How to Reconcile Family Differences

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr Google

    Every family has its share of disagreements and disputes. Working through family conflict can bring you closer together, according to Will Cunningham, counselor and author of “How to Enjoy a Family Fight.” Finding a solution where everyone wins is best for any family or marital conflict, says Cunningham, because if there is a single winner, someone lost. Losing the conflict can create anger and hard feelings that result in more disharmony.

    Identify Differences

    Sometimes the problem that launches the conflict isn’t the real issue, according to financial consultant Ron Blue writing for Focus on the Family, a global Christian ministry dedicated to helping families thrive. Perhaps your child has refused to cooperate all day in various small matters and then upsets a glass of milk that kicks off an explosion. It’s easy to focus on spilled milk when the real issue is anger and frustration. Identify what your real differences are and deal with the root rather than a single leaf on the plant. You might say that it isn’t really about the milk, as much as how you feel about her behavior. Ask her what’s going on with her and why she’s having a difficult day.

    Stay in the Present

    It helps to get everything on the table as it pertains to this conflict, without bringing up past issues, counsels Cunningham. Avoid sweeping statements that begin with “you always” or “you never.” Admit and take responsibility for your actions and emotions when the conflict occurs. You could admit that you’re frustrated by her behavior and your response to her behavior. Apologize for not dealing with your frustration and her behavior before it led to a conflict.

    Brainstorm Solutions

    The best solutions are those that you can both embrace, writes Blue. Perhaps you both need a time-out or to do something fun to dispel the frustration. Sorting your priorities can help, suggests Carl Pickhardt, Ph.D. in a Psychology Today article entitled “Varieties of Family Conflict in Adolescence.” Let your family member know what you most need her to do at this moment or what she needs to determine the next move. If the problem is that she had a fight with her teacher, perhaps laying aside your frustration over her behavior to listen to her feelings and frustration can clear the air enough to bring her peace and solace, leading to cooperation and peace with you.


    Gentle and loving physical touch can encourage forgiveness and reconciliation between family members. Ruffle your child’s hair, pat him on the back, hug him or whatever he will allow, suggests Dr. Gary Smalley, a parenting and relationship expert, in his parenting curriculum, “Homes of Honor.” Admit your mistakes and ask for forgiveness if you’ve over-reacted, acted inappropriately or escalated the problem. Affirm your love and your desire to live peacefully with your family.

    Outside Help

    When you can’t resolve family issues alone, get professional help. Talk to a counselor or seek out a mediator who can provide an objective opinion. It may only take one session to identify solutions to the problem if everyone is willing to work cooperatively.


    About the Author

    Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

    Photo Credits

    • Images