Ep 239: How to Be A Drama Free Family

Nedra Glover Tawwab, author of Drama Free, chats with us about how to break free from family drama and unhealthy relationship dynamics. We discuss practical tools for a variety of topics such as codependency, control battles, favoritism, and more!

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Full Show Notes

Slammed doors, shouting, and angry tears
—sometimes, it feels like every situation with our teens explodes into a dramatic outburst. 

This week I sat down with expert Nedra Glover Tawwab, author of Drama Free: A Guide to Managing Unhealthy Family Relationships. No one’s family is perfect, but there are tools for managing the imperfections in our families—and Nedra is here to help us! We cover how to start disengaging from family drama, and Nedra offers insights on how parents can create healthier relationships with their teenagers and between their teen and their teen’s siblings. 

One of the main topics we discuss is the impact of a parent's own upbringing on their relationships. Many of the wounds we carry from childhood can resurface in our relationships as adults, and it's essential to understand how these patterns can impact our parenting style. Tawwab notes that by reflecting on our own experiences and emotions, we can develop a more self-aware and empathetic approach to parenting. As parents, once we’re aware of our own mental and emotional programming, we can make a conscious effort to break old patterns. 

From codependency to favoritism to control battles, there’s a lot to cover this episode, so buckle up!


Nedra and I talked about an issue that often flies under the radar because it’s not always so easily identifiable: codependency. Codependency is a term that has been around since the 1980s, but its meaning has evolved over time. Tawwab explains that codependency can manifest in many forms of dysfunctional patterns within a person, including emotional neglect or over-involvement in a sibling's life. 

As parents, it's vital to recognize when we are being codependent in our relationships. Nedra explained to me that when our children are young, it’s easy to fall into codependency patterns—they need us, of course we put off our needs. And, when kids are young, it’s rewarding to help fulfill their needs. 

But when our kids become teenagers, if we still tend to choose their needs over our own, it becomes more obvious that we’re codependent because parents reap different “rewards.” Instead of coos and smiles and hugs, we might receive mumbled “thanks” or “cool,” before our teen grabs the special lunch we made them and heads out the door. 

If there is a codependency pattern, teens may learn their parents will take care of everything for them—from laundry to homework to college admission applications, and maybe, teens might assume, paying their phone, rent, and utilities bill through and after college! 

Nedra suggests parents should also be on the lookout for codependency between siblings. It can be easy for an older sibling to take care of their younger sibling—sometimes it’s just faster if the older sibling does the chore or ties their siblings shoes. If parents notice this, they should intervene. They can ask their teen why they feel they need to help their younger sibling so much, and bring up codependency with their teen if it feels relevant. 

To prevent codependency in relationships with our teens, we can create boundaries that allow our teenagers to learn and grow through their experiences. We might also have to create boundaries so siblings do not become codependent as well. At first it might be uncomfortable and our teens will struggle. But they will be able to adapt. Parents may have to watch their teen stumble and fail sometimes, but it is important for a parent’s own well-being to stop codependent patterns from becoming permanent. To break free from codependency, Tawwab suggests coaching teens rather than doing things for them, and letting them make their own mistakes to learn and grow.


Nedra and I also discussed the somewhat taboo subject of favoritism, and its effects on family dynamics. Favoritism can manifest in various ways, from subtle differences in attention and to overt displays of partiality, such as giving one child more privileges or resources than others. It can be unintentional or deliberate, but its impact on siblings can be profound. When one child feels favored over another, it can lead to feelings of jealousy, resentment, and low self-esteem in the less-favored child, while the favored child may develop a sense of grandiosity and a lack of empathy towards siblings and peers.

It’s not shameful to have “favorites”—every child is different and some parents will find it easier to bond with one of their kids than the other. And certainly, as our kids grow and change, dynamics will shift. Maybe we spend more time with our older child lately because the younger sibling is so involved in her travel basketball. However, these dynamics, if not brought up by parents with their kids, can come across as favoring one sibling over another. 

Tawwab suggests that parents need to be mindful of how they treat each child and ensure that our teens feel they are being treated equally. Avoid making comparisons between siblings and focus on their individual strengths and their contributions to the family dynamic. By acknowledging and addressing favoritism, parents can mitigate harm from it and promote healthy sibling relationships, rather than competition between siblings. 

To promote equality among siblings, parents can set aside time to be one-on-one with each kid, either sharing a meal, a hobby, participating in an activity, or just being together. 

In the Episode…

In the episode, Nedra and I also touched on several other important topics, including:
  • tips for sticking to our boundaries, even if it's uncomfortable or inconvenient
  • how to handle battles for control
  • establish healthy boundaries around screen time and tech
  • helping teens manage their emotions through validating the emotion
  • the benefits of therapy and coaching for parents and teenagers alike
Overall, the episode provides a wealth of valuable insights and advice for parents raising teenagers. By applying these principles in their own lives, parents can create a more harmonious and drama-free family environment that supports their teenagers' growth and development.

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Creators and Guests

Andy Earle
Andy Earle
Host of the Talking to Teens Podcast and founder of Write It Great
Nedra Glover Tawwab
Nedra Glover Tawwab
Licensed Therapist, Boundaries Expert, and Author https://t.co/hZPmWM54fn
Ep 239: How to Be A Drama Free Family
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