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Settling Family Disputes

Professor Dominic Nanni

English 3020: Writing and Community

5 May 2018

Manal Khan

Raveen Mahngar

Table of Contents

Introduction …………………………………………………………………………………… 2

Relevant Information …………………………………………………………………………. 3

Debrief of Break-Out Session ………………………………………………………………… 5

Proposed Plan of Action ……………………………………………………………………… 8

Conclusion …………………………………………………………………………………….12

Works Cited……………………………………………………………………………………15


We often don’t talk about our issues publicly, but everyone has disputes within their

families. Conflict between family members often occur as a result of clashing beliefs and when

people misunderstand each other and jump into wrong conclusions. Coming from a strong South

Asian culture, our family obligation, obedience, and loyalty to our parents’ beliefs in religion,

school, and marriage are paramount. These values differ from our society’s individualistic

culture. Being raised in different cultural contexts leads to intergenerational cultural conflicts

between our first-generation immigrant parents and us being their second-generation children.

We are often expected to sacrifice personal aspirations for family expectations, so we don’t

tarnish our family’s reputation. For example, disputes arise when we desire unconventional

career paths that our parents deem non-prestigious. And if we choose to follow through with a

major our parents would accept, a lack of interest in school and extracurriculars could occur.

The issue of disputes within families is significant because of its ability to cause

emotional distress between family members. In some cases, it can also cause an emotional

disconnect between children and their parents. This can be detrimental to a child’s mental health

if they grow up in an environment that has consistent domestic issues. Without properly

resolving arguments, children will end up suppressing their feelings. Families need conflict

solving techniques because the lack of dialogue causing their conflict is detrimental for their


Family disputes can arise from an endless range of circumstances, and often, if they are

not dealt with in a manner that completely addresses all of the issues and different variables, it

can instead further weaken the relationship by leading to more arguments and resentment

(“Family Conflict”)​.​ While resolving domestic matters, it is vital that peace and understanding

from both parties is present to avoid additional damage. Ronald Reagan once said, “Peace is not

the absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means” (​“Handling Conflict

by Peaceful Means”).​ Communication is a positive means of reducing conflict in a peaceful

manner, and results in agreeing to compromise or agreeing to disagree and move forward as a

family. Our paper will focus on the causes of family disputes and the varying means of settling

these conflicts peacefully.

Relevant Information

Every family experiences disputes and there are several causes to these conflicts.

Conflicts arise during changes in family situations: examples of this include separation and

divorce, moving to a new city, starting a new job or school, and changes in financial

circumstances. These dramatic life changes are difficult for any individual which may cause

fights to erupt within family members. Sibling rivalry is a common family conflict which may

result in jealousy leading to teasing, competition, or verbal and physical abuse. Greater conflicts

arise when a parent favors one of their children over the other (​Caprez).

Family conflict is often inevitable in every household and can be triggered by a number

of things. However, continual disputes in a household can reveal a lack of security and trust.

Typically beginning with the absence of mutual understanding and shared beliefs, animosity

between family members can be a driving force in igniting conflict. Once there is animosity

present in a relationship, it is common for an environment of hostility to occur.

Miscommunication could lead to severing ties with a family member and without open

discussions about how a person is feeling in a particular environment, especially one as


detrimental as their household, it is almost certain that arguments will arise. In some cases,

family disputes are caused by uncontrollable circumstances, like financial setbacks and concerns.

A study conducted by the University of Michigan reported the effect of unemployment on

families. The results showed that families were not prepared ahead of time when there is a period

of unemployment (​Caprez)​. Being a worry for most middle-class families, financial stability

could greatly impact the relationship between family members and it is broad enough to cause a

wide range of worries within a household.

Family disputes emerge from common issues that most families across different

demographics face. Alongside financial concerns, the route parents choose to punish their kids

often sparks heated arguments and tension. If the parent is too tough on their children, they could

begin to retaliate and feel an emotional disconnect from their parents. Conversely, if they are

more lenient, parents may find themselves increasingly frustrated with their children (Gilles).

