Question: Confronting Your Parents



Anonymous asked:

I’m suicidal and I need help, I realize that. But my mom verbally abuses me and my dad just ignores what’s happening. Also, I don’t have any friends I can trust. Anyway, my family can’t afford counseling, so how do I tell my parents, respectfully, that they are kind of ruining me and to please stop? I’ve prayed that God fixes my family and to give me strength to stand up to them, but nothing has happened yet /:

 

Thanks for being honest here and I’m really sorry about what’s happening. I’m glad you recognize your need for help; most people don’t.

The hard thing is: you’ll eventually need to have the huge direct conversation with your parents about how you feel. It’s going to take some messy dramatic arguments to move forward, and there’s really no way around it. The longer you delay, the more you’ll bottle up resentment, which will keep hurting you.

I’m often asked “what it looks like” to have this conversation with family, as if there’s some clean ideal method with a neat bowtie resolution.  That only happens on sitcoms.  It’s actually going to look like: snot, tears, slammed doors, ugly cry-face, and horrible hurting words. 

 

While it’s possible that you could have a very nice chat with no meltdowns, it will most likely be the opposite. I wouldn’t expect this is going to look pretty, structured, or done with a three-point formula.  Anyone looking through your window on a family argument will likely think you’re all insane. It doesn’t matter how mature you’ve become – family has a way of turning you into a crazy banshee.

Please let me tell you what not to do. When I look back, I did tons of stupid things to show my parents how I really felt. When I was sixteen, I literally ran away from home: I packed a backpack in the middle of the night and walked ten hours on the interstate to a friend’s house.  I specifically did it to hurt my parents.

What I didn’t realize until later is that I was being a coward.  I was “acting out” in spontaneous rebellion instead of having a real conversation with them. I really should’ve just twisted my parents’ arms to sit down with me and listen.  Even after I made all these dramatic gestures, I still had to talk with my parents anyway.

 

In the end, you’ll have to initiate conversation with persistence. 

You just have to talk to them, even if it will turn your house upside-down.

Certainly you already know that you’re supposed to speak in a “loving tone” and to be gracious and humble and respectful.  You’re smart enough to know not to raise your voice or call names or interrupt.  But sometimes parents don’t recognize that.  It doesn’t mean they’re bad; it just means that “Christianese” won’t always cut it. And in the end, even a discussion that begins so rationally can always explode in an instant.

Your parents do recognize a mature loving attitude, but they will ultimately respond to conviction and courage over a long period of time. 

It takes courage to tell your parents that they could be doing a better job for you.  It takes courage to say, “This is not okay.”  Eventually they will have to hear you out and find a better way to do things.  Even if not, then at least you tried: and you still need to be able to speak up for yourself for the rest of your life.

You might not be the most straightforward person and I understand the fear of speaking up, but with family: you can’t really hold back on the truth. You can’t leave words unsaid.  Show them you mean business and you refuse to move on until they listen. 

The fear says they might not listen or you’ll be humiliated or rejected — and maybe this is true for today.  But day after day, this is why you must keep trying.  Push through the fear.  Even halfway good parents will recognize persistence. 

You might be with them at dinner or on a weekend or on a car ride. When you do talk with them, they might push you away. That’s part of the process: keep trying.

They might cry in self-pity and blame themselves and go into victim-mode, but that’s part of the process: keep trying.

They might blow up and throw things or say you’re wrong and call you ungrateful, but that’s part of the process: keep trying.

God and time itself will do their work.  There might be weeks where you feel terrible — but keep trying.  It’s better than holding it in.

 

I’m not sure if your family is Christian or not, but I’ve found that having a Christian family is no guarantee of good communication, and vice versa. I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, so when it came time to announce I was going to be a pastor, it was another painful conversation.  But unless they’re always physically abusing you or actively opposed to your faith, then they will hear you out. You still need to just talk to them.

I know plenty of Christians who have to “disobey” their parents in a godly way, and I completely understand that – but there will be TONS of things that your parents agree with or disagree with, whether they are Christian or not. You still need to just talk to them.

That’s what it takes. Slobbery, snot-filled, red-eyed, ugly-faced conversation. 

I’ll throw you a prayer, and please feel free to message me any time.

— J.S.

4 thoughts on “Question: Confronting Your Parents

  1. This is so helpful. I was in a similar place once upon a time. The convo was NOT pretty, it hurt my folks, but I persevered. Honesty, as my mother told me later, is not a wrong thing to communicate. It just isn’t always NICE.

    But NICE is not the goal. Honesty will, in the long run, be the best thing to happen.

    Thank you for your wisdom and my best to your correspondent.

    Like

    1. Exactly. I think most of us see things day by day, and with family it feels like one argument is the end of the world. Family relationships are like a long mosaic or marathon, where the big picture requires that perseverance. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

      Like

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