Family Breakdown: 12 Mistakes to Avoid

It is often said our world’s woes can be traced to a “breakdown of the family.” So I got thinking, What exactly breaks a family down? What damages relationships, drives people apart, and creates estrangement?

I believe exploring what we might do wrong is as healthy a learning process as studying the right things to do. So let’s look at one dozen mistakes that when made truly hurt families.

12 Attitudes, Approaches, and Actions That Damage Family Relationships

1. Poor parenting

From allowing kids to become entitled to shaming a child for spilling milk to not setting boundaries to skipping the whole discipline thing, lousy parenting has an everlasting and harmful impact. As is taught in Raising Accountable Kids, my child is a “product of my parenting.” Not only is that a statement of personal accountability, it drives me to be the best parent possible. Parenting is a learned skill, so the best moms and dads commit to becoming more skillful every day.

2. Striving to fix others

I’ve heard managers say this many times over: “I need to motivate my people!” Well, Dear Manager/Leader, don’t waste your time. You can improve your skills but you cannot infuse motivation into your staff—just as a dad cannot make his son who desires to be a musician into a physician. Spouses, parents, and siblings waste a ton of time and energy trying to fix others, usually doing more harm than good. Our advice? Stop now!

3. Denying feelings

Ever felt intense emotion and when you shared it, someone told you to “take a deep breath,” “just chill” or “calm down”? Frustrating! The secret sauce for any relationship is to allow people to feel how they feel. Do not dismiss another family member’s emotions. “Feelings just are” may be an over-used phrase, but that doesn’t make it untrue.

4. Triangling

When Person A is upset with Person B but only Talks to Person C about Person B, then Person A has introduced a terrible relational cancer into the family. Please hear this: A, talk to B yourself and leave C out of it! This is a far healthier approach to life.

5. Lack of forgiveness

I love the phrase, “There but for the grace of God go I.” If this is my attitude when humans around me make mistakes, I will forgive far more quickly than if I believe that I never blow it. Forgiveness is good for all.

6. Pride

The QBQ! book says, “Humility is the cornerstone of leadership.” We draw people to us with a humble and contrite spirit. Arrogance repels, humility is a magnet. The best way to defeat human pride is 2 1/2 words: “I’m sorry.”

7. Poor listening

While listening to a Paul Doiron novel I noted he described a character like this: “She has a way of hearing you with her complete attention and total eye contact that makes you believe you’re simply fascinating.” What would happen if we did this at home for our loved ones? Stop multi-tasking now!

8. Finger-pointing and blame

This, of course, is our focus at QBQ, Inc. Blame inflicts pain, creates fear, builds walls, and solves no problems. For the sake of the family, bust the blame today.

9. “The grass is greener” syndrome

“Sadly, our marriage failed. A year later, he wanted to get back together but I’d moved on,” said one Flipping the Switch reader. Her hubby thought it’d be better somewhere else—but it wasn’t. Marriage is a permanent promise requiring hard work. It is sometimes messy and never perfect. The good news is, it’s not perfect anywhere. Stick around and work it out.

10. Self-pity and victim thinking

Ever held a “Pity Party” to which you were the only guest invited? Feeling sorry for oneself and playing the victim strains relationships. Work to be a victor over unforeseen circumstances and life’s disappointments. You’ll be easier to live with.

11. Lack of purpose

“I have seen all the things that are done under the sun, but they are meaningless, a chasing after the wind,” states the Bible’s King Solomon. In today’s world, the next iPhone, vehicle, Aruba vacation, or pay raise are but fleeting pleasures. When I discover my life calling, I add value to my family. Boredom, depression, anger, and fear are all chased away by purpose. When individuals find purpose, the family finds strength.

12. Inability to let go

The most life-changing of all QBQs—named The Ultimate QBQ!—is this: “How can I let go of what I cannot control?” Without this powerful question, we’ll likely succumb to grudge-holding, passive/aggressive behaviors, and a need to control others. Ask this QBQ now to strengthen your family.

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The breakdown of any family is a serious matter—and it happens when we make mistakes. Which of the 12 mistakes is critical to you right now and why? Share your thoughts!


One Response

  1. John,
    I would take this a little farther and go against the “safe and politically” correct side and say the breakdown in the family is the Father’s fault.
    As a mentor in the prison ministry program, I volunteer to go into prisons and work with inmates. Whenever meeting a new inmate, and after we’ve had a chance to get to know each other, I always ask this one question.
    “So tell me something, when you were younger, life as you knew it was “normal”. Maybe not perfect but things were going along from day to day….then something happened and everything changed. What was that change and lets start there.”
    The answer is most often the same…my father left us…my father went to prison, my father was killed while ___… my father beat my mother, my father beat me, my uncle (father figure) did this or that.
    Never fails, when the father stops being a daddy, the children pay the price. Then they grow up, repeat what they learned, until the cycle is broken. Mom’s can only do so much alone.

    This is the most ironic part. The inmates every time will say something to the effect of; no one has ever asked me that question. Then months later we will look back and see that, that “event” was the downward turning point and today’s starting point of healing.

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