Parents: It's Your Job!

I often hear from the senior generation, "You know Jolene, when I die, I just want two things: I want all of our children to get along and I want everyone to be happy." Then they give a gentle sigh and smile with complete expectation their goