Q&A: Questions and Answers

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    Answers are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.

    I am usually kind and considerate around my friends, but as soon as I come home I find myself in a bad mood, ready to pick a fight. I argue with my parents about everything and fly into a rage over the smallest things. I don’t want to be this way, but I can’t seem to help it. How do I change?

    New Era Answer:

    Your situation is surprisingly common. We often treat other people better than we treat our own families because we know other people won’t put up with our bad behavior for long. If we continually sulk, pout, or snap at friends, they will probably choose to not be our friends anymore.

    It’s not that simple with families, however. A brother can’t choose to stop being a brother no matter how miserable an older sister makes him! The knowledge that parents and siblings generally won’t stop being our parents and siblings—no matter how badly we act—makes us feel safe. Home becomes a place where we can vent our frustrations and still be accepted.

    The problem comes when we are always irritable at home. “My son saves all his good qualities for other people,” complained one mother, “and brings the bad ones home for us.” Leesa, a Laurel, will never forget the day her mother took her aside to talk about the way Leesa treated her set of young twin brothers. “They may be your brothers,” Leesa’s mother told her, “but that doesn’t mean they have to like you.” Leesa was shocked. It had never occurred to her that some of her family members might not like her very much as a person.

    You deserve praise for spotting this type of pattern in your own life and wanting to change it. Like Leesa, too many young people who are often grouchy at home don’t even realize how unpleasant they are making things for other family members. And even if they do, they refuse to accept responsibility for their actions, preferring to blame everyone else (especially parents) for their behavior instead. Recognition is the first step toward change. Here are a few more suggestions for improving the quality of life on your home front.

    1. Learn to handle stress in positive ways. Most teenagers have a fairly high degree of stress in their lives. Schoolwork, family responsibilities, church commitments, friendships, part-time jobs—all of these things can create stress. Yelling, pouting, and picking fights at home are all ways of responding to this stress. In the long run, however, these negative behaviors create more problems than they solve. When was the last time you felt really great after slamming your bedroom door and sulking for an hour? Try some constructive approaches instead.

    Terry, for example, found it helped to talk with her mother about her day—its rewards and frustrations—as soon as she got home. Greg, on the other hand, needed time alone in his bedroom for a while. Dave took long bike rides with a friend, while Jeff played frisbee in the park with his golden retriever. Marcia liked to do needlepoint because the action of making a neat row of regular stitches soothed her nerves. The point is to find something that helps you relieve stress in a positive way.

    2. Isolate the situations that cause you to respond badly. It may be that you can eliminate some of the situations at home that “set you off.” And if you can’t eliminate them, you can at least try to work around them. Kathy usually flew into a rage when she walked through the door from school because her mother started to ask her questions. They were perfectly legitimate, friendly questions, but Kathy resented them and she responded by snapping at her mother. Afterwards she always felt bad.

    Kathy and her mother talked about the problem and decided that Kathy needed a “time-out” period as soon as she got home from school. They figured out that Kathy resented her mother’s questions because she had just spent an entire day answering to teachers and friends. What Kathy needed was time to herself. Kathy and her mother decided that Kathy, an accomplished musician, should be free to come home and play the piano for a while before assuming responsibilities at home.

    Like Kathy, you may want to enlist your parent’s help in isolating problem situations. More often than not, they will be eager for you to succeed and will happily give you the support you need.

    3. Eat well and get enough exercise and rest. Many teens believe that they have energy to burn. They work hard and they play hard—and they mistakenly believe they can fuel their activity with bad food and too little sleep. No wonder they’re grumpy by the end of the day! You owe it to yourself and to the other people in your family to exercise, to eat right, and to get enough sleep. You’ll be amazed at how much better you can cope when you feel well.

    One last thing. There is nothing magical about these suggestions. They won’t help unless you really want to change. Pray to your Heavenly Father. Ask him to help you find the desire in your own heart to behave in a loving manner at home.

    And then do it!

    Youth Answers:

    It has been said that you love those you serve. If you find ways to serve your family members, even if it’s just small favors, you will find that you are more compassionate toward them. This should greatly improve your relationships at home.

