When Kids Hear an Argument About Money

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When Kids Hear an Argument About Money

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It was a typical Saturday morning.  I was in the kitchen making pancakes for breakfast-plain for my wife, with cinnamon and chocolate chips for the kids.  Vonnie and I had gone on a date the night before, and we wanted to get on the same page with our finances for the rest of the weekend.

We were really watching our spending closely after a recent family trip to nearby Wisconsin Dells.  We went over what we spent the night before, what was left in our entertainment bucket, and what bills had to be paid in the coming week.

My wife was confused as to why the available funds in our checking account were lower than she expected. 

She questioned how I could possibly forget to account for a bill that was due in a few days.  I questioned why she has such a hard time keeping track in her head of how much we spent the night before.  We raised our voices a bit, and a 30-minute "discussion" followed.  When it was all over we both had an understanding of where our money went, what we had left, and what we were going to do with it.

We also both apologized for the hurtful things we said. 

I felt satisfied as I walked out of the kitchen and started up the stairs, until I glanced over my shoulder and noticed that both our kids were sitting in the living room, listening to the entire conversation. 

Tori looked up at me with her sad, brown eyes. 

On one hand, I want our kids to be knowledgeable about what we are going through.  I want them to see the success that comes when their parents discuss the family finances.  I also want them to see that it's not easy.  I'm happy that they witnessed Vonnie and me working through the situation, and resolving our differences. 

On the other hand, I know that witnessing parents fight makes children feel insecure, sad, and just downright crappy. 

Disagreements can spring up without warning and escalate before we can do anything about it.  When that happens, I feel that it's important to not ignore it, but to sit the kids down and address what just occurred.  We immediately discussed the situation, apologizing to them for having to witness the argument, and assured them that everything was okay.  In a perfect world, we would take serious budget discussions to a private place behind a closed door, but it felt good to see the look in their eyes change from fear and sadness to relief. 

How much of your finance discussions do you let your children hear?  How do you handle them witnessing an argument?

Related Links:

Communicating With Your Spouse about Finances

3 Tips for Communicating when Your Partner Manages Money Differently

Save Your Marriage & Money

Travis Pizel, Debt Management Plan Customer with Leading Provider of Debt Relief, CareOne Serivces Inc. Travis Pizel

Travis is a contributing writer for the My Journey out of Debt and A Straight Talk on Debt blogs. He is also a very active member of the CareOne community forums. Travis is currently enrolled in a CareOne Debt Management Plan (DMP). Travis candidly shares his personal journey to pay off his debt and the tips he's learned along the way. As a father and husband he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family in Minnesota. You can also read more from Travis on the Enemy of Debt blog, where he is a featured blogger. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services.

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  • Good for you for addressing the situation! One of the most damaging things for kids is if they only see the fight and not the make up.Then they are left with the bad feelings and miss out on the resolution.  It is great that yours got to see that everything was ok. Kudos to you for being so aware of their feelings! We have to be really careful. With Lexi having Asperger's it lends another dimension to our lives, one that we have learned very well. She has to have stability and security or there is a total breakdown. Plus, she is inclined to think that even if things are not her fault they are her responsibility and her mind works the problem endlessly. We are just so used to being hyper aware of how things will affect her that I think we manage things well.  On top of that, we are fond of talking about how much Lexi is like Daryl and Tyler is like me - that means we have to be SUPER careful. We are both amazingly clear that any hurtful things that are said about each other would be like saying it about the child as well. Another great post1

  • You are a great dad!  I'm absolutely positive your kids felt secure, safe and happy when you talked truthfully to them.  Kids don't realize that disagreements and real arguments are part of being married.  They want and need to know that mommy and daddy love each other no matter what!  I have heard people say that they have never had a disagreement and it's very hard to believe.  Anyway, you are helping your kids to know that we live in an imperfect world but if we work at it, things can be worked out and all is good again!

  • Kimmer5000, I think it's extremely important that kids know that their parents relationship is secure.  No matter what is going on in our their life, I want them to know that our marriage and love for them is a foundation that is unshakable.  I love what you said about it being damaging for kids to see the fight, but not the make up.  Arguments are going to happen....but I want them to see that people can resolve their differences, forgive, and move on.  :)

  • Aww, thanks Kimberly (tiquie)!  I always make sure I tell my wife I love her and show her affection each and every day.  I also make sure my kids SEE it.  They are at the age where they will give the groan or the "GROSS!" response, but I think inside they want to know that mom and dad love each other.  :)

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