Getting Real with Kira Hazledine
My daughter is two going on three, and she is very observant of everything around her. She mimics the casual comments in the household and quotes her favorite movies. She is aware of when and why people come and go, whether it’s work or the grocery store. She is completely in tune with the feelings of others around her. My heart melted when I left for the store and she told me to “be safe.”
The love that my husband and I have for each other are apparent in our own toddler’s words. There are a million ways to say “I love you,” but it’s not always roses, is it? Sometimes that love comes out in frustration and concern. Sometimes we lose our patience with our partner and voices are raised. There are conversations that we reserve for private moments, but I have no issues with my children being present for a tense discussion.
Let me preface this by saying kids should never be exposed to physical violence. Intense anger that involves emotional, verbal, or physical abuse is never something kids should have to experience. Anger is a normal and healthy emotion, but abuse is never acceptable. Don’t be an asshole to your partner.
It’s ok to be angry.
There are so many feelings that kids are navigating, and anger is a really tough one to regulate. Kids are constantly told to reign it in because duh. Can’t have my toddler smacking everybody she disagrees with. At the same time, the emotion is so real. If our kids are constantly squashing their anger, they aren’t learning how to communicate it to others.
When my daughter watches me challenge my partner on something, there are times when I’m angry. I’ll say the words, “I’m angry” or “I’m frustrated” for the benefit of all involved. I’m not putting on a show. I don’t want my husband to be confused or have to interpret my feelings without guidance. I’m angry, and this is why. So let’s figure this shit out, because I don’t like being angry with husband. It’s not an emotion I’m fond of, but it’s one I have to work through.
Your kids learn important concepts about communication.
Now that my toddler knows that one of us is angry, she gets to observe the clumsy dance that we get through to solve the issue at hand. The conversation isn’t always neat, but we each take turns exploring the other’s feelings and opinions. We dig deeper into what is behind whatever emotion we’re feeling. Despite our anger, we’re not yelling. No one is throwing punches or tossing shit out the window. My kids are watching a healthy conversation play out in a safe environment. They are learning that their voices are important, their feelings are valid, and they deserve to be heard.
You can’t have resolution without conflict.
The most important part about my kids watching my husband and I argue a bit, is that they get to see the resolution. My kids got a good picture of the anger, but they also get to see the concern for the other’s feelings. They see the love we have for each other when the anger dims and then evolves into compromise and understanding. My kids observe as my husband and I hug each other, apologize, and promise to do better.
I won’t shield my children from completely normal parts of any relationship. Disagreements and anger can’t be avoided, and they are hard to navigate under any circumstance. Kids can’t learn if they don’t have healthy examples, and there is no reason to fear normal emotion. Don’t be afraid to fight in front of your kids, because there is a lot they can gain.