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Child and Adult roles in an arguement

Last night my family got together to celebrate a birthday. While we were there, my mother and my brother got into a tiff. It was annoying but it wasn’t too bad. Unfortunately, my brother said something he shouldn’t have within ear shot of my father.

Things got pretty bad. My brother and my father got into a yelling and swearing match in front of my two children (6yr old and 3.5yr old) and in front of my brother’s child (who’s 3rd birthday we were celebrating).

My first instinct was to pack my children up and leave. I do not tolerate that kind of behavior in front of them. Instead, I opted to tell them both to cut it out. It didn’t work and I concentrated on keeping the kids busy with the presents.

Question 1: Should I have followed my first instincts and just leave? (maybe just take the kids outside at the very least)

My mother eventually stepped in, told my father to not do this in front of the kids. My son, who is 6, is really starting to mimic people because he thinks it’s funny (and usually, it is). My son then said “Yeah Grandpa, stop it.” 

Question 2: I don’t tolerate my children talking back to adults like that, but he was right and part of me feels that he should have the right to step up and make his feelings known. But how do we tell him that he can’t be rude about it, while he just witnessed his uncle doing it and basically getting away with it?


A: Well I hope that not all your family gatherings are like this. 
First of all I would like to commend you for making the statement of not tolerating this type of behavior.  Children will be exposed to this type of behavior in other types of settings later in life; however the home should not be one of them.  The home should be a place where children feel happy and safe. 

If this is not a regular occurrence, then do not allow them to be exposed to this type of behavior that even your 6 year old could recognize as not healthy.  

So in answer to your first question, I think you should have asked the adults to leave and have the children stay.  After all, the children are the reason for the get together.  A good learning experience for your children would be to have you explain to the adults why they should leave in front of the children.  Of course you should do this in a calm cool and collected voice so your children can see the proper way to react to a disagreement.  

I would also explain to the adults, away from the children, that no matter who they are and what they do, they are role models.  Many of us have heard the expression that children are like sponges, and this is very true, however sometimes they will sponge up things are not always the best.  And if you have a negative role model around them, then this is what the will emulate.  Children also have a desire to please adults and look up to them, so I believe we should all keep this in mind if we have children, nieces and/or nephews around us.  

And in answer to your second question, never never never should a child talk back to an adult no matter who or how right the child is.  This is a role reversal for the child and will make the child feel like they have power over adults.  Children should not have this type of power because it is scary for them and they are not sure how to manage this type of power, especially a 6 year old.  
As for his feelings he can identify them to you in a safe setting outside of the party.  I would offer to take him aside and ask him how he feels about what happened and maybe he could talk to the uncle and grandfather about how he feels about what happened.  This could be a great learning experience for everyone.  

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Friday 10th of September 2010

Thanks for the advice Trevor! I greatly appreciate it :D

And no, not every gathering is like that. It's not the first time it's happened though, but thankfully it's not every time. Both my brother and my father have severe anger problems.