What Should I Do if My Parents Argue?
Do your parents ever argue in front of you? If so, which of the following issues do they fight about most?
□ Household chores
What do you wish you could tell your parents about how this affects you? Write your comments below.
YOU can’t help but be affected by your parents’ disputes. After all, you love them, and you rely on them for support. As a result, it may devastate you to hear them argue. You might agree with a girl named Marie, who says, “It’s hard for me to respect my parents when it seems that they don’t respect each other.”
Seeing your parents quarrel brings home a painful realization: They aren’t nearly as perfect as you might have thought. This rude awakening can arouse all kinds of fears. If the arguments are frequent or intense, you may worry that their marriage is on the verge of a breakup. “When I hear my parents fighting,” says Marie, “I imagine that they’ll get a divorce and that I’ll have to choose which one to live with. I’m also afraid that I’ll be separated from my siblings.”
Why do parents fight, and what should you do when a family feud erupts?
Why Parents Fight
As a rule, your parents may ‘put up with each other in love.’ (Ephesians 4:2) But the Bible says: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Your parents aren’t perfect. Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise you if their irritations build and occasionally become manifest in the form of an argument.
Remember, too, that we live in “critical times hard to deal with.” (2 Timothy 3:1) The pressures of making a living, paying the bills, contending with the atmosphere of the workplace—all these things place heavy strains on a marriage. And if both parents have secular jobs, deciding who will handle certain household chores can become a source of controversy.
Be assured that if your parents have disagreements, this doesn’t automatically mean that their marriage is falling apart. In all likelihood your parents still love each other—even though they differ in opinion on certain matters.
To illustrate: Have you ever watched a movie with close friends and found out that your opinion of it differed from theirs? It can happen. Even people who are close to one another will see certain 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 eager for you to succeed at school, but each has a different idea about the best way to motivate you.
The point is, unity does not require uniformity. Two people who love each other can see things differently at times. Still, your parents’ conflicts may be difficult to listen to. What can you do or say that will help you to endure?
What to Do
Be respectful. It’s easy to become annoyed with bickering parents. After all, they’re supposed to set the example for you—not the other way around. Treating a parent contemptuously, though, will only add to family tensions. More important, Jehovah God commands you to respect and obey your parents—even when it’s not easy for you to do so.—Exodus 20:12; Proverbs 30:17.
But what if an issue your parents disagree on directly involves you? For example, suppose one of your parents is a Christian and the other is an unbeliever. Religious difficulties may arise in which you must take a stand for righteousness along with the God-fearing parent. (Matthew 10:34-37) Always do so “with a mild temper and deep respect.” Your example in this regard may one day help to win over your unbelieving parent.—1 Peter 3:15.
Remain neutral. What can you do if your parents pressure you to take sides on issues that don’t directly involve you? Strive to remain neutral. Perhaps you can excuse yourself graciously by saying something like this: “Mom and Dad, I love you both. But please don’t ask me to take sides. This is something you have to work out between yourselves.”
Communicate. Let your parents know how their quarreling makes you feel. Choose a time when you think they’ll be receptive and then respectfully tell them how their fighting upsets, angers, or even frightens you.—Proverbs 15:23; Colossians 4:6.
What Not to Do
Don’t play marriage counselor. As a youth, you’re simply not qualified to solve your parents’ disputes. To illustrate: Imagine you were a passenger in a small plane and heard the pilot and the copilot arguing. Understandably, you’d be upset. But what would happen if you presumed to tell the pilots how to fly the plane or even tried to take over the controls?
Similarly, trying to ‘take over the controls’ by involving yourself in your parents’ marital troubles would likely just make things worse. The Bible says: “By presumptuousness one only causes a struggle, but with those consulting together there is wisdom.” (Proverbs 13:10) Likely your parents can better work out their difficulties by consulting together privately.—Proverbs 25:9.
Don’t join in. Two clashing voices are bad enough. Why add a third voice to the clamor? No matter how tempting it may be for you to join in, the fact is that it’s your parents’ responsibility—not yours—to resolve their disputes. Strive, then, to follow the Bible’s advice to “mind your own business” in such personal matters. (1 Thessalonians 4:11) Refuse to jump into the fray.
