Feb 082021 2 Responses

The Number One Cause of Family Fights

What causes fights in your family?

At our house, the little fights are over:

  • Who didn’t rinse off their plate and put it in the dishwasher
  • How much electronic time is allowed
  • The tone of voice used when talking to one another

The cause of the big fights are:

  • saved for the ears of the professional counselor

What about you? What causes the fights, especially the big fights?

I bet I can guess. The normal guesses are money, communication, social media, expectations, work, parenting, etc. All of those are fair thoughts and are at play in the average fight. Yet they aren’t the cause. They are simply the symptom of something deeper.

The number one cause of family fights is unstated values.

Everyone has values. There are no such thing as value-less people. We all have things in our lives which are important to us and which we give more weight in comparison to other things. While many of our values are similar–we all value health, family, friends, money, fun, etc.–not everyone gives equal weight to each of these things. We value them at different levels and in differing orders. These nuanced differences in how much we value things create tensions. And because our values are unstated, we never realize the differences exist.

The Wrong Assumptions

Because our values are unstated, we often don’t even recognize their impact on our lives. We don’t realize that we have made choices and we clearly don’t consider that others could make different choices than us. Instead, we just assume that the things we care about are the things that everyone cares about. We believe that the order in which we place the important things is the order in which everyone should place the important things. But of course, that simply isn’t true.

Notice two false assumptions:

  1. We assume there is a right way to prioritize life. There isn’t.
  2. We assume others prioritize life in the same order in which we do. They don’t.

While we could argue over what is a morally right order of life, there are many things that don’t necessarily have a right or wrong order. We simply have to choose what we are going to give more weight to. Want a career more than a family? Put in the long hours rather than having kids. Desire a healthy marriage more than money? Make sure you regularly sacrifice for your career for your spouse rather than vice-versa.

The beauty of life is we get to pick what is important to us and then choose to spend energy where we desire.

The problem is that we often don’t recognize we are doing this. Our values go unstated which means at times we are giving our lives to things that aren’t important to us. (Imagine the song Cats in the Cradle or Buy Me a Rose.) But it also means we just assume everyone prioritizes life the same way we do. Failing to recognize the weight we give things, we simply believe everyone orders life the same way. They don’t. Not everyone values their children the way you do. Not everyone longs for a family vacation or has memories of great family holidays.

My values are not your values. It doesn’t mean mine are right and yours are wrong. It just means they are different. And the differences are often unnoticed. But what is seen are the tensions those competing values create.

Family Tensions

Most family tensions (not all, but most) are the result of competing values.

A teenager wants more freedom, but a parent wants to protect their child. They fight about curfew, but the issue is the competing values of freedom vs. safety.

A husband wants connection, but a wife wants rest. They fight over sex, but the issue is different values in the moment.

A grandmother wants to keep traditions going while the new daughter-in-law wants to create memories for her children. They fight over Christmas plans, but the real issue is family tradition vs. childhood memories.

In most cases what a family is fighting about is not the actual issue. Instead, there are unstated values which are influencing conversations and decisions.

So What?

So what can a family do. The big skill we need to learn is to recognize the presence of values in our lives and the lives of others. We must be able to identify them within our lives and help others see them as well.

Yet this is a skill developed over time, what is the first step we need to take?

We need to identify our own values. Imagine the possibility when a family has clearly defined and stated values. Consider the tension which can be avoided if we do the work now to decide what matters most to us. Then when big decisions (and small ones) need to be made, we will have a lens through which to make those decisions.

Start Here

In light of this need–to clarify our values–that I have created the Family Values Scripter. I have created a step by step process to help you and your family define what matters most to you. Through a simple and fun process, you can clarify who you want to be and state the values that will lead you there.

And the good news is that this scripter is absolutely free. It is my gift to you for ordering my book Fearless Families. Just order the book and then type your receipt number HERE and I’ll send you the scripter. You can then plan a family night or date night with your spouse (or do the exercise by yourself) in order to be on your way to creating a clear set of family values.




2 Responses to The Number One Cause of Family Fights
  1. […] The values alleviate tension. Most family tension results from unstated values. By clarifying what w... https://www.kevinathompson.com/the-thompson-family-rules

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