PARENTS
09/25/2013 09:37 pm ET

Parents Fighting In Front Of Kids: When Is It OK?

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In a perfect world, couples wouldn't fight, and they certainly wouldn't do so in front of their children. In the real world... yeah, right.

After a Wall Street Journal article sparked interest in the subject, "TODAY" invited HuffPost Parents managing editor Farah Miller, dad blogger David Vienna and child and family psychologist Jennifer Hartstein to discuss how problematic it really is for parents to let children see them in conflict.

Their consensus? Don't pretend that arguments aren't going to come up -- and when they do, try to show effective problem-solving skills.

"Fights happen. It's unrealistic to think that they don't, or that you could hide them from kids," said Vienna, a father of twin 5-year-old boys who blogs at The Daddy Complex and also on HuffPost. "My rule is don't say anything that you wouldn't put on Facebook."

Hartstein, aka Dr. Jen, explained the difference between "arguing" and "fighting":

Arguing might be a little bit of a bicker, a short disagreement -- but fighting is when there's much more emotional involvement, things are escalating, it might be bordering on disrespectful interactions because our emotions are running the show. Those things you don't want to do in front of your children, but that little bit of arguing is going to happen. It happens -- our emotions get the best of us at different times.

Miller noted that as little kids get older, they absorb more and more. Now that her daughter is 3, she said, "I'm noticing that she's like a sponge. Anything we do, whether it's an attitude or a type of conversation, she's registering that."

Hartstein agreed that kids can pick up on "emotional vibe[s]" as well as angry words. So sometimes it makes sense to be honest about tension when it exists: "Being able to kind of put it out there and resolve it in front of them so they see how to resolve the conflict -- super important for them to see that it's possible to love someone, be mad at them and move on."

What's your take? Do you and your partner argue in front of the kids or is it something you try to avoid? Let us know in the comments!

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