Young People Ask
Why Are We Always Arguing?
In the scenario below, Rachel contributes to an argument in three ways. Can you identify them? Write your answers below the scenario, and then check them with the box “Answers” at the end of the article.
It’s Wednesday night. Rachel, 17, is done with her chores, and she’s ready for some well-earned downtime—finally! She turns on the TV and collapses into her favorite chair.
As if on cue, Mom appears in the doorway, and she doesn’t look happy. “Rachel! Why are you wasting your time watching TV when you’re supposed to be helping your sister with her homework? You never do as you’re told!”
“Here we go again,” Rachel mutters, loud enough to be heard.
Mom leans forward. “What did you say, young lady?”
“Nothing, Mom,” Rachel says with a sigh, rolling her eyes.
Now Mom is really angry. “Don’t use that tone with me!” she says.
“What about the tone you’re using with me?” Rachel shoots back.
Downtime is over . . . Another argument has begun.
DOES the above scenario seem familiar? Do you and your parents constantly argue? If so, take a moment to analyze the situation. Which topics cause the most conflict? Put a check mark next to the ones that apply—or fill in your own topic next to “Other.”
◯ Opposite sex
◯ Other ․․․․․
Regardless of the topic, arguing leaves you—and your parents—feeling stressed. Of course, you could just bite your tongue and put on a show of agreeing with everything your parents say. But does God expect you to do that? No. It is true that the Bible tells you to “honor your father and your mother.” (Ephesians 6:2, 3) But it also encourages you to develop your “thinking ability” and to use your “power of reason.” (Proverbs 1:1-4; Romans 12:1) When you do, it’s inevitable that you will have strong convictions, some of which may differ from those of your parents. However, in families that apply Bible principles, parents and youths can communicate peacefully—even when they don’t see eye to eye.—Colossians 3:13.
How can you express yourself without turning normal conversation into open warfare? It’s easy to say: “That’s my parents’ problem. After all, they’re the ones who are always on my back!” But think: How much control do you have over others, including your parents? Really, the only person you can change is you. And the good news is, if you do your part to ease the tension, your parents are more likely to remain calm and hear you out when you have something to say.
So let’s see what you can do to put a lid on the arguing. Apply the suggestions that follow, and you might amaze your parents—and yourself—with your newfound communication skills.
(Suggestion: Put a check mark next to the suggestions that you need to work on.)
◯ Think before you respond. The Bible says: “Good people think before they answer.” (Proverbs 15:28, Today’s English Version) Don’t blurt out the first thing that comes to your mind when you feel that you’re under attack. For instance, suppose your mom says: “Why didn’t you wash the dishes? You never do as you’re told!” An impulsive reply might be, “Why are you nagging me?” But use your thinking ability. Try to perceive the feeling behind your mom’s words. Usually, statements with terms like “always” and “never” are not to be taken literally. They do, however, indicate an underlying emotion. What might it be?
Perhaps your mom is frustrated, feeling that she is burdened with more than her share of the housework. It could be that she merely wants reassurance that she has your support. Or, to be honest, maybe you’ve built up a track record of balking at chores. In any event, saying “Why are you nagging me?” will get you nowhere—except maybe into an argument! So instead, why not put your mom at ease? For example, you could say: “I can see you’re upset, Mom. I’ll do the dishes right away.” A caution: Do not lace your words with sarcasm. Responding with empathy will more likely ease the tension between you.
Below, write a statement that your dad or mom might make that could provoke you, if you let it.
Now think of an empathetic response you could use that might address the feeling behind the statement.
◯ Speak respectfully. Michelle has learned from experience the importance of how she speaks to her mother. “No matter what the issue is,” she says, “it always comes back to Mom’s not liking my tone of voice.” If that’s often true in your case, learn to speak quietly and slowly, and avoid rolling your eyes or giving other nonverbal indications of your annoyance. (Proverbs 30:17) If you feel that you’re about to lose control, offer a brief, silent prayer to God. (Nehemiah 2:4) Of course, your objective isn’t to get divine help to ‘get your parent off your back’ but to maintain self-control so that you don’t add fuel to the fire.—James 1:26.
In the space below, write down some words and actions you would do well to avoid.
