How to have a friendly fight

May 15, 2012, 10:17 am Elly Taylor - Relationship counsellor Practical Parenting

The excitement and stresses of a new baby can sometimes mean heightened tensions and tempers. Here’s how to deal…

How to have a friendly fight
Parents
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Having a bub is such a joyful and seemingly blissful time, but the first year can also see increased conflict between partners. In fact, a whopping 92 per cent of parents report increased disagreement during this period.

This figure is perhaps not so surprising when you think of the reasons why, though. New parents are sleep deprived, stressed and exhausted (and not just the mums!). There’s a steep learning curve to conquer and with new roles to adjust to, parents can be preoccupied, impatient or forgetful. There may be less time to talk things through and fewer opportunities for stress relief. All these factors can combine to make fuses short and tempers flare.

Family friendly

Parental conflict can have a negative effect on kids. Babies tend to be more fussy and harder to settle when tension is in the air and toddlers and young kids will also react, even acting out with negative behaviour to take their parents’ focus off each other. For these reasons, it’s important to re-evaluate the ways you and your partner manage conflict and to try to adopt some new attitudes and skills.

Here are some top tips:
  • Firstly, be reassured that if you’re arguing more, you’re not alone. Increased conflict doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you or your relationship; it’s natural to have a period of adjustment so relax and don’t blame yourself or your partner.

  • Be a learner and allow your partner to be a learner too. Take the pressure off, expect to make mistakes and forgive them.

  • Learn to negotiate – it’s a great skill to pass on to your children.

  • Keep things in perspective. Many of the issues that create disagreement are temporary. Dealing with unsettled periods, teething, dummy use, sleep routines and, later, a willful toddler are all stages you will pass through as a couple and there will be many more to come! Focus your energy less on the issue and more on managing your reactions to each other.

Talk it out

One of the most important things you can do is to be proactive and talk about things before they become a problem. Don’t wait for your partner to ‘fail’ and then point it out to him, or for an issue you know is coming to be on your doorstep before you begin to discuss it.

With the fuzzy-headedness of early parenting, the best approach is polite and direct. Choose your words wisely and focus on what you want rather than on what you don’t. Use ‘I’ language (“I would like…”) rather than ‘you’ language (“You never/should/always…”), which invites defensiveness.

Research also shows that when discussions are started softly they have improved chances of positive outcomes, so watch your tone of voice, too. Use endearments such as “darling” or “honey” so he knows it’s not about him and is open to listening.

Also, most arguments are fuelled by misunderstandings, so clear them up as you go. Check his meaning with “Are you saying…?” or “Do you mean…?” before you react. This might feel awkward at first, but it can help avoid the unpleasantness of conflict and you’ll soon reap the benefits.

So will your little one.

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