How to Deal with Family Conflict

If your family life often descends into a chaotic argument, you are not alone. After all, the nuclear family is, in a sense, unnatural. Throughout most of human history, people lived in tribal societies, often sleeping in communal huts and sharing responsibility for the tribe’s young. But when the same four or five people live together in a brick box for years on end, irritations, resentments, and jealousies are going to build. Add into that mix raging adolescent hormones, and it would be astonishing if families did not continually explode into conflict. But, though some family conflict may be inevitable, it need not be severe. Steps can be taken both to prevent it escalating and to calm things back down.

1) Remain calm.

When a teenage girl is screaming and shouting that she wants to be left alone, that she should be free to come and go as she pleases, it can be hard to bite your tongue. Yet anger feeds anger. Do not raise your voice, but do not back down either. This does not always work of course. Sometimes individuals are looking for a fight and will grow infuriated by your calmness. So never give the impression that an argument is beneath you, that you are superior, or that you are amused by it all.

2) Replace the “you-statement” with the “I-statement”. 

During a family row, all sorts of hidden resentments and hatreds can bubble to the surface. To prevent such escalation, avoid striking an accusatory tone. Never say “you play your music too loud”, or “I’m sick of the mess you always leave in the bathroom”; instead, tell the individual concerned how their actions are affecting you:  “I can’t sleep because the music is too loud”, or “I have spent 20 minutes cleaning up the bathroom when I should be resting”.

3) Keep talking.