Don’t play one parent against the other. Some youths actually encourage their parents to argue by pitting one against the other. When Mom says no, they play on Dad’s emotions and try to squeeze a yes out of him. Clever manipulation might gain you a little freedom, but in the long run, it only prolongs family strife.
Don’t let their behavior affect your behavior. A youth named Peter came to realize that he was using unchristian conduct as a way to get back at his abusive dad. “I wanted to hurt him,” Peter says. “I resented him so much for the way he treated my mom and me and my sister.” Before long, though, Peter had to face the consequences of his actions. The lesson? Bad behavior will only compound the problems you’re facing at home.—Galatians 6:7.
Write here which of the points in this chapter you need to work on most. ․․․․․
Try your best to apply the above suggestions. In time, your parents may be moved to give serious attention to working out their problems. Who knows—they may even stop their fighting.
How can you deal with the challenges of being raised in a single-parent family?
“Let your utterance be always with graciousness.”—Colossians 4:6.
If your parents’ fights are frequent and intense, respectfully suggest that they seek help.
DID YOU KNOW . . . ?
People who love each other may still disagree at times.
When my parents start to argue, I will ․․․․․
If my parents ask me to take sides, I will say ․․․․․
What I would like to ask my parent(s) about this subject is ․․․․․
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
● Why do some parents fight?
● Why are you not to blame for your parents’ problems?
● What can you learn from observing your parents’ conduct?
[Blurb on page 201]
“Realizing that my parents aren’t perfect and that they have trials just as I do has helped me to cope when they argue.”—Kathy
[Box/Pictures on page 206, 207]
What if My Parents Separate?
If your parents separate, how can you act wisely despite the feelings that may be tearing you up inside? Consider the following suggestions:
● Resist false expectations. Your first instinct might be to try to get your parents back together. Recalls Anne: “After they separated, my parents would still take us out together sometimes. My sister and I would whisper to each other, ‘Let’s run ahead and leave those two together.’ But I guess it didn’t work. They never did get back together.”
Proverbs 13:12 says: “Expectation postponed is making the heart sick.” To avoid becoming unduly distressed yourself, remember that you cannot control what your parents do. You didn’t cause their separation, and in all likelihood you cannot step in and patch up their marriage either.—Proverbs 26:17.
● Avoid hatred. Harboring anger and hatred toward one or both of your parents can cause you long-term damage. Tom recalls his feelings at age 12: “I started to feel real anger toward my dad. I don’t like to use the word ‘hatred,’ but I had a terrible grudge. I couldn’t see how he could care about us if he left us.”
Separation, though, is rarely as simple as one parent being all good and the other being all bad. The fact is, your parents probably haven’t told you everything about their marriage or its breakup; they may not even understand it themselves. So avoid judging a situation when you don’t have the whole picture. (Proverbs 18:13) Granted, anger is hard to resist, and it’s quite natural for you to feel deeply upset for a time. But nursing an angry and vengeful spirit can gradually poison your personality. For good reason the Bible tells us: “Let anger alone and leave rage.”—Psalm 37:8.
● Be realistic. Rather than hate an estranged parent, some youths swing to the other extreme and idolize him or her. One youth’s father, for example, was an alcoholic and a womanizer who left the family repeatedly and finally got a divorce. Yet, this youth recalls that for some reason, he almost worshipped his dad!
Such misguided adoration isn’t unusual. In one country, some 90 percent of the children of divorced parents live with their mother and visit their father. Thus, the mother is often responsible for the day-to-day care of her children—including discipline. And in spite of support payments, the mother’s economic status usually goes way down after the divorce. On the other hand, the father’s may go up. The result: A visit with Dad means getting gifts and having fun! Life with Mom means pinching pennies and being told what to do and what not to do. Sad to say, some youths have even left a Christian parent in order to live with a wealthier and more permissive unbelieving parent.—Proverbs 19:4.
If you’re tempted to make such a choice, check your priorities. Remember that you need moral guidance and discipline. Nothing else a parent can offer will so deeply affect your character and the quality of your life.—Proverbs 4:13.
[Picture on page 202, 203]
A youth who tells his parents how to solve their disputes is like a passenger who tells the pilots how to fly a plane