My Account

“Is It Ever Okay to Argue in Front of the Kids?”

It’s not a matter of “should you argue” but “how you argue.”

Share this post:

Argue in front of the Kids

To answer this question, yes, it is okay to argue in front of kids some of the time. It can actually be good for them. But the kind of argument you’re having and how you communicate your thoughts and feelings makes a BIG difference. 

If arguments happen frequently or they are hostile, physical, aggressive, or include stonewalling, silent treatment, or insults, it can definitely be harmful to children. Children who are exposed to this type of conflict will often become anxious, distressed, sad, angry, and depressed. These feelings result in sleep disturbances, poor performance at school, and difficulty focusing. In the longer term, these kids may become unable to manage conflict and form healthy adult relationships. 

Children learn to manage conflict by observing how the adults in their life manage disagreements and strong emotions. What I love most about the Gottman approach to conflict is that the goal is not to resolve conflict, but to regulate it. We may not all leave the situation with the exact outcome we wanted, but we will feel heard, have the opportunity to feel our feelings, understand both sides, and come to an agreement that you brainstormed together and is acceptable to both parties. These are the key ingredients to modeling healthy conflict. 

Feeling All Our Feelings 

Most emotions last a total of 90 seconds. If you allow yourself to feel all of them, they will move through you so that you can be more present and rational. To do this, you first have to locate the sensations in your body that are associated with a core emotion. Once you identify where it exists in the body and how it feels, you can acknowledge and breathe through it. To release, you often need to match the feeling to a sound. This isn’t expressed in words, but it might be a grunt or a scream, for example. When the feelings are matched to the sound, you can release them versus repressing or recycling them. When you feel things fully, you can then be more present to look at a situation and a set of facts through a lens that isn’t clouded with emotion. 

Listening and Feeling Heard 

One of the biggest challenges in approaching conflict with an individual or group is simply listening. When you give each person the opportunity to share their story and feelings, both parties will be more open to collaborating. One way to make sure that each party feels heard is by listening and then summarizing or paraphrasing what the other party shared with you. 

Empathy and Perspective-Taking

Just acknowledging another person’s feelings or experiences with empathy can provide insight and perspective and at the same time create connection. You cannot move through conflict together without connection. Listening deeply and visualizing the other party’s experience will allow the person sharing to feel greater calm and connection. When you feel calm and connected, you have greater access to the prefrontal cortex of your brain, which allows you to think more rationally and creatively. Empathy can take the form of one simple statement such as, “You sound frustrated that…” The more you practice using empathy daily, the greater access to it you will have when you need it during conflict. 


Ultimately, both parties need to come to the table willing to brainstorm. When they brainstorm solutions together, each person is more likely to accept the final decision in moving forward. Again, productive brainstorming can only happen when both people are calm and present. During the collaboration, children witness not only the process but more importantly that the parental relationship and connection are still intact. 

Parental conflict comes in many forms, and depending on how conflict is managed, it can be either harmful or helpful. Healthy conflict-regulation skills modeled for children include how to process feelings and move through conflict in a way that serves both parties involved. So, is it okay to argue in front of our kids? Sometimes, yes, it is!

Read more:

Dethmer, J., Chapman, D., & Klemp, K. W. (2014). The 15 commitments of conscious leadership: A new paradigm for sustainable success. Conscious Leadership Group. 

Gottman, J. M., & DeClaire, J. (1997). The heart of parenting: How to raise an emotionally intelligent child. Simon & Schuster. 

Reynolds , J., Harold, G., Coleman, L., & Houlston, C. (2014). Parental Conflict: Outcomes and Interventions for Children and Families (Understanding and Strengthening Relationships) (1st ed.). Bristol University Press, Policy Press. 

Want research-backed tips on parenting delivered straight to your inbox? 

The Gottman Parenting newsletter is a comprehensive, inclusive resource for parents of children in all ages and stages. Join us as we tackle modern parenting challenges, explore the latest parenting research, and more.

Share this post:

Melissa Benaroya, MSW, LICSW, is a Seattle-based parent coach, speaker, and author. She created the Childproof Parenting online course and co-authored the book The Childproof Parent. Melissa provides parents with the tools and support they need to raise healthy children and find more joy in parenting. Melissa offers parent coaching and classes and is a keynote speaker both locally and internationally. Check out Melissa’s blog for more great tips on common parenting issues.

