Young People Ask . . .
What Should I Do When My Parents Argue?
YOU can’t help but be affected by your parents’ disputes. After all, you love them and you rely on them for support. So when they just can’t seem to get along, a number of anxieties may arise. Why does it sometimes seem as if your parents are on different wavelengths?
Jesus said that when a man and a woman marry, they become “one flesh.” (Matthew 19:5) But does this mean that your dad and mom will always view things the same way? Not at all. Really, any two people—even a husband and wife who are truly united—will disagree at times.
If your parents have differences of opinion, it doesn’t mean that their marriage is falling apart. In all likelihood your parents still love each other—even though they get on each other’s nerves sometimes. So why do they argue? Perhaps they have different ways of focusing on certain matters. That’s not always wrong, nor does it spell doom for their relationship.
To illustrate: Have you ever watched a movie with close friends and found out that your opinion of what you saw differed from theirs? It can happen. Even people who are close to one another will see things differently.
It could be similar with your parents. Perhaps both are concerned about the family finances, but each has a different view of budgeting; both want to plan a family vacation, but each has a different notion of what constitutes relaxation; or both are anxious for you to succeed in school, but each has a different idea of how best to motivate you. The point is, unity does not require uniformity. Even two people who are united in a one-flesh bond can see things differently.
But why do your parents sometimes let their differences get the better of them? Why does something as innocent as another’s viewpoint cause a discussion to turn into a full-blown argument?
The Role of Imperfection
Many parental disputes can be chalked up to imperfection. The Bible states: “We all stumble many times. If anyone does not stumble in word, this one is a perfect man.” (James 3:2) Your parents aren’t perfect, and neither are you. At times, all of us say things that we don’t really mean, and sometimes our words can hurt like “the stabs of a sword.”—Proverbs 12:18.
You’ve probably observed something similar with yourself. For example, can you think of a time when you had a sharp disagreement with someone you felt close to? Likely, you can. “Everyone has disagreements,” admits a youth named Marie. * “In fact, the people I love the most can also irritate me the most—probably because I expect so much from them!” Christian husbands and wives expect a lot from each other, since the Bible sets a high standard for them. (Ephesians 5:24, 25) Because they are imperfect, it’s only a matter of time before one or both of them will err. The Bible says: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”—Romans 3:23; 5:12.
Therefore, at least some strain between your parents is to be expected. In fact, the apostle Paul wrote that married people would experience “tribulation in their flesh” or, as The New English Bible renders that phrase, “pain and grief.” (1 Corinthians 7:28) A demanding boss, a traffic jam, an unexpected bill—these are just some of the stresses that can cause pressure to build up at home.
Knowing that your parents are imperfect and that, at times, they may be under great pressure can help you to put their squabbles in perspective. That’s what Marie found to be the case. “My parents seem to bicker more now than they used to,” she says, “and sometimes I wonder if they’re just getting tired of each other. But then I think to myself, ‘Face it—25 years of marriage and five kids is a lot to handle!’” Perhaps you too can show “fellow feeling” by realizing that your parents have many demands to meet.—1 Peter 3:8.
How to Cope
You might acknowledge that your parents are imperfect, and you know they have everyday pressures to face. But the question still remains, What can you do about it when they argue? Try the following suggestions:
▪ Don’t intervene. (Proverbs 26:17) It isn’t your job to play marriage counselor or to patch up your parents’ disputes. Likely any attempts to get involved will backfire anyway. “I’ve tried to referee before, and I usually get told to stay out of it,” says 18-year-old Charlene. Let your parents work out the problem.
▪ Keep things in perspective. (Colossians 3:13) As noted earlier, the fact that your parents argue now and then does not automatically mean that they’re on the verge of a breakup. So don’t let an occasional spat between them cause you undue alarm. Melanie, 20, says of her parents: “Even if they fight, I know that they still love each other and the family. They’ll work it out.” The same may well be true of your parents when they have a disagreement.
▪ Pray about your concerns. You don’t have to keep anxious feelings bottled up inside you. The Bible says: “Throw your burden upon Jehovah himself, and he himself will sustain you.” (Psalm 55:22) Prayer can make a difference. The apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians: “Let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 4:6, 7.
▪ Take care of yourself. It’s unwise to become stressed over something you cannot control. Doing so could even affect your well-being. The Bible says: “Anxious care in the heart of a man is what will cause it to bow down.” (Proverbs 12:25) Try to alleviate anxiety by spending time with encouraging friends and getting involved in wholesome activities.
▪ Talk to your parents. While you need not get involved in your parents’ disputes, certainly you can let them know how their fighting affects you. Choose an appropriate time to approach one of them. (Proverbs 25:11) Speak with “a mild temper and deep respect.” (1 Peter 3:15) Don’t accuse. Simply describe how you are being affected.
Why not try the above suggestions? Your parents just may respond to your efforts. Even if they don’t, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that although you cannot control your parents, you can do something about how you react when they argue.
More articles from the “Young People Ask . . .” series can be found at the Web site www.watchtower.org/ype
^ par. 12 Names in this article have been changed.
TO THINK ABOUT
▪ Why do parents at times find it difficult to get along?
▪ What would you tell a younger sibling who was being adversely affected by parental fighting?
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A NOTE TO PARENTS
In marriage, disagreements are inevitable. How you handle them, though, is a matter of choice. Youths are profoundly affected by their parents’ arguments. This is a matter of concern, since your marriage is, in effect, a model that your children are likely to follow if they marry. (Proverbs 22:6) Why not use disagreements as an opportunity to demonstrate effective ways to resolve conflict? Try the following:
Listen. The Bible tells us to be “swift about hearing, slow about speaking, slow about wrath.” (James 1:19) Do not add fuel to the fire by ‘returning evil for evil.’ (Romans 12:17) Even if your spouse seems unwilling to listen, you can choose to do so.
Strive to explain rather than criticize. In a calm manner, tell your spouse how his or her conduct has affected you. (“I feel hurt when you . . .”) Resist the urge to accuse and criticize. (“You don’t care about me.” “You never listen.”)
Take a time-out. Sometimes it is best to drop the matter and resume the discussion when tempers have calmed. The Bible says: “The beginning of contention is as one letting out waters; so before the quarrel has burst forth, take your leave.”—Proverbs 17:14.
Apologize to each other—and, if appropriate, to your children. Brianne, 14, says: “Sometimes after they’ve argued, my parents will apologize to me and my older brother because they know how it affects us.” One of the most valuable lessons you can teach your children is how to say humbly, “I’m sorry.”
For more information, see Awake! issues of January 8, 2001, pages 8-14, and January 22, 1994, pages 3-12.
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Don’t accuse. Simply describe how you feel