Another common matter in families today is the lack of trust between children and step parents.

There is typically a difference in how each view one another which could cause conflicts when

questions of discipline arise and the authority a step parent has over a child (Banks).

Some families experience disputes as a result of differing generations or cultures. Parents

who grew up in a different culture often have a difficult time understanding today’s society with

their children. Many times, parents already have an ideal future set for their children which can

result in conflict if their children wish to pursue a different path. Immigrant families experience

disputes due to different views about acculturation (​Revilla). A study published in the U.S.

National Library of Medicine found that families who exhibit high levels of acculturative stress

had more parent to child conflicts and lower levels of family unity (Rivera). According to L.

Robert Kohls, American culture has many unique facets such as Americans tend to live

independently, we communicate directly, honestly, and informally with families and friends, and

we find change a positive improvement than sticking with traditional values (Kohls). These

unique qualities can cause conflict with cultures that place family as a top priority.

Debrief of Break-Out Session

The workshop started with introductions from speakers Professor Francis Jeffries and Dr.

Jessie Rudi. Dr. Jeffries is a Rotary Peace Scholar who studied in Thailand and works closely on

resolving peace through dialogue and conflict resolution. Dr. Rudi, on the other hand, is a

Research Associate at the University of Minnesota where she focuses on family communication

during adolescence and young adulthood in the digital world. The presenters started with how

family is addressed on google: individuals in a family are related by blood and live under the

same household. They then asked the audience how they would define family: the table below

showcases all of their responses.

❏ Messy ❏ Mine, yours, and ours ❏ Trust

❏ Backup/stick together ❏ Step/half siblings ❏ Unit
❏ Love/hate relationship ❏ Patience ❏ Best friends
❏ Peeps ❏ Nurture ❏ Forgiving
❏ Laughter in tears ❏ Crazy ❏ Sibling rivalry
❏ Comfortable ❏ Different personalities ❏ Support system
❏ Expectations ❏ Sisterhood ❏ Different opinions
❏ No privacy ❏ Food ❏ Teamwork
❏ Trauma ❏ Loud ❏ Adoption

The next part of the workshop delved deep into research studies on family conflict.

Family conflict is a natural part of being human and not all conflict is bad. In some cases,

conflict may get you closer to the family member. There was also a study that found chronic

family conflict (such as abuse) leads to a continual negative cycle. This means that children who

are exposed to conflict early in their life will be more at risk to experience more conflict in their

adulthood. The last part of the presenters’ research lecture explored three resilience tips. These

tips include that we need to hear/listen to young people, we need to forgive our past mistakes,

and parents or any positive adults should ask their children how they are doing or what their

aspirations are, so they know there is someone that cares about them.

The research discussed in the workshop prompted many questions from the audience.

One person asked how or if these studies can apply to his family of immigrants. The presenters

admitted that most of the studies done on family conflict are from the United States or developed

European nations. Dr. Rudi mentioned from her exploration of immigrant families that the

difficulty to challenge authority and culture differences is often the cause of family conflict in

immigrant families. Another audience member posed a question about research with the

transgender and LGBTQ community. Dr. Rudi talked about how transgender youth need to feel

that they are being “seen” by family or community members. In order to accomplish this, it is

best to call the child by their preferred name. By making a child feel accepted, you are aiding

their mental health and reducing the chance of them committing suicide.

During the second half of the workshop, the discussion shifted focus on ways to resolve

family disputes with generalized tactics that can be applied to most situations. The following was

handed out on a slip of paper to the audience:

Conflict Resolution Strategies

1. Remember, you’re on the same team. Use team language like “we” and “our”.

2. Use specific statements about behaviors rather than general statements.

3. Listen deeply.

4. Take a break.

5. Apologize first.

6. Notice your family. Compliment them and say thank you.

They emphasized that your actions following an argument is critical in maintaining a

healthy relationship and the tips shared above would help weaken tension between family

members. Their first tip regarding one’s choice of words lets the other person know that you

want to come up with a solution together and are willing to compromise. Most importantly, it lets

them know that you want to resolve this as a team. Responding with statements that are more

general tend to indicate that there is a lack of understanding of the other person’s point of view.

