reviewed 3/14/2018

Family conflict: True or false?

From spousal spats to parent-teen tiffs, arguments are a part of every relationship. See how much you know about managing family conflict.

True or false: Arguments and fights are signs of an unhealthy family dynamic.

False. Every family argues from time to time. In fact, families who never seem to argue may simply be avoiding thorny issues—and that can be an unhealthy way to deal with conflict. As long as arguments are respectful and solution-focused, they can be a healthy way to communicate. And good communication can strengthen relationships.

True or false: If people disagree, they should hash it out right then and there.

False. Sometimes it's OK to drop an argument, at least for the time being. For instance, name-calling, shouting and ridiculing someone are all signs to stop. If this happens, you might try discussing the issue another day, after everyone has had a chance to calm down. Or you might just agree to disagree.

True or false: It's OK for kids to disagree with their parents.

True. For kids, disagreeing with a parent can be a healthy part of growing up. Kids need to know their thoughts and feelings count. Letting them argue their point (and win if they are persuasive) has another benefit: It teaches kids that fights can be resolved with words. However, it's up to parents to carefully pick their battles—and to set boundaries.

True or false: Other family members shouldn't take sides.

False. Alliances occur in many families—and often people don't realize they're ganging up. For instance, a mother and a daughter might take sides against a father and son in a dispute. This can be harmless, normal behavior—as long as family members don't always take the same sides or experience strained relationships as a result.

True or false: Children learn to handle conflict from their parents.

True. Parents are role models—including when it comes to handling conflict successfully. It's good to keep this in mind. For one thing, it's best when kids see that their parents don't stay angry. It's also important to teach them about empathy and compromise—resolving conflict does not mean always getting your way.

Every family fights. Focusing on the problem—not the people—can help make sure those arguments end positively.

Learn more about family health

Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics; HelpGuide.org; National Association of Social Workers

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