Q: It seems like me and my adoptive mom fight all the time. I feel broken down about it, depressed, and it even gets in the way of school. What can I do to fix things?
Oh man—I know firsthand how trouble with at home can creep into every area of life! I wish I could sit down with you and your mom together. When there’s friction between a daughter and her mom (or dad, for that matter), usually both sides need to make some adjustments. But since it’s just you and me, we’ll have to focus on what you can do on your end to keep the tension in perspective and spread peace at home. Hopefully as you make adjustments, she will too. You can’t control how your mom responds, but Romans 12:18 says, “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” If you do everything in your power to live at peace with your family, God will bless you for it, even if things at home are never peachy.
Family fights can be hard to untangle because each of you brings your own set of ideas, perceptions, expectations and baggage to the table. Then you throw in 1) teenage hormones (and sometimes menopause for moms, which is like the reverse of teenage hormones but just as intense), 2) spending a LOT of time together, and 3) you becoming an independent person. When you throw all those volatile factors together, it’s not surprising a whole lot of misunderstandings go on within the walls of a house!
Every family’s version of drama is a bit different, so I don’t have a simple, three-step, one-size-fits-all “fix” to offer. But here are a few tips that will get you started in a positive direction:
- Keep the goal in mind. God wants to use your family—whether is’s close-to-perfect or completely messed up—to make you more like Jesus. Romans 8:29 says, “For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son.” I can’t think of any better place than family life to practice the super hard-to-learn characteristics of selflessness, forgiveness, patience and genuine love.
- Remember your parents are people too. Sometimes we forget that the people living under our roof are actual people too—men and women with likes, dislikes, dreams, strengths and expectations. And they are people who have sacrificed a lot to love us and take care of us! As kids, it can be so hard to see past how things affect us, but we gain a whole new appreciation for them when we take the time to really get to know our parents—who they are now, and who they were before we came into the picture.
- Remember your parents have weaknesses too. Newsflash: your parents aren’t perfect. I know—that’s hardly news. But sometimes we act like they should be. We forget that they have feelings (which can get hurt), a limited supply of patience (which we love to test), and baggage from their past (their parents weren’t perfect either). If we want them to be patient with our less-than-stellar moments, we need to offer them the same grace.
- Communicate like an adult. It’s okay to disagree with your parents, but you’ll get a lot farther with them if you communicate your frustrations with a level head and calm voice. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.” As a teen, I was usually a master at the eye-roll, shoulder-slump, edgy reply, and huff and stuff. My dad recently told me about a time he remembered I earned his respect during a fight we had. Guess what he was so proud of? I had kept my emotions in check even when he did not. It made a lasting impression!
- Check your attitude. Parents sense disrespect like a girl senses a cute guy is flirting with her—it only takes a little for some big emotions to come into play! So take an honest look at your attitude toward your parents. If you disrespect them in your heart, the truth will leak out one way or another. Ask God to help you truly change your heart toward them, so that what flows out of your lips and body language will promote peace and show love.
If you’re serious about turning your family life around, pick up a copy of Family: How to Love Yours (And Help them Like You Back). In it I share lots of stories about my own family life (from a single-parent home to blended, to losing a parent), plus all the lessons I learned along the way about taming emotions, earning trust, and fighting fair. You can find out more here.
One last encouragement: Don’t give up! This would be a good verse to write somewhere you’ll see it often:
So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.