    Kevin M. Gildea, 19 Pierce City, Missouri

    I know exactly what you’re talking about. I thought I must be a terrible person to be so friendly and nice to my friends and so insensitive to my family. I heard this saying: “If you treated your friends like you treat your family, would you have any friends?” And I really started thinking about my situation. Then I considered each member of my family separately, finding things other than relation that we had in common. I found that my four little sisters, my older brother, and I have a lot in common, All of us love sports, My sisters and I love dancing. None of us likes to practice piano. We all love Mexican food, and none of us likes to fight. Also, I started to smile whenever any one of them would look at me, and I started including them in some of my activities, and now we really have some good times together. I hope you find a solution because families really are a lot of fun—if you take the time to get to know them.

    Darcie Christian, 15 St. George, Utah

    Try to deal with disappointments as they occur during the day. Don’t try to hide your feelings behind a “kind and considerate” front. If you’re working hard to maintain a certain image in front of your friends, by the time you get home you may be tired of acting on your best behavior. Feelings that you’ve repressed come out easily when you let your guard down. Because you know your family loves you, you may not fear losing them, whereas you may feel insecure about relationships with peers.

    You might want to take one day and pretend that your family members are your peers. Then try it for another day. Maybe in time they will become your friends as well.

    Elizabeth Downing, 17 Sewell, New Jersey

    Remember what your parents have given you. Even make a list. Soon you will realize that you could fill up countless sheets of paper and still not have finished that amazing list.

    Try to realize how much they love you and how much it hurts them when you argue and fight with them.

    Jared St. Clair, 16 Bountiful, Utah

    I used to be the same way. I reserved my best behavior for people I didn’t live with and let my family have what was left over. My mom and I fought constantly for years. I exploded over stupid things, and I was grouchy all the time. I’m a little older now and married. I don’t even know where most of my friends are, let alone what they’re doing. The people I thought were most important to me are gone. Now I realize that my best friends are at home.

    Friends come and go, but families stay forever. Literally! Eternity will be much more fun if we’re friends with the people closest to us.

    Start out small. Smile, give compliments, and express your love! When something makes you angry, pause and ask yourself, “Is this worth getting angry about?” Nine times out of ten it won’t be. Remember that your moods are your own and that you can set them. You can make yourself be cheerful. And it gets easier with practice.

    You’ll find that a change in your mood and behavior will affect everyone in the house.

    Ruth Boston, 21 Salt Lake City, Utah

    I know just how you feel! I go through that sometimes too. It’s sad how much we take our family for granted. We can’t act that way toward our friends for fear of losing them, but we know our family can’t go anywhere! Try to be more patient. Get more rest. Start your days with a prayer to Heavenly Father to help you be cheerful and loving. Then let your first words be kind ones! Try serving them, and don’t forget to let them know you love them! Good luck!

    Wendy McGraw, 16 Edmond, Oklahoma

    When you go home, put yourself in a positive frame of mind. Tell your brother or sister that they look good. Compliment your mother on her cooking. Ask your dad if he had a good day at work. You’ll find that you enjoy being at home a lot more, and your family will love being with you.

    Dawn Whetten, 13 Plano, Texas

    Just a couple of months ago I too was great to my friends, but when I came home, I would pick fights over the littlest subjects with my parents. I began to be depressed with my actions. I love my parents very much, and I wanted to find a solution to my problem. I found that prayer, scripture reading, attending and really taking Church meetings to heart, and speaking to my parents about my problem soon led me to the path back to being the real daughter of God that I should have been all along. I’m not perfect yet, but then again, neither is any of us. So just keep trying!

    Laura Kim Wright, 17 Franklin, Indiana

    Well, if you want to change, that’s the first step. Now doing it is sometimes awkward. With my friends I always felt comfortable. They knew my secrets, and I knew theirs, but at home there was a distance, and it took help from both sides to pull us together.

    I looked at what made me happy with my friends and did the same things at home. I shared secrets, stories, experiences, and found even my parents had some stories to tell. As soon as I stopped talking and saying me and I all the time and started listening and using words like you and us, I found my best friends were my family. It hasn’t solved every problem, but it sure started smoothing the big ones out. Knowing that my family, especially my parents, are my best friends and love me in spite of my mistakes and faults really made home and family a place I wanted to be.

    Name withheld

    First of all write down something good about each person in your family and keep this to refer to. Set time aside for your family so that you can do something fun together.

    Talk to your family. They can help, and they love you very much. Remember when all else fails or whenever you need help, your Father in Heaven is always there and waiting for you to call upon him.

    Wendy Jo Fackrell, 17 Nampa, Idaho

    [photo] Photography by Craig J. Moyer