. Likewise, if you’re furious with each other, but are talking in a calm and collected way, children will feel much better about things.
  3. Avoid name-calling over verbal abuse. If a partner hurls an insult your way, say something like “that really hurts,” but avoid the urge to throw one right back. Not only does this model a healthy way of responding to verbal aggression, but it will often diffuse the situation and prevent it from escalating.
  4. Let children see you apologize to each other afterwards. Because arguments arise spontaneously, couples often fight out in the open but then make up behind closed doors. Let you kids see the full cycle, which should include apologies for heated exchanges. There’s not need to put on a big show, but as things cool down, make your amends within earshot of the kids.