Are you familiar with ‘the Niggles’?  The Niggles are when things in our family relationships aren’t quite right, they aren’t obviously wrong either. There is an edginess, an awkwardness, a slight jarring. Things are said in jest but with a twinge of truth, people are irritable and lacking their usual patience and understanding.  In our family the Niggles set in if we are stressed, busy, distracted, overwhelmed.  When the Niggles start happening – we need to do something about it.

When the Niggles set in it is time for a deep breath. It is easy just to react myself (as the parent) and tell the kids off but that isn’t helpful. That doesn’t give them any tool to help them either now or in the future to deal with relationship tension. They need to be made aware of what is happening, and they need to be given strategies to do well in these situations. One day, they will find themselves in a Niggle and I won’t be there to tell them to snap out of it, they’ll have to make that call themselves. This is why continually teaching and guiding our kids is so important – they need to learn to take responsibility for their relationships themselves and they need to have the skills to do so.

Family Relationships need Protecting

The Niggles are a tricky one to address because nothing has really happened. No one has crossed the line, and no one has been hurt (emotionally or physically!) But your mother-heart knows that it won’t be long. So the first thing is to let the kids know that you are sensing the Niggles… you are sensing that things aren’t as peaceful as you’d like, as they’d like. This is just a warning, it is just sharing an observation, so watch how you say this to your kids – they haven’t done anything wrong necessarily, you are just helping them sense, or be aware of their responses to the people around them. You are prompting them for an attitude change.

Help your Children Build Strong Family Relationships

So, what do I do when I see the Niggles set in with my family?

When they were young I would have to help them process their attitude with some questions and help them walk through understanding what was going on (see below).  Generally, I would enforce a time of quiet reflection – giving them all the space they needed, wherever we were, to recalibrate – time to find their loving side!

When our children grew older and became familiar with this process I left it with them. I need to trust that they too want to live in harmony with each other. My words to them are simply a signpost alerting them to what’s happening and giving them a prompt to think about. Of course, if they didn’t heed my warning and concern and overstep the line, then that is another issue and it would be discussed as such.

Attitude Changes for Strong Family Relationships

Here are three prompts to help change our attitudes when family relationships are tense. These are the things that I work on when I get a case of the Niggles, they are the prompts I teach my children to process, and the thoughts that I expect my older children (pre-teens onwards) to be able to process. (Read to the end and download a poster I made to help you remember these three attitude checks)

1–Check your own attitude

The Niggles has nothing to do with anyone else.  The truth is we can only change ourselves, we are only responsible for ourselves. This means we need to have a little attitude check – am I being loving, gracious, kind, patient?  What can I do to make the other person know I love them, care for them, understand them? Am I willing to live in harmony?

2–Choose to believe they have the best intentions towards you

After we check our own attitude we can turn towards the other person.  We are family – we love each other, and we need to remember this is true – even if we don’t feel it right now.  If we could only face every relational struggle or conflict with this mindset. When we are tired or frustrated we tend to think the other person is out to get us – but really that is rarely the truth. The truth is they are just as tired or frustrated as you and they mean you no harm. When we pause and determine to believe the best of and from the other person it is easier to get over the Niggle.

3–Commit to not take offence

This really is a commitment. Decide and stick to it that regardless of what comes out of their mouth, no matter how they respond (or react) I will not take offence. I will be like a shock absorber: I will take the shock of their comments or behaviour and not bounce off course in reaction myself. I will remain a true friend, brother or sister. I will be quick to offer forgiveness, even before it is asked for (or even if it isn’t asked for).

Memorise Scripture

And a really good Bible verse to memorise is from Romans 12:18.  I remember by the end of one school holiday time this became our mantra!  Life can be tricky living together (aka family life) but when we value our family relationships (parents to child, child to parent, sibling to sibling) then we really will do all that we can to make sure those relationships are strong and healthy.

Romans 12:18 – If possible, as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all

When Family Relationships get Tense, look for the Niggles

Do you need help in your Family?

Hi! I’m Belinda

About Me

Belinda and her husband, Peter, live in the far north-west of Australia on a small farm. They have four adult children whom they homeschooled from prep-year 12. Over this time Belinda has taught and supported women both face to face and online. Her heart is to encourage families to be intentional, relational and heart focused in all areas of family living. She continues to do this in her new season of life – as her kids leave home one by one leaving her with more time.

Certified Life Coach

Use this poster to:

  • Teach your Children Relationship Skills
  • Remind yourself of the Attitude Checks that need to happen
  • Give your older children a reminder list so they can work on their heart by themselves

Do you recognise the Niggles at your place?

What do you think triggers it off?  How have you dealt with them?

(Please share your thoughts in the comments)

Don’t forget to download your printable poster to remind you to deal with the niggles when they happen.

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