TODAY

TODAY   |  September 25, 2013

Should parents fight in front of their kids?

Most parents worry about whether they should argue in front of their kids, but experts Jennifer Hartstein, Farah Miller and David Vienna say there is a difference between arguing and fighting, and advise that allowing kids to see debate and problem-solving is important for their development.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> happen so i think as long as you're not name calling and being vicious about it.

>> so here to weigh in is family psychologist jennifer and david is a father of five-year-old twin boys and the author of the daddy complex and sarah miller is a mom to a three-year-old and the managing editor of huffington post .

>> good morning.

>> good morning.

>> what is arguing as opposed to fighting?

>> and that's a really important question. arguing might be a bicker, a short disagreement but fighting is when there's much more emotional involvement. things are escalating. might be bordering on disrespect interactions because our emotions are running the show. those things you don want to do because the arguing is happening.

>> it is inevitable. completely honest, how often do you raise your voice in front of your kids and fight with your spouse.

>> depends on who has the remote but fights happen. it's unrealistic to think that they don't or you can hide them from kids. my wife and i try to -- we don't hide it but we also try to keep our heads in the game and know what's going on and make sure that we're not saying things that -- my rule is don't say anything you wouldn't put on facebook.

>> okay.

>> that's good.

>> i think i agree. my daughter is only 3 years old so we're coming out of that phase where it felt like you could say pretty much anything in front of her and she is kind of -- whether it was something that was maybe inappropriate for her to hear for other reasons or because we didn't want her to pick up on certain habits like biggering or arguing and now she is like a sponge. anything we do whether it's a attitude or type of conversation she is registering that.

>> jennifer, but it's not just about the tone. it's also about the hostility in the air. even if you're giving your partner the silent treatment . kids are sensitive and they pick up on that stuff too.

>> absolutely. they are sponging. there's research that shows that infants can pick up on just that angry tone and it changes the activity in their brain. so kids are picking up on whatever emotional vibe is going on around them. if you're giving your spouse silent treatment your child knows. if you're talking with your teeth clenched they know. being able to put it out there and resolve it in front of them so they knee how to resolve the conflict, super important to see that it's possible to love someone, be mad at them, and move on.

>> i would think it gets harder as your kids get older. i remember as a teenager my parents having a knockdown drag out and thinking they're going to break up.

>> kids will do that. that's why the resolution part of it is so important. they need to see you can fight and get past it and make up and still love each other and be okay.

>> what's most important is kids want to feel like they're in a safe and secure environment. if they feel like the situation is scary in anyway.