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Signs of a dysfunctional family

Opinion & Analysis
I WILL not be exaggerating when I say that many families on the continent of Africa are dysfunctional in one way or the other.

I WILL not be exaggerating when I say that many families on the continent of Africa are dysfunctional in one way or the other. By Kilton Moyo

Let me not bother you with the scholarly definition of dysfunctionality, but let me say basically when a family is working in the way it should not, is dysfunctional. Many of our families, including Christian families, are working in the way they should not be working. They are out of sync and out of order and, therefore, they cannot produce what they are supposed to produce.

Levels of dysfunctionality can differ and are never the same. By the way it is normal to have issues as long as you handle them.

Some families know how to hide their internal issues, while others do not know how or even seek help to contain issues.

Some families can be dysfunctional without even knowing it and this becomes even more harmful.

In short, today I just want to highlight a few signs of dysfunctionality in a family and maybe we need to help each other as a people to overcome such things and build families that are stable. What are these?

Love is earned

In a dysfunctional family love is earned. It is never unconditional. Children and everyone must earn it. They must work for it.

Parental love is not to be earned at whatever cost. It is unconditional. It flows despite character flows. It is not attached to good behaviour or good results etc. A family that “trades love” is bound to kill itself.

Love is the foundation of a family and a right for all family members. It cannot be taken away and still remain with a family. Without it family is as good as a club. It’s a hire and fire state of affairs and now that is criminal.

My encouragement is for all of us parents to understand that we have a duty, a painful duty, towards our children, that of love. We love, even when the natural conditions suggest otherwise.

Parenting is an occupation of unconditional love otherwise it ceases to be anything without love.

Denial and manipulation.

In a dysfunctional family there is denial of issues. There is pretence. Everything is right even when things are falling apart.

The members cannot talk. When there is an issue to discuss something comes up always. The spouse gets a migraine headache and cannot talk. They keep postponing their pain and shame. They cannot face reality and engage issues.

Have you seen some people who use sickness to avoid issues? Have you seen people who use circumstances to avoid their own issues?

This is called manipulation. They are manipulating themselves and others.

Others become alcoholic to avoid engaging with issues. They are always drunk and too drunk to be meaningful. They know they have challenges, but they do not want or they are afraid of developing capacity to deal with issues. They wish that one day they will wake up and everything is heavenly.

Others too get too busy with outside family commitments so that they are not at home. Whenever they are home they are so tired they cannot engage.

This is common even among church leaders who are too busy with religious activity that does not add value to any human life and so busy with it at the expense of their families. They have no time for family issues. They are running from meeting to meeting, from conference to conference and will never say no to any invite.

Apparently this haunts many people in leadership positions, even in politics and business. Many of us busy people our families are not functioning well because we have no time to engage with them. Many know the challenges and are this busy as a way of avoiding responsibility.

It’s amazing how lazy this generation is in fighting for the family. We can engage everywhere except at family level. We can be everywhere and with everyone except our families.


If the parent is a perfectionist and never allows the family members room for error or mistakes, then there is trouble at home.

How on earth can you deal with humanity and there are no mistakes? No human being can be as perfect. Our perfection has flows in it. Worse still, childhood and teenage hood are full of such.

Instead of forcing perfectionism, encourage self-control and discipline. Smart is not perfection. Cleanliness is not perfection, but when you exaggerate these, you begin to offend the people and cause resentment. There must be peace and joy in the home. Perfectionism will infringe on your love relationships.

I am not saying be careless or have no order. I am saying be normal and create a home environment that allows childhood to blossom. There is a lot of intimidation in a family where the parent is a perfectionist. There is fear and uncertainty. These are unhealthy for any family relationship.

It is my belief that we need to be engaging one another as society to help build our families and making them safe places where children can grow and become that which God intended.

We must try our best to remove every obstacle to love and train our children well. We must sharpen each other as parents. I look forward to a time when all of us will realise how much we need each other in our duty as parents so we can please our God.

In times such as these we do not need to mock each other, but help each other. I am still believing Africa shall be saved and through stable families.

This weekend you are welcome to attend our huge seminars on family and marriage on Saturday. Link with BICC in Mpopoma and with Newlife for All Fellowship Int and be guided accordingly.

You are free to follow us on our Facebook, twitter and blogs for more information and ideas. You can also invite us to your seminars or attend our seminars. We desire being a blessing to the family in the continent. You can also get our books from our online store at www.kiltonmoyoinspirations.com