Cultures around the world place a high value on honoring parents. In fact, many cultures place a higher value on increased age than Western cultures, such as the United States. For example, “old man,” is not a bad word in the Greek world. In many cultures such as Native American, Asian, and in India, elders are expected to have the wisdom to pass down to the younger generation. *1
So, what happens when conflicts occur between parents and adult children? For example, what if parents want their children to choose a certain career path, pick a spouse, or live in a certain place that their adult child does not want to follow? Then what? How can one honor their parents and still disagree on life decisions?
Sometimes conflict is “solved” by one dominating or obliging the other. Sometimes, people avoid conflict by not talking about it. Some families are able to talk through their difficulties and compromise. The method people have of solving these conflicts is embedded in their family style and culture.
One key element is to seek to understand the underlying needs of parents and adult children. Are there financial concerns that the parents have? Are there issues of honor or control that need to be addressed?
Here then are a few guidelines in approaching parents.
- Seek to understand. Put aside your own interests in the beginning of the conversation and ask the parent, “Why is this important to you?” Figure out what they need. Though it may be a test of your patience, listen and restate their concerns. Make sure your understanding is complete. What may be involved is your parent’s history with their parents. You may be able to find what motivates their demands. Is it fear, shame, guilt, or pride?
- Then respectfully, tell your parents what is your desire and perspective. Do not shame them or blame them for past offenses. Explain how you feel.
- Ask for their help in coming to a compromise. This will take humility, time and probably many conversations. It will mean asking, “What are your ideas for solving this problem that would satisfy both of us?” Identifying their needs and desires in step one will help in finding solutions.
- Ask for help from others. Are there people in your lives that could give suggestions, people that could help both you and your parents? Research further objective information, like financial or career statistics, that will help both of you make better-informed decisions.
- Pray. Not even with the best intentions is every conflict solved. Sometimes these conflicts take more wisdom and patience than we feel we or our parents have. There is no shame in asking God for help.
Not every conflict is completely solvable. But by growing in your listening skills to understand your personal and parental needs, you can take steps in the right direction.