After listening closely to the other person’s concerns, it is important to respond with specific

statements to demonstrate that you understood their argument and also to reveal your worries.

Specifics help give more detail to both parties on how they can resolve the issue and what the

main concern for each person is.

The presenters also discussed the benefits of taking a break from the argument to reflect

and dilute the tension between both parties. They mentioned how this tip works best after going

back and forth and reaching no common ground, and that some time apart can be crucial in

resolving arguments since prolonged argument can lead to saying things you do not mean. They

also went into detail on how crucial it is to apologize first after taking a break from the situation.

According to the presenters, apologizing first, even if you do not believe you are in the wrong,

lets the other know that you have put thought into the argument and are willing to put aside your

opinions and concerns to focus on repairing the relationship. Lastly, they discussed how to help

prevent any other future disputes and have a stronger bond with your family. A vital tip

regarding this is complimenting your family and noticing small details in their life to let them

know that you are concerned on their well-being. By praising them on their accomplishments

you are validating their worth and strengthening both your bond and trust.

Proposed Plan of Action

The issue of family conflict is personal. Most families don’t feel comfortable talking

about conflicts at home with friends or strangers. While there are psychologists available to help

lead to a resolution, they are very expensive. In most cases, it costs $100 per session/hour which

is not affordable for lower income families. So, it is important that families have a set of

strategies to resolve their issues at home. From our research and presence at the Peace in the

Streets Conference, our proposed plan of action consists of discussion, deliberation and our

recommendations for resolving conflicts at home.

From Grace Lee Boggs novel, ​The Next American Revolution​, her discussion of

dialectical thinking is relevant to resolving family conflicts. Dialectical thinking is the awareness

that reality is constantly changing, and that new and more challenging contradictions initiate

change. As humans, we’re constantly striving to overcome contradictions or negativity in our

lives that arise from struggles. An example of contradictions faced within families is the

differing views between teenagers and their parents. When parents don’t agree with their child’s

values or actions, disputes arise where a parent may dictate what their child needs to believe or

do. This may be due to the generational gap between parents and children where there may be a

lack of understanding for one another. In order to resolve such conflict, we suggest families use

the idea of dialectical thinking. Those who are victims, in this case the children, must initiate the

conversation with their parents. It is the “victims” that are striving for freedom which requires

discussion and deliberation to create new ideas and understandings with others. Parents and

children need to talk to each other about their values and reach an understanding of one another’s

feelings. Parents must also realize that change is inevitable. It’s better to come to an

understanding than attempt to aggressively force your ideas onto others.

Families can also attempt to resolve their issues through one simple phrase: [r]evolution.

Through revolving and evolving, family members can understand themselves and the other party.

Revolution involves dialogue participation from both parties that are arguing. It means being

open to change to form progress in this conflict. On the other hand, evolution is growing

individually. It’s taking in all that meaningful discussion and considering your role in the

conflict. Is there something that you were right about? Is there something you need to change or

understand? The change, progress, and participation that comes with [r]evolution is a simple but

effective concept to form a cohesive understanding.

Conflicts at home are often the most challenging to face because of the emotions

involved. While each family may have their own way of dealing with disputes, Dr. Aldo Civico

says using his Perspective Triangle Strategy may be helpful to lead to a resolution. His strategy

is similar to Bogg’s sayings of resolving conflict through discussion. The first step to the

Perspective Triangle Strategy is knowing your own perspective. This requires you to be more

self-aware and start asking yourself what’s really bothering you. While family disputes might be

about a specific issue, you may be feeling bothered by something that’s much deeper. So, it's

important to get clarity on the issue. The second step requires you to understand the other’s

perspective. You need to suspend your own beliefs and try to see the situation you’re confronting

from the other person. This means having empathy and having a better understanding of the issue

at hand. Lastly, step three is imagining yourself as an observer looking at the situation you’re

involved in. This third party’s perspective allows you to think about some advice you can give

yourself (Civico). The Perspective Triangle Strategy allows you to get a broader understanding

of the conflict, so you are better able to resolve relationships with others.

