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Saturday, January 22, 2022
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LCSW

Dear Rabbi Sam,

My husband and I are very community minded, socially active and very passionate about our political views. We often have open discussions in front of our children about important issues and many times we do not share the same views. This past Shabbos, in the presence of our 8-year-old son, we had a rather “heated” political disagreement. After Shabbos my wife suggested that we refrain from arguing in front of the children.

She felt that our son should not be exposed to our disagreements and disputes. I, on the other hand, feel there is nothing wrong with our son seeing us disagree and have conflicting points of view.  In fact, when he grows up and has disagreements with his peers or girlfriend, I want him to have experience on how to deal with it and not to think that there’s anything wrong about having divergent opinions. What is your feeling about parents fighting in front of their children?

Signed,

Politically Pumped

Dear Politically Pumped,

Your question is a very common and relevant one. However, prior to answering your question directly,

I would like to put forth a general parenting principle to help guide the response.

Our children watch us very closely, and they learn more from what they see us do than what they hear us say. How your child sees you and your wife resolve conflicts and share different ideas could set the foundation for how he will react in the future.  You are correct to want to demonstrate proper options when confronted with conflicts.

Now let me respond to your specific question. Whether the disagreement is about politics, sports or

religion, it is the process and not the outcome that is significant for your child to witness. Therefore, if by “heated” you were implying yelling, name calling, or the like, then I would question the value and benefit for your child to witness that reaction. It is important that children learn respectful ways to share their differences without being aggressive or insulting others.

Many schools, for example, may provide students with exposure to debate teams as a tool to illustrate how people can have different opinions and points of view while being courteous and considerate.

However, if you meant by “passionate” that you are both well versed in the subject matter and respectful in transmitting your ideas and thoughts, then I can see the advantage of a child seeing two adults have differing points of view and opinions, while coming to a peaceful resolution. Working with children, I find that some of them struggle with problem solving and conflict resolution strategies. If you and your spouse are modeling those skills through your discussion, then I can see how that could be beneficial. In fact, there are times that teachers or parents may set up scenarios for children to help illustrate for them how to work out their differences and resolve conflicts. It is important for children to see that relationships can handle opposing views, and people can grow from exchanging ideas in a thoughtful and caring manner.

Wishing you well,

By Rabbi Sam Frankel,

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