Recommended products


Help your toddler grow as they learn to manage big emotions and push boundaries.

Toddlers are learning to handle big emotions, pushing boundaries, and developing attachment styles. With our actionable steps and science-backed solutions, we’ll empower you to raise a secure, empathetic toddler.

You’ll learn how to effectively manage meltdowns with our three-step guide, how to practice the tried and true Gottman emotion coaching method with your child, and learn how to take care of yourself so you can show up as the best parent you can be for your toddler. Plus, discover the best ways to protect your child through big life changes like divorce and separation, and learn about attachment styles and how to raise a secure, independent toddler.

With immediate solutions and real-life examples, you’ll have what you need to support your toddler’s emotional development for a bright future.


Support your tiny tot’s development with boundaries, sleep, language, toilet training, friendships, and emotions.

Toddlers are tiny negotiators who love the word “NO!”. They’re learning to walk, talk, toilet train, and make friends, and they need guidance to develop empathy and healthy habits.

With our actionable steps and science-backed solutions, we’ll empower you to nurture their development, get them ready for preschool, and create a safe environment for them to thrive.

You’ll learn how to support your toddler’s social skills, unlock their language potential, and solve any sleep or toilet training challenges. Plus, discover the benefits of engaged father figures, learn how to set limits your toddler will listen to, and gain tools and exercises to manage parental stress.

With immediate solutions and real-life examples, you’ll have what you need to raise a well-rounded, empathetic toddler.

Original price was: $149.00.Current price is: $99.00.

You’ve decided to spend forever together. Congratulations! Making a commitment to one another is a time to celebrate and prepare for the new adventure ahead of you. This new journey is one of Trust and Commitment as you forge a path towards lasting love. You’ll have shared goals and new dreams to hope for, and plenty of fun and play. Don’t forget to soak in all the intimacy and romance along the way! So, take each other’s hands and get ready. Whether you’re committing to each other after a long time of casual dating or you’ve just swept each other off your feet, committing to each other is a big step, but don’t worry. With more than 40 years of research into how relationships work, the Gottmans are here to give you the tools you need for happily ever after.

This new program will help you learn:

  • The difference between dreams and goals
  • How to have conversations around your hopes for your lives, both individually and together
  • The meaning of trust and commitment, and how to increase both in your relationship
  • How to go “all in” on your relationship, and the fruits that it can bear
  • How to introduce more fun, play, and adventure in your lives
  • How to create your own Rituals of Connection

“Buy Now” will take you to GOTTMAN CONNECT to purchase and view this product.

Limited Time Offer!

Related posts

helicopter parent with child

Helicopter Parenting: From Good Intentions to Poor Outcomes

The Gottman Institute

We live in a competitive world and want to give our kids every advantage. But with helicopter parenting, it can backfire ...

Read More

Distressed woman experiencing emotional conflict as her husband yells, highlighting relationship tension and communication issues.

Why Is My Husband Yelling at Me?

The Gottman Institute

Read More

The power of playtime with dad

The Power of Playtime with Dad

Alexander Elguren

Studies show there are positive outcomes for toddlers who engage in playtime with their dads. ...

Read More

Couple feeling emotionally stuck.

Overcoming Gridlock This Holiday Season

Sanaa Hyder

Gridlock. The word itself conjures up the image of sitting in your car for hours while traffic around you barely inches ...

Read More

Co-parenting during the holidays

Co-Parenting During the Holidays

Terry Gaspard

It is challenging to co-parent during the holidays but making your child/ren the priority and creating new rituals of connection can ...

Read More

Couple working together and balancing love and everyday life

Preventing Roommate Syndrome

Kendra Han

Based on the webinar Preventing Roommate Syndrome: Balancing Love and Everyday Life presented by Genesis Games, LMHC on October 12, 2023. ...

Read More

Subscribe to Gottman Love Notes

Sign up and start your relationship transformation. Subscribe and get the latest on relationships, therapy, and much more from the experts. Includes a free download and access to special pricing on Gottman products every month