After considering the Perspective Triangle Strategy, it would then be helpful to follow

generalized tips that could help in a variety of disputes. In Diana Mercer’s, ​Making Divorce

Work​, she focuses on eight techniques that are applicable in most family dispute situations:

The 8 Keys to Resolving Family Conflict (Mercer):

1. Be hard on the problem, not the people.

2. Understand that acknowledging and listening are not the same as obeying

3. Use “I” statements

4. Give the benefit of the doubt.

5. Have awkward conversations in real time.

6. Keep the conversation going. Life is a dialogue.

7. Ask yourself “Would I rather be happy, or right?”

8. Be easy to talk to.

Similar to the tip the presenters gave at the conference, Mercer’s second key

acknowledges the importance of having an understanding of the other person’s argument, rather

than simply listening. Responding with genuine concern can lead to more honest discussion and

increase trust between both parties. This also ties with the fourth key, giving the benefit of the

doubt, even if you are sure you are right. This tip can often be accomplished after taking time

apart to reflect on the argument and can also result from using the Perspective Triangle Strategy

explained above. Along with key four, key seven also is easily accomplished from taking a break

from either the environment or the other person. Distance is essential in providing time to

properly assess any concerns over the matter at hand.

There are endless suggestions on how to resolve domestic issues internally, but there

comes a point where therapy is the next best option. However, most of the time therapy is not

feasible due to financial or time constraints. Because of this, there needs to be a greater focus on

community services that can either offer help to individual families or provide group sessions

that discuss ways to prevent arguments and how to resolve brewing domestic issues. There

should be more funding towards family counseling in communities along with proficient social

workers who can guide families in solving any complex troubles. Not only would this help the

situation present in a family, but also strengthen their bond and prevent further damage. This

would be most beneficial since families would get personalized input, rather than in a

collaborative group counseling session where tips would most likely be similar to generalized

keys like Mercer’s. However, group community counseling could also have its own benefits. It

would be far more practical from a financial standpoint, giving more incentive for communities

to join. Additionally, it would give families insight on how common domestic issues are.

Communities could introduce activities such as talking in groups alongside a social

worker/specialized community employee and others similar in age to discuss hypothetical family

disputes and how to solve them, then apply it to their own dilemmas. Both funding for social

workers designated to deal specifically with disputes amongst households and group community

counseling would be a proactive in solving these issues when they cannot be handled internally.

The nationwide concern over family disputes could be eased with family laws placed to

improve stability within families before filing any domestic cases. In Australia, the Family Law

Act of 2006 said that before filing any cases, parents must do everything to resolve the dispute.

This is verified by completing a family dispute resolution (FDR), and in some cases a family

mediator is required before going to court. Following the law, the number of the reported

domestic cases annually decreased (​“Family Dispute Resolution”​). By passing a law similar to

this in the United States, families will have more pressure to resolve disputes before taking any

issues to court. A family mediator would help give a third-party perspective and allow both

parties to determine if the conflict is worth escalating to the court system.


The reality exists that family disputes occur, and they are difficult to deal with because of

the emotions involved. Having strong emotional distress between family members can be

unhealthy, causing issues in mental health or domestic abuse. From our experience with family

disputes, the intergenerational cultural conflict makes it difficult for us and our parents to

understand one another. Too often, we suppress our feelings instead of being upfront with them

with our family. Communication is the key to reducing conflict in a heartfelt manner. From

researching family conflict and attending the Peace in the Streets Conference, we’ve gained

valuable insight and tips that we can apply to our own lives when disputes occur.

