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Family Relations/Who is more at fault: My dad or my sister?


Weíre an Asian family living in America and would like to see your take on this situation. My sister and my dad have recently gotten into a big argument, and I want to ask for your opinion on whatís the best way to resolve it. Iíll explain the exact situation to you below:

My 19 year old sister who lives with our parents had her boyfriend over visiting. During this time, she and dad got into a huge argument about a very small matter (a smoothie maker that my sister bought which they disagreed on whether it is a good buy or not). They both stood their grounds and refused to agree with one another. Eventually it blew up into a huge argument. According to my mom, who was present, she said that my sister was being very rude to dad. When she wanted to end the argument, she yelled at dad to get out of the room as she did not want to continue talking about it any more. Dad came back 10 minutes later and wanted to continue the argument. At this time, my sister was watching television and refused to continue the conversation. Dad wanted her to turn off the TV to talk. She didnít. He talked any way as he wanted to make his point across. My sister turns away and refused to listen. Eventually dad struck her in the face. My sister retaliated by slapping him on the chest. Dad struck her in the face again.

My mom and I completely disagree with each other about whoís more at fault in this situation.
My momís point of view is that my sister is more at fault, and that she should first approach dad to apologize due to the following reasons:

1. Mom said that it was my sisterís fault from the start because she was being very rude to dad. Dad was very patient however my sister continued to be very rude to him throughout the entire argument.

2. My parents have told my sister many times about her impolite behavior to them, and that she should change herself. This is not the first time itís happened. It has consistently happened again and again.

3. Especially at a time when my sister has her boyfriend over, she should never be rude to dad because it reflects poorly on the family. Being rude to dad is one thing, but being rude to him while her boyfriend is over is a whole different level of disrespect.

4. In under no circumstances should my sister have slapped dad back on the chest.

5. Dad was raised in a culture where he was being hit every day by grandpa. This is only the 2nd time ever that heís been physical with my sister. For that to happen, one must realize just how rude she was being.

6. Thereís no shame to apologizing to oneís father. And she should do it because it was her fault from the start. If she wasnít rude to him and continued to be rude to him, things would not have escalated.

On the other hand, I think that my dad is more at fault, and that heís the one who should apologize due to the following:
1. I agree that my sister was wrong for being rude to dad. However, when dad strikes her in the face, heís taken it way too far.
2. My sister is an adult (19 years), and sheís a girl. And striking her on the face twice cannot be justified. Her lips are bruised and she was bleeding inside of her mouth.

3. Sister is also wrong for hitting back, but her retaliation (even though itís still wrong) is somewhat justified because dad had hit her first, and he struck her in the face rather than somewhere else thatís less harmful and degrading. She only slapped him back on the chest.

4. Itís not right for sister to be rude to dad, and especially in front of her boyfriend. But thereís a right way to deal with that, and a wrong way to deal with that. Once things cool off, dad should have sat down with sister and tell her how much it hurts him that she is rude to him in front of her boyfriend. Striking her is the wrong way to deal with that.

5. It may take a number of these conversations for her to truly change for the long term. She may have been rude many times in the past. She may have made an effort to change for a few days, and then revert back to her old ways. But, thatís normal. Change is not easy, and change can take a long time. But over time, she will change. And she will respect dad more because of that. But she will not respect dad more because he hits her like that.

6. Sister may have been the one who is at fault first by being rude, but when dad strikes her, heís taken it to another level. Heís now more at fault and should be the first to apologize.

Who do you think should be the first to apologize? My mom and I have very different opinions on this. My whole family will be reading your response, and weíve agreed to follow through with what you recommend.

Thank you!

Hi, Tony, IMO, everyone is 'at fault', and everyone should apologize. First, because it isn't OK to hit each other.

Second, it's often hard not to argue, but it does happen. When we argue, we are reverting to coping skills that are more reflective of a younger age. For example, 3-5 year olds often argue, as they have not developed the verbal skills to mediate conflict with others.

I'm not saying that people should not have emotional reactions to things. We cannot help that. It's just that, when our emotions overwhelm our thinking, we should take a time out until such time as we are able to talk out the problem with the other person, to consider the other persons perspective, to come up with alternative resolutions to the problem, etc.

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Bruce Borkosky, Psy.D.


questions framed similarly to 'what are some ways to respond when someone does/says X' are best. Questions posed in the form of 'why does my father do/say Y', or 'how would you diagnose my mother when she does/says Z' are difficult, if not impossible, to answer. I will probably reframe your question to fit the first question (what do I do). Nay question regarding any family member is fair game. Some of the most difficult are in the area of step-parenting and divorcing families.


I've been a licensed psychologist in Florida since 1994. I've evaluated and/or treated thousands of patients.

American Psychological Association Florida Psychological association National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology


Psy.D., Miami Institute of Psychology, 1993 M.CS., U. of Dayton, 1984 B.A., Ohio Wesleyan U., 1978

Awards and Honors
Award for Years of Dedicated Service, Palm Beach County Legal Aid Society, 1999

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