How to deal with difficult family members

This post was written in a time of frustration and learning on my part. In response to the things I was learning and having to deal with difficult family members, I wrote this to be a help to others!

Family is something that you cannot change and with whom you’re stuck with for life (in a good way!) Knowing that, we must dedicate ourselves to learning how to interact and deal with family members. This is not always on easy task though.

Some family members are easy to get along with. Some are not. Some are similar to you in beliefs and way of living. Others are at the total end of the spectrum. Some are pleasant to be around and others are more difficult. You get what you get and oftentimes you cannot change those around you. But you can learn how to better deal with difficult family members. Because you can truly only change yourself and your attitude.

I’ve had to learn that it’s impossible to change some people. Previously I thought with enough logic spoken and consistency, that my words would be enough to make others see the error of their ways. Not so! This process has been a journey and one that I am not done with quite yet; I’m sure I have much more to learn. But if my gleanings can be an encouragement to anyone, I wanted to share them.

deal with difficult family members

1. Attempt to understand them.

It’s impossible to totally understand someone but we can attempt to do this. And I say that one should attempt to understand others because that’s where we will learn the most about them.

Let me explain my background a little bit so you can understand where I’m coming from:

I was raised in a strict home where I was taught responsibility, a good work ethic and high morals. I have a tendency to be judgmental (which is awful!) of those who do not meet the criteria that I was raised under.

I was unable to fathom why someone would not want to work hard and be responsible. I was unable to understand why someone would choose to abuse their body. I would not usually choose these kinds of people to associate myself with.

But family is not something you can change, constantly avoid (sometimes) or write off as losers and that be the end of it. Some family you will see on a regular basis and it would be most advantageous of you to learn how to deal with them.

  • Look at things from their point of view. No matter how wrong they may be about an issue, they have their point of view that they believe is correct. It would be good to analyze that so that when you communicate with them, you will know what to say, have an idea of how they will respond, and you will have “learned” them a little bit more.
  • Recognize what type of person they are. When I’m reading through the Bible during my quiet time with God, I recognize the attitudes of the wise and foolish described in the book of Proverbs. There are a couple family members that constantly come to mind when I read about the foolish. At first I didn’t think much beyond that. But as time went on and more negative encounters occurred with these certain family members, I realized that the attitudes of the foolish described in Proverbs were not there for me to simply identify people with. Those verses are there for me to learn- NOT for me to judge! The more I can learn about the attitude and mind of the foolish, the better I will know how I need to respond and act toward them. Here are a few verses that resonated with me about my foolish family members.
    • Proverbs 13:1 – ” A wise son heareth his father’s instruction: but a scorner heareth not rebuke.” The foolish cannot accept rebuke because they’re too steeped in their own selfish ways.
    • Proverbs 12:15 – “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes…” The foolish oftentime sees their way as the only way.
    • Proverbs 12:16 – “A fool’s wrath is presently known…” The foolish does not have self control and oftentimes has anger problems.
    • Proverbs 10:11 – “…violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.” The foolish man’s words are often violent, unhelpful and destructive.

2. Know they will not change.

Know that they (most likely) will not change because of your words to them. That seems harsh and negative, but I’ve found it to be true in the relationships that I’ve encountered. No matter how much logic you speak to them about a certain situation, they will not understand (or want to understand). No matter how relentless you are in your quest for educating them on a certain moral or ethical subject, they may never respond correctly.

Honestly, God is the one who changes hearts and lives. I can talk myself to death and never make a dent. But praying for family members who are lost, making bad choices, giving you a hard time or making life miserable for themselves and those around them is the best thing you can do.

3. Be gracious.

  • Give them room for growth. When you begin praying for you family members, you may see small changes here and there. Wonderful! But don’t take a small victory away from them with your pushing and prodding to be more, better, etc.
  • Praise the little things. When they make better choices (no matter how small), praise their effort! They may have so much further to go, but your encouragement will go a long way in the process.
  • Let foolish attitudes and words pass by. Nobody is without fault and mistakes. Don’t beat up on your family members who are offensive or hurtful. While there is a time and place for everything, be careful how negative you are toward them. Too much negativity will turn them off from you and you will lose your influence with them.

4. Keep your testimony.

Satan wants nothing more than to destroy relationships and make life miserable. Don’t Satan allow to use situations and the foolish actions of others to destroy your testimony and good reputation.

While foolish actions and words will incite angry responses from you, you’re responsible for your response! Don’t let foolish people get you riled up. Don’t allow foolishness to get to you so much that you say and do things you will regret later. You must choose your responses!

  • Keep your temper. You have a reputation or testimony with those who know you. That can be shattered in a moment of an angry response. Learn to keep your temper when dealing with foolish people.
  • Your silence or good behavior will resonate with them. Don’t think that when you do keep your temper, that it goes unnoticed. Even the foolish will recognize that you are not responding the way they want you to or the way you used to respond. Your mouth has great influence!
  • Don’t allow your words to be used against you. If you don’t keep your temper and angry words fly, the foolish can easily use those words against you in the future. To make sure this doesn’t happen, keep your temper! Easy enough, right? :) I Peter 2:15 – “For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.”


