My mother has been giving my sister the silent treatment for the past three days, and it is affecting my mood (I can't focus on my studies), as I don't like seeing my family in conflict. I always felt that I'm a highly sensitive person and other people's negative emotion easily affect me.

I live in Malaysia. I'm 26, working on my Ph.D. away from home, and my sister is 23, living with my parents and brother while working full time.

My mother is angry because she thinks that my sister is not spending enough time with the family and that she doesn't care about them.

From what I observed my sister spends less than 15 minutes per day interacting with the family as she works from 9 AM to 7 PM, 6 days per week (sometimes Sundays as well) and then often goes out to have dinner with friends. She mostly comes home only to shower and sleep.

My parents similarly work long hours (10 to 7, Monday to Saturday), and my mother thinks that my sister is not willing to sacrifice some of her time with her friends. My father doesn't show approval nor disapproval, as he usually avoids conflict by not choosing any side. My younger brother is still in school, and I don't think he's bothered too much.

I understand my mother's point of view, however, I also understand that my sister has very little free time, and gets tired very easily. Furthermore, I think my mother is sometimes too controlling.

They are both very stubborn, and I'm not sure if they will get over this anytime soon. My sister's graduation ceremony will take place soon, and if this keeps up I'm afraid that my mother will not attend, making my sister feel sad and unwanted.

I'd like to get them to reconcile. But it doesn't necessarily have to be a total reconciliation: If I can get them to a point where I will be sure this doesn't affect my mother's attendance to my sister's graduation ceremony, I believe I can stop worrying and focus on my studies again.

How can I handle intervening and getting them to reconcile?

  • The chosen solution for the sister not spending enough time socializing with the family is to shut her out and deny any attempts? Seems counterproductive IMO. Oct 27, 2017 at 11:17
  • Give your mother the silent treatment until she stops behaving like a child.
    – user5405
    Jan 19, 2018 at 20:19

4 Answers 4


If you want to play mediator between the two, you need to realize that it's a delicate job. Any sign of siding with either of them will be the end of it. With that out of the way, the first thing you need to do is open the lines of communication between them.

Get them talking!

The first order of business would be to set up a meeting between the two, somewhere private like their house or outside, in a restaurant or coffeehouse. You have to weigh the pros and cons of either solution. Will a public place stop them from getting out of control and begin yelling and fighting? If not, maybe consider a private meeting.

Next, the conversation itself. It would be wise to coach both of them separately. Give them a few ideas on how to behave during the meeting. Here are a few ideas:

  • Discuss the positive in the relationship, its strengths, the good times etc.
  • Then start to discuss the issue:
    • Have them both explain their mistakes and how they could have contributed to the problems in the relationship
    • Pinpoint and name exactly the problem in the relationship. Being vague helps nobody.
    • Suspend your ego. That's very important. You didn't come to this meeting to win an argument but to mend this relationship.
    • What's next in the relationship? What is expected from each party involved going forward? The daughter to spend more time with the parents? The mother to give more breathing room to the daughter?

Moving forward from that point is important. Making plans to meet and spend time together. Starting from something small like breakfast or dinner and move on to a movie night and hopefully your sister's graduation.

If you don't have much time and want to fast track things, I would do the above meeting, tell each one of them what the other thinks is wrong (always staying impartial - that's key) and offer them your interpretation of things. If you're wrong, they will correct you and hopefully start talking. Maybe through you at the start but then you need to advise them to talk between them.

Lastly, since this could easily go from bad to worse and blow up in your face, maybe it would be advisable for both of them to see a therapist together.

Hope this help, good luck!


Part of stubbornness is a dynamic that evolves where a lot of time, giving in, conceding or admitting fault of some sort would not be a bid deal, if it weren't a capitulation or reward for that other party who is equally stubborn.

The term "cut off your nose to spite your face" would apply to this. Even though it probably hurts them to do so, they feel that anger or pride more than their personal hurt, and hold onto that, figuring if the other person feels the hurt, too, then they can live with that.

You care about both of them, you aren't angry with them, so all you feel is the hurt.

You need to gauge how deep the stubbornness goes and how far into the realm of "spite" this has evolved.

If you think it's a matter of them not wanting this, but not being able to be the one to make the step towards a cease-fire, then maybe you act as the third party to facilitate this.

Get them together, and tell them you have a problem you need their help with. You need for them to be able to resolve this, at least dialing it back to the level of truce, because you are getting caught in the cross-fire. Their fight is deeply upsetting and hurting you, and you need their help to make it stop. Tell them you need them each to be willing to not try to assign blame, to not be invested in who is "winning," and to be able to try and look at it from the other person's perspective.

Whether this will work or not is going to be hit or miss. A lot of the irritations and resentments may have years of accumulated incidents at the foundation, and with close family members who care for each other, any hurts are felt more deeply and held onto more.

If you feel like your relationship with both are such that they genuinely would not want you to be hurt by this, then tell them what it is doing to you to see them like this. Their mutual desire to not cause you pain might be the bridge for them to stop lashing out at each other.

Again, it will depend on your assessment of how entrenched they are about this, and whether it bothers them that you feel this so keenly.


Get them to solve a mutual problem, I don't have an idea of what the mutual problem could be, but this is my idea of solving your problem. You know like when aliens try to invade earth in the movies and suddenly Russia and America are allies.

It might sound stupid and far-fetched because it's on the movies but there is no reason for it not to work.

Remember, they are family, all they need is a little "push" for them to put their pride aside and cooperate. Hopefully things will work out for you!

BONUS: You can also try and steer them to mutually hate or love something. Maybe something could come out of it, just try.


This Question is way to broad for me to answer well, but hopefully I can give some advice that will help.

Take a closer look at your mother's motivations for wanting your sister around more. And take a closer look at why your sister doesn't want to be around much.

There are no doubt much deeper motivations than what is being verbally expressed. Ask your Mom and Sister questions about what is going on between them and questions about life in general. Listen carefully, try to read between he lines and ever so carefully ask follow up questions. After a while you may get a deeper idea about what is going on. Only once you really know why they are both behaving the way they are, will you be able to figure out a solution.

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