“Three Tips for Less Contention in Your Family,” For the Strength of Youth, Mar. 2022.
“That’s not fair! It’s my turn!”
“Hey, you didn’t ask to borrow that!”
“Dad! Anita just stuck her tongue out at me!”
If any of those comments sound familiar, you might just be part of a family. And no family is immune from its share of conflict. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles once shared that his kids had complained, “Mom, he’s breathing my air!”1
It’s normal for contention to enter a family. In fact, somebody works extra hard to make that happen. The Savior taught clearly, “He that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another” (3 Nephi 11:29).
But fear not! The gospel teaches us that there is much we can do to minimize the contention in our families—and experience a lot of joy!
Fires need fuel to burn. Contention is the same. And nothing fuels an argument like more arguing. So, what can you do if somebody starts to argue with you?
Well, you can simply refuse to argue. The Savior is our perfect example in this. Throughout His ministry He was hated, treated poorly, betrayed, and ultimately crucified. Yet, even when his answers were strong and direct, He never had a spirit of contention. And in the end He didn’t fight back, even when he could have called down “more than twelve legions of angels” to His aid (Matthew 26:53). Instead, He prayed for His enemies, even as He hung on the cross (see Luke 23:34).
Refusing to argue allows you to become a better listener. And when we listen better, we can communicate better and become a peacemaker. Refusing to argue also includes responding with a calm voice and doing what we can to keep our emotions in check.
Without the added fuel, most arguments and contention dwindle. As the scriptures teach, “A soft answer turneth away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1).
Showing love to your family members is one of the best ways to keep conflict out of the home. Doing so can even stop contention from showing up in the first place!
Yet even when contention does manage to slip through our defenses, love and kindness can still turn things around.
Consider the Bible story of the woman taken in adultery. According to the law of Moses, she should have been stoned. An angry crowd demanded that Jesus condemn her.
But what was the Savior’s response? First of all, He didn’t answer their demands immediately. He knelt and drew in the dirt for a moment before speaking. (Hint: sometimes it’s best not to respond right away when emotions are high.)
Then He showed love and compassion for the woman when He told the crowd, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7).
Jesus treated the woman with love, not condemnation. He showed His willingness to forgive her as He invited her to “go, and sin no more” (John 8:11).
Tell your family members that you love them. Show that love by forgiving them and allowing them to change—even if they’re acting angry toward you. Love can make all the difference.
Prayer brings God’s blessings into our lives. In the Book of Mormon, Amulek taught, “Ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.
“Yea, … let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you” (Alma 34:26–27).
Surely “those who are around you” includes your family—even those who may not live with you right now. So, pray with your family. Pray for your family. Pray that you can keep your temper in check when somebody upsets you. Pray that you’ll know how to respond to tough situations that come up in your family. Pray for divine help. Pray for more laughter and love to enter your home. And then do all that you can to make that happen.
As you strive to live the gospel of Jesus Christ more fully, you will find that your family will also be blessed. Contention will decrease, and your joys will increase.