Conflict with Parents: Getting them to Listen

Unfortunately, we CANNOT make anyone listen to us, no less our parents; but we can do some things to promote a possibility where this can take place. Let’s consider some of those now.

There are those parents who feel that it is NOT their job to listen to their children since they are the parents. They are the instructors and the children are the followers. This can cause great conflict with parents. I grew up in a family where children should be seen and not heard. I also grew up in a home where there was a parent who grew up in an alcoholic home. The rules for that type of home were not to talk about problems and to deny one’s emotions. Also there was the implication that we children had no right to disagree with the parental opinion. Doing so showed disrespect. These types of principles being the rules of the house made it very difficult for a discussion to take place.


Jeff VanVonderen (img credit:

However, in a family “where grace is in place” (Jeff Van Vonderen) there is the freedom to talk about disagreements and to find solutions. Parents who realize that their duty is not to demand obedience but to train their child to be able to make healthy choices for their life use a different approach. That is not to say that the child needs equality with the parent or that the child-parent relationship is one where we are ‘friends’. Many problems are caused when parents believe that they need the approval of their children and do only what their children want them to do. In this sense they are abdicating their parental responsibility.

We can approach our parents in humility and grace and ask them if they are willing to talk about a particular issue. We need to use “I” statements not “you” statements to describe the reason for the talk. One might say “I feel hurt when you raise you voice at me.” And/or “I would like to have our discussions to occur in a softer voice and tone.”

Most parents when approached in a kind manner will respond in a kind manner especially if you are asking for help. We can share how another’s behavior impacts our life. We can say that when “this” occurs I feel you are rejecting me. “I need to know that you love me.” “Are there times when I exhibit behavior that cause you to get frustrated with me?”

When we acknowledge that we might participate in the response we show that we are participating in the solution. We can confirm that we love them. We have the opportunity to make it the best relationship possible.

I remember having a similar problem involving my dad. My mom had already done some prep with him and told him to listen to me. Thankfully, he followed her advice. He was shocked to hear about my pain. He asked if he could do something different to change the situation. He agreed to try some new solutions. Did that mean that he consistently followed our plan? NO! When he would offend again I would kindly ask him if we could get back to our plan. At times, due to my hurt and pain and his offensive nature I had to tell him that I needed to have a break and asked if we could talk later. This is called setting boundaries. Not all parents are willing to acknowledge our boundaries so we need to remove ourselves from the situation and try later. Unfortunately, there are situations where parents need to be avoided if they are constantly offending us. This is difficult since we grow up with the expectation that our parents will always be there for us. It is a dream that will not be fulfilled and we need to grieve its loss. As time goes on they might be willing to reconsider and we can test the relationship by reaching out to them. We have an expression that “hurt people hurt people”. Many times people cannot get beyond this hurt to change their perspective.

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Once a person approached me and told me that her mom was sick. She had never heard her mother say that she loved her. I arranged a time where the three of us talked about the situation. The mother came to the meeting but said that she could not comply with the suggestion to confirm her love to her daughter. Her excuse was that her mother had not told her that she loved her. This model did not help this mother with her pain, but still convinced her that she could not demonstrate that behavior either. To my knowledge this daughter never heard her mother say that she was loved.

Not approaching our loved ones with a request to deepen our relationship is NOT a solution to this problem. We must try in humility to bridge the gap; but, we cannot guarantee a positive outcome because it involves another’s will, which we cannot control. People go to the grave with great relationship pain left unresolved. Trying to find common ground through gentle speech and respect gives us an opportunity to find ways to connect better; even if we need to agree to disagree.

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