The Essence of Good Relations Is Fair Fighting

A Reflection From The GRAPES Regarding The Essence of Good Relations with Family

Your companions are like buttons on an elevator. They will either take you up or take you down.
“He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.” Proverbs 13:20 –from God’s Little Devotional Book

When GRAPES members (Our teen therapy group, held on Tuesday evenings from 7 to 8pm) were recently asked about the top things they believe should not happen when parents and teens are in conflict, their appeals included:

  • “Never bring up stuff from the past!” In other words, if it happened in the past leave it in the past and don’t hold it over my head now.
  • “Don’t overreact about stuff” and blow the situation out of proportion; basically, don’t major in minors!
  • “Don’t compare me to other people” in the family – it feels like a put-down and doesn’t motivate me to change.
  • “Don’t insult others or say things personal like, “I hate you … you are a jerk …”
  • “Don’t mumble.”
  • “Don’t get physical – don’t hit or throw things.”
  • “Don’t take your anger out on someone else!” Essentially, take care of your anger before you direct it at someone who is not truly the source of your frustrations simply because they are the “safer” person.

The wishes of the teens above are very common and are a lot like the pleas I’ve heard over the years when counseling other young adults and adults alike. So, what have we been modeling to our teens? Can we expect our kids to possess effective communication and conflict management if day after day they are witnessing unfair fighting and ineffective engagements? The interactions I have witnessed over the years in my counseling practice inspired me to come up with a list of the top 10 unfair fighting moves commonly made in conflict.

So, let’s consider for a moment your normal interactions with your family members. Peruse the sample of fair fighting rules below and notice how many you have violated in the past or are engaged in presently.

Sample of Top 10 Unfair Fighting Moves
(found in Rock Solid Parenting: Secrets of an Effective Parent)

  • Put-downs — Labeling, name calling, insulting, sarcastic remarks, etc. *Communicated directly, indirectly, or mumbled.
  • Dominating — Hitting, yelling, throwing things, etc.
  • Multiple Topics at a time — Bringing-up unresolved issues from the past or multiple topics at once
  • “D” moves — Intimidator style of fighting such as being demeaning, domineering or dogmatic. Or, the distancing style of fighting; where you intentionally, or unintentionally, try to control another through isolating yourself from the person for long periods of time, or, become passive and give the silent or nearly silent treatment, in an effort to hope they will “get it … get it together…”
  • “You, you, you”– Focusing mainly on what you want the other person to change or do.
  • Fighting to the point where you forget the main topic or purpose
  • Assuming — Initially taking over and jumping to conclusions before gathering all the facts.
  • Bringing-up others such as siblings or friends in an effort to pressure the person to change.
  • Fighting for hours, all night, or for days — With no timeouts or reaching out to people who truly can help (youth pastors, counselors, etc.).
  • “It’s my way or the highway/no way!”

One of the most common reactions I encounter from individuals after they read the top 10 unfair fighting moves is a humble snicker and a comment such as: “I do many of these…obviously I need to do better, but what in the world can I do?” We clearly never intend to be thoughtless and careless with others, but unintentionally we are. So, if after reading this article you feel you need to work on your communication and conflict resolution skills feel free to reach out to someone here at The Summit or begin reading books like, The Anger Solution by John Lee or Rock Solid Parenting.