Verbal expressions (what you say):
Nonverbal expressions (your facial and body language):
◯ Listen. The Bible states: “You will say the wrong thing if you talk too much.” (Proverbs 10:19, Contemporary English Version) So make sure you give your dad or mom a chance to speak, and give your parent your full attention. Turn off your music, set aside your book or magazine, and maintain eye contact. Don’t interrupt to justify your actions. Just listen. Later, when they’re finished talking, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to ask questions or to explain your viewpoint. On the other hand, if you dig in your heels and press your viewpoint now, you might only make things worse. Even if there’s more you’d like to say, right now is probably “a time to keep quiet.”—Ecclesiastes 3:7.
◯ Be willing to apologize. It’s always appropriate to say “I’m sorry” for anything you did to contribute to a conflict. (Romans 14:19) You can even say you’re sorry that there is any conflict. If you find it hard to do this face-to-face, try expressing your feelings in a note. Then, ‘go the extra mile’ by changing any behavior that contributed to the conflict in the first place. (Matthew 5:41) For example, if neglecting a chore has ignited an argument, why not surprise your parents by caring for that chore? Even if you dislike the task, wouldn’t getting it done be better than facing the consequences when your parents see it’s still been neglected?—Matthew 21:28-31.
In the end, working to resolve or prevent conflict will make life easier for you. In fact, the Bible says that a person “of loving-kindness is dealing rewardingly with his own soul.” (Proverbs 11:17) So think of what you stand to gain by doing your part to reduce the tension between you and your parents.
Successful families have conflicts, but they know how to settle them peacefully. Practice the skills outlined in this article, and you may find that you can discuss even difficult topics with your parents—without arguing!
More articles from the “Young People Ask” series can be found at the Web site www.watchtower.org/ype
TO THINK ABOUT
● Why do some of your peers often prize the ability to argue?
● Why does Jehovah view an argumentative person as being foolish?—Proverbs 20:3.
[Box/Pictures on page 27]
WHAT YOUR PEERS SAY
“I had to realize that although I work and support myself financially, I still live in my mom’s house and have to listen to her. She has taken care of me for many years, so when she checks up on me—like with regard to my curfew—I completely understand.”
“If my parents and I don’t agree on something, we pray about it, look up information on it, and discuss it. We always come to a mutual resolution in this way. When we keep Jehovah involved, it always works out in the end.”
[Box on page 29]
1. The use of sarcasm (“Here we go again”) only poured fuel on the fire of Mom’s frustration.
2. Rachel’s facial expression (rolling her eyes) was just asking for trouble.
3. Talking back (“What about the tone you’re using with me?”) almost always backfires.
[Box on page 29]
A NOTE TO PARENTS
Look at the scenario that opened this article. Can you identify some things Rachel’s mom did that only contributed to an argument? How can you avoid arguing with your teen? The following are some points to keep in mind:
Avoid sweeping assertions, such as “You always . . .” or “You never . . .” Such statements only invite a defensive response. After all, they are likely to be exaggerations, and your child knows it. Your child may also know that sweeping assertions are really more about your anger than his or her irresponsibility.
Rather than using blunt statements that begin with the word “you,” try expressing how your child’s behavior affects you. For example, “When you . . . , I feel . . . .” Believe it or not, deep down your feelings are important to your teen. By letting your teen know how you are affected, you are more likely to elicit his or her cooperation.
Hard as it may be, hold back until your temper is in check. (Proverbs 10:19) If the issue that is causing the argument involves chores, discuss it with your child. Write down specifically what is required of him or her and, if necessary, make clear what the consequences will be if your expectations are not met. Patiently listen to your child’s point of view, even if you feel that view is incorrect. Most teens respond better to a listening ear than to a lecture.
Before hastily concluding that the world’s spirit of rebellion has taken control of your teen, realize that much of what you observe is part of your child’s natural development. Your child may argue a point just to prove that he or she is growing up. Resist the urge to get involved in disputes. Remember, how you respond to provocation teaches a lesson to your teen. Exercise patience and long-suffering, and you will set a good example for your son or daughter to follow.—Galatians 5:22, 23.
[Picture on page 28]
Arguing with your parents is like running on a treadmill—you’ll expend a lot of energy, but you won’t get anywhere