Reducing arguments and conflict between parents

Being a parent or carer means dealing with many issues, large and small, that can affect you physically and mentally. They may make you short tempered, prone to arguing and less able to cope with stress.

Not all conflict is damaging, and all parents will argue at some point. But sometimes conflict can increase to a level that is not healthy for the family. This might involve shouting and screaming at each other without resolution, periods of silence, or communicating in a way that lacks respect.

Conflict between parents can be damaging to children if it happens often or is extreme. It can have a negative impact on a child’s health and mental state. It can also damage the relationship you have with them.

On this page, we offer advice on how parents can reduce the impact their conflicts have on children.

If you and your partner are no longer together, see our pages on single parents and support for separated parents.

Keep yourself safe

No one should ever be made to feel unsafe or threatened. If your relationship has become abusive, get help with support for domestic abuse on the Kent Family website. You can also find guidance on related topics in our section on keeping your family safe.

Understand how you argue

How you communicate with your partner is crucial in a relationship. Arguing and having disagreements are an important part of that. The way in which you and your partner both approach arguing could be very different.

To help understand this better, visit the Relate website to take the arguments quiz.

If you can’t stay calm, take a break

When you feel things getting heated, take some time to cool down. The conversation may go better if you come back to it at another time.

Avoid using the word ‘you’

Using ‘you’ statements can feel accusatory, and lead to the other person becoming defensive. Try using ‘I’ statements instead.

For example: if your partner makes suggestions about improving your cooking, instead of saying “You are always criticising me,” you could say “I feel undermined and criticised when you suggest other ways for me to do something.” This avoids putting all the blame on the other person which can make them defensive. Be clear on what you need. For example, “I really appreciate it when you compliment a meal I’ve made.”

Be open to compromise

When you are feeling angry, it can be easy to get into a cycle of trying to ‘win’ an argument, rather than reaching a resolution. This is not a helpful way of discussing issues. Instead, be clear about what you will compromise on and what you won’t. There may be areas that are less important than you initially thought.

Choose the right time to address issues

If you want to discuss an important issue, make sure you give yourselves enough time to talk where you won’t be overheard or interrupted. Try to set aside some time to have a proper conversation when it suits you both.

Know what triggers you and your partner

Take some time to identify what issues might trigger a strong reaction from you or your partner. If you are aware of these in advance, you can try to avoid them during arguments.

Listen without interrupting

It almost goes without saying that everyone wants to feel heard. Even if you feel you have an important point to add, allow your partner to finish what they are saying. Try to see it from their point of view before responding.

Further support and guidance

See It Differently features a series of powerful videos, which highlight the effects parental conflict can have on children. The videos also explore ways to work together to find a way forward. To watch these videos, visit the See It Differently website.

OnePlusOne offers a range of online courses from relationship experts. Wherever you are in your parenting journey, these courses will help you learn how to cope with stress and communicate better. Visit the OnePlusOne website for:

  • online relationship support for parents
  • Me, you, baby too - explores how tiredness and stress associated with parenthood can lead to parents misunderstanding each other
  • Arguing better - helps to share ways which you can argue in a more constructive way.

Click offers free support in the form of evidence-based articles and a user forum. For more details, visit the Click website sections on parenting together.

Relationkit features videos for parents to use together or separately, which aim to help us think about how our parenting relationship can impact our children. Visit the Relationkit website to watch videos about partners and ex-partners addressing conflict.

Strengthening Families, Strengthening Communities run an online course about reducing the arguments and disagreements in your family. Visit the website to find out more about the Stronger Relationships course.