5. Limit your time.

With some of our family members, we’ve learned to  limit our time with them. Seeing and interacting with them a couple times a month or few times a year is sufficient.

There may be certain expectations from those family members about how much you’re “supposed” to see them. But you really have to figure out what’s best for your family!

Sometimes seeing them less can actually be better! Familiarity breeds contempt. And Hubby and I’s case THAT IS TRUE! The more certain family members are involved in our life, the the more problems occur. So in our case it’s best to keep these people at arms’ length.

And if children are involved, that totally changes the game! It’s no longer just about what you and your Hubby can “take” or endure; it’s about what you want the children exposed to. And even if it hurts feelings, you’ll have to be bold and say what you need to say and make rules.

At the end of the day it comes down to what is right for your family. Foster good in your homes! But that takes thought and planning! So consider these tips before you act!

difficult family


What ways have you found effective in dealing with your difficult family members?

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  1. says

    #4 is really the key point, right? I think family tensions really get us at our weakest point, and that’s such a shame because these are the people who are most likely to “be there” for us when we need it. I don’t have any great tips, but holding my tongue is sometimes my best approach. Also very important to keep remembering #2… there is great diversity in families, so this can be difficult, but most people don’t change, so finding a way to stay civil is sometimes a big win!
    Seana Turner recently posted…Polly’s DucksMy Profile

    • Danielle Wells says

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts! You’re absolutely right about holding our tongue – something that’s super hard for me sometimes! :)

  2. says

    Your words show much maturity based upon your life experiences and you’re remembering that they’re still your blood family! Love them and pray for them. You may be the only Christian they know.

  3. Lindsay says

    You make a lot of great points, but what about when there are children involved? Sometimes they need to be protected. I feel that limiting contact is entirely appropriate in this case.

  4. says

    I’m stopping by from Titus 2 Tuesday. You’ve given such great advice above, especially number 4. We had a family issue arise right at Christmas, and it was one of the most hurtful times ever in my life because a trust was broken, but even more because I didn’t respond like I should have. I lost my temper and my words DID come back to haunt me. Now I work harder at giving a “soft answer” and being less judgmental in general. :)
    Jen recently posted…Fat Girl Insecurities and #TheLoftMy Profile

  5. says

    Wow, I really think God sent me straight to your post! I have struggled with relationships with my mom and sister my whole life. I finally had to keep them at a distance for my own sanity and to protect myself. Maybe God is telling me I should try again! Also have to deal with my fiance’s bipolar dad, which the word “difficult” doesn’t even begin to describe! Thanks for the words of wisdom! Definitely needed them!
    Margaux Daughtry recently posted…$5 Upcycled Vanity to Desk DIY ProjectMy Profile

  6. says

    Haha, what if you are the difficult family member? I’m just kidding. These are really great tips to remember when dealing with people in general, especially family. Thank you for the reminder.
    Nikki recently posted…Five on Friday!My Profile

  7. says

    This post is an answer to a prayer for me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings on how to deal with those difficult family members whom we love even when they drive us crazy. Not letting my anger and frustrations show is definitely something I need to work on the most. I also find that the more I pray for my heart to be softened the easier it is to deal with these family members.
    Emily recently posted…Trick to Make Mealtime with Kids MagicalMy Profile

  8. says

    Thank you for these great insights. They are helpful not just when dealing with “difficult” family members, but even those closest to us, because no one is perfect! I think that we are all the “difficult” family member at some time or other. I certainly am at times. Especially in marriage, expectations can be so high, and we live in such a close relationship, that it can be hard to treat each other as the Savior would when we don’t meet those expectations. I especially appreciate your advice on #3, being gracious. Sometimes I become so focused on the way I wish someone was, that it’s hard to recognize the small, positive changes they are making.

  9. says

    Danielle, I agree, we don’t have to spend lots of time with someone who pulls us down. When Jesus’ mother and brothers came to get Him to come with them because they didn’t understand his harried schedule, He said the family of God was His family. He wasn’t rejecting His family. His brothers didn’t believe in Him at the time. But, He knew He was called to do His father’s work.

  10. says

    I love this Danielle! I could have written this post myself. Everyone has difficult family members and it is hard to spend time with them. While some are in the middle of a Christian family, it may take a specific family member to reach them. Thanks for linking up with Thankful Thursdays.

  11. says

    Danielle, this is a great list of really healthy strategies! One I have had to incorporate is the drawing of boundaries as you mentioned, but WITHOUT guilt! The enemy plays on me with the guilt factor. Praise God I can turn to Him and His Word and know that I am okay, though! I just always wish things were different and that the relationships could be enjoyable and healthy. Thanks for ANOTHER fabulous post!
    Blessings and smiles,
    Lori Schumaker recently posted…When Betrayal Threatens to Shatter Your ConfidenceMy Profile


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