The lack of dialogue is the leading cause of miscommunication resulting with families

arguing. One of the biggest takeaways from our workshop at the Peace in the Streets Conference

is that active discussion is the key to resolving conflict. As difficult as it may be for some people,

your emotions need to come out and be addressed in front of the other party. The most common

arguments occur between parents and their children. From the conference, we learned that

children need to feel like someone cares about their feelings. Parents need to hear them out and

listen to their children and forgive them if the mistake is theirs. It is equally important to provide

positive reinforcement, so children see that their aspirations are being acknowledged. The actions

of both parents and children need to be reciprocal. Children need to clearly address their feelings

with their parents, and parents need to be willing to listen. Most families would believe the

opposite, that children need to listen, and parents need to set the expectations. However, some

young children feel their parents’ commands are an enmity to their own feelings. Having a

reciprocal relationship creates an open environment for emotions to be heard and an opportunity

to understand the cause of the dispute.

Family disputes are triggered by differing variables and often similar issues start

conflicts. These examples include: divorce, moving, new jobs or schools, and financial concerns.

A common thread within these examples is significant life changes, thus revealing that these

families have a lack of security and trust amongst its members. When facing hardships, external

or internal, it is important to have a secure bond, whether there are differences in opinion or not.

This is especially important when worries regarding financial stability are present, without trust

and stability, it is difficult to recover from financial concerns. The route a parent chooses to

punish their children could also cause retaliation, thus sparking animosity and tension. If parents

are strict with their household rules, it could cause severe resentment from the children and a

lack of trust between them could occur. Although these only a few reasons, these examples are

often what many family disputes tend to stem from.

Due to high costs of psychologists, family therapists, and the inconvenience factor, a

change of perspective and generalized tips could help tremendously in resolving household

arguments. As taught by Grace Lee Boggs, if we do not recognize our roles in the family

dynamic, we shy away from discussing our true feelings. Looking at the situation from the

other’s perspective is essential in analyzing it with a more unbiased mindset, which the

Perspective Triangle Strategy goes into detail about. After taking a break and understanding the

position of the other person, helpful tips to remedying the dispute is recommended. The

importance of comprehending both sides of the argument and making compromises is key to

repairing any arguments. When disputes escalate to a point where mending the relationship

seems impossible, external help from therapists or mediators can be extremely helpful, thus there

must be more government presence in resolving family disputes. By helping at the community

level, families get one on one assistance, while at the government level, laws can be passed to

minimize issues going to the court level. Although family disputes are deemed taboo and kept

private, all families experience them and resolving them through actions that display

understanding and care are key to strengthening bonds between family members and preventing

future conflicts.

Works Cited

Banks, K. Lee. “4 Causes of Family Conflict.” ​LIVESTRONG.COM​, Leaf Group, 25 May


Caprez, Judy. “Many Things Can Cause Conflicts in Today's Families.” ​The Hays Daily News​,

The Hays Daily News, 26 Feb. 2016,

Civico, Aldo. “3 Steps to Resolving Conflict Within Your Family.” ​Psychology Today​, Sussex

Publishers, 4 June 2015,


“Family Conflict.” ​Better Health Channel​, Department of Health & Human Services, 21 Aug.


“Family Dispute Resolution.” ​Child Family Community Australia​,

Gilles, Gary. “Navigating Different Types of Conflict Between Parents and Children.” ​Family

& Relationship Issues​, Mental Health Care Gracepoint,


“Handling Conflict by Peaceful Means.” ​United States Institute of Peace​, 30 May 2017,

Kohls, L. Robert. “The Values Americans Live By.” ​Fordham​, n.d.

Mercer, Diana. “The 8 Keys to Resolving Family Conflict.” ​ - Find Mediators -

World's Leading Mediation Information Site​,

Revilla, Lauri. “Family Conflict Examples.” ​Livestrong​, Leaf Group, 13 June 2017,

Rivera, Fernando I., et al. “Family Cohesion and Its Relationship to Psychological Distress

among Latino Groups.” ​Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences​, U.S. National Library

of Medicine, 2008,