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Disagreeing With Parents | High School Column

Editor’s Note: Today’s High School Column is a submission from the beautiful Betsy Cañas Garmon. She is an incredible creative, artist, mom, teacher and mentor. She’s raised five kids, now between the ages of 16 & 26, so I knew she’d have some great thoughts on today’s question. Betsy blogs her beautiful art and life at wildthyme creative. Every Saturday, we will be answering questions from our high school community right here. If you want to submit a question, you can do so on this page! Thanks Betsy! – Katie

 This week’s question: As you are growing up – coming into your own identity as well as your own views (especially those relating to God, modesty, relationships, etc), how do you balance your parents views with your own? For me, it’s been a tension filled struggle as I’m figuring out what I believe about life while trying to not make for messy conflicts with my parents while living at home. Any advice? 

Betsy’s Answer: 
Great question.  I think that there are actually two separate things going on.

What does it look like to individuate?


Do differing views automatically mean messy conflict?

 According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, to individuate is,”the process by which individuals in society become differentiated from one another.”  In its simplest form, it means I am separate from you and what I want, may or may not be the same as what you want.  This is a process that starts when you are a toddler declaring, “No!” and continues on into adulthood as you make discoveries about your likes and dislikes.  In other words, the order of the day is to become your self.  You are in the midst of dealing with a huge number of life choices.  Over the course of one day you might have to make decisions that range from what to wear {What is my look?} to where to go to college.  {What will my future look like?} 

If you are fortunate, your family structure makes allowance for your discoveries about life and who you are becoming.

photo by betsy cañas garmon // design by katie holley

If we were sitting down to have a cup of coffee, I would want to know more about the “messy conflicts”  with your parents that you’re trying to avoid. You talked about balancing your views with your parents views, so I’m assuming that in some places you have different views than your parents.   Why does this equal messy conflict?
To understand more about your place with your family, grab a piece of paper and answer the following questions:

 *   Is there forum for you to share what you really think and feel about life?

*   Are you allowed to have a difference of opinion?

*   Do you have differing views that you are holding internally because you’re afraid they’ll cause conflict?

*   Have your opinions been put on the family table and caused conflict?

 The truth is that difference of opinion does not have to end in conflict and tension.

[NOTE:  It is important to differentiate between a place of individual expression like dying your hair blue or wearing a certain brand of shoes and breaking the law or house rules.]

To help diffuse tension, both internal and external, ask yourself the following questions:

 *  Am I telling the truth about what I believe?

*  Do I honor boundaries?

*  Can I have an honest, respectful conversation?

*  Am I submitting to house rules?

Individuation is Respect and Authenticity turned inward and Effective Communication is Respect and Authenticity turned outward. The key to conflict management is Respect and Authenticity.  Remember that conflict doesn’t have to be negative.  It can be a catalyst for change and growth.

Did this answer your question? Why or why not? Do you feel you have different circumstances that make this topic more difficult?

15 Responses

  1. Senator Tso

    When I was younger, I asked my father about his stance on gays in the military. It was really the first time I can remember there being anything "topical" that I asked either of my parents for their outlook on something. My dad had served in the military, and I figured he'd have some insight that I wouldn't have. Morally, and socially, I saw nothing that should keep someone from serving, just because of their sexual orientation; yet having not served, I wondered if there was something in the military culture that was different than civilian life that made this an issue.

    I'll never forget his response. "I think it is wrong. You gotta remember, I was raised in an era when we were told this is wrong. Wrong morally, socially, spiritually wrong. From a young age, we're told this is just not correct. That's a hard thing to go against. Yet, when your cousin came out at a family reunion, no one batted an eyelash, so all that programming can be undone. You were born into a more tolerant time, and your mother and I raised you to be more understanding. And your kids will be tolerant of things you can't even dream of. I did my job as a parent if I raised you to be a better man than myself."

    So today, twenty years later, when we disagree (on 90% of politics) we correct each other when we can, and when the rhetoric is too hot, we back off. We understand that we see the world differently, but ultimately understand that because we love one another and respect one another, that having one another in our corner is far more valuable than being "right" on any topic.

    When we talk one-on-one about something we disagree on, we don't attack the other's viewpoint. That's key. There's no "But Dad, you are wrong" and there is no, "Matt, if you understood…" comments. We say things like, "But in my experience […] which is why I see things […]" which I think cuts through any of the mean-spirited shortcuts that pass for debate these days. It doesn't invalidate the other person's beliefs, but it explains how and why you feel the way you do. Plus, there is a set of boundaries we share: "Never talk to your parent or child like you talk to your friends." There's things I say to my closest friends that would truly insult my dad and stepmom. And there's ways he jokes with his friends that would cut me to the quick. So being honest and respecting the other person is big with me and my dad, too.

    And it isn't easy. But it is worth it, because in the end all anyone has is each other.

    Hope this peanut gallery offering might be of some help to someone.

    April 29, 2012 at 2:43 pm

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