Why Are We Always Arguing?
In the opening scenario of this chapter, Rachel contributes to an argument in three ways. Can you identify them? Write your answers below, and then compare them with those found in the box “Answers” on page 20.
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 ✔ in the boxes 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 awful. 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 that 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.
● Think before you respond. 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. If that’s the case, 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. Respond with empathy, and your mom will be more likely to soften and tell you the real problem.*
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. (Nehemiah 2:4) Of course, your objective is not 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 verbal and nonverbal responses you are prone to make that you would do well to avoid.
Verbal reactions (what you say):
Nonverbal reactions (your facial expressions 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 that you give your dad or mom a chance to speak and that you give your parent your full attention. Don’t interrupt to justify your actions. Just listen. Later, when they’ve finished talking, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to ask questions or 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 doing 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 not done? (Matthew 21:28-31) 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 peaceably. Practice the skills outlined in this chapter, and you may find that you can discuss even difficult topics with your parents—without arguing!
Do you feel that your parents should give you more freedom? If so, what can you do?
For more information, see Volume 2, Chapter 21.
“Good people think before they answer.”—Proverbs 15:28, Today’s English Version.
When your parents speak to you, turn off your music, set aside your book or magazine, and maintain eye contact with them.
DID YOU KNOW . . . ?
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.
The suggestion in this chapter that I need to work on most is ․․․․․
I resolve to start applying this suggestion as of (insert date) ․․․․․
What I would like to ask my parent(s) about this subject is ․․․․․
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
● Why do some of your peers prize the ability to argue?
● Why does Jehovah God view an argumentative person as foolish?—Proverbs 20:3.
● What do you stand to gain by reducing the tension between yourself and your parents?
[Blurb on page 18]
“My mom will sometimes say ‘I’m sorry’ with a hug, and that’s nice. Then we can move on. I try to do that too. Putting my pride behind me and sincerely saying ‘I’m sorry’ goes a long way, although I admit it’s not easy.”—Lauren
[Box on page 20]
1. The use of sarcasm (“Here we go again”) only poured fuel on the fire of her mom’s frustration.
2. By her facial expression (rolling her eyes), Rachel was just asking for trouble.
3. Talking back (“What about the tone you’re using with me?”) almost always backfires.
[Picture on page 19]
Arguing with a parent is like running on a treadmill—you’ll expend a lot of energy but won’t get anywhere