My family is made up of my wife and our eighteen-year-old daughter, who is in her last year of high school. Life with my wife has always consisted of heated arguments and bad words, Unfortunately, my daughter has had to live in that kind of environment, and I feel like she hates me….

I believe that the way that my wife tries to get our daughter to help around the house is not correct. Sometimes my wife wakes her up yelling at her that she doesn’t do anything to help and yet she lives like a queen….

Our daughter is very rebellious. I know that we are the ones who caused it.

Dear Friend,

It is refreshing to hear from a parent who acknowledges that his actions have been major contributors to the bad attitudes and actions of his child. Of course, we cannot possibly know all the details, but we agree with you that an atmosphere of frequent hostile communication is harmful to any child or adolescent.

I remember what it felt like to turn up the music so loud that I could not hear my parents’ arguing with one another. I also remember the queasy feeling in my stomach, wondering how the fights would end. The anxiety, helplessness, and hopelessness led me to count the days until I could move out of their house and into college housing. I worked very hard in multiple jobs to earn the money that would make it possible for me to escape their house and its negative atmosphere.

In spite of the circumstances, it was very clear to me that everyone in the house had to be responsible to do their own tasks to keep the household running. If we chose not to complete our tasks, there would be a loss of privileges having to do with phone use, TV watching, or the ability to leave the house for non-essential activities.

However, yelling does not cause anyone to comply with what is being asked or demanded. In fact, it just foments anger and hostility. Would it motivate you if the government sent someone to yell at you because you didn’t pay your taxes? Probably not, but the government doesn’t send someone to yell. Instead, they send a letter saying how much is owed additionally in late fees and penalties. And if you still don’t pay, the governments of some countries are able to claim the future wages that you will earn.

The Apostle Paul taught that “anyone who won’t work shouldn’t be allowed to eat.”(1) This principle of actions and consequences can be found throughout the Word of God.

Of course, Paul was not suggesting, and neither are we, that parents should withhold food or other essentials from their children. But the non-essentials should be privileges that are given only when the children or adolescents are responsible and complete their tasks. When the tasks are not completed, no yelling is necessary. Instead, the privileges are not given. In spite of the children’s threats and manipulation, the parents continue to remain constant without any wavering.

It will be very difficult, but not impossible, to begin this kind of system with your daughter at her age. So we suggest that you seek help from a professional who has experience with adolescents.

We wish you the best,

1 2Th 3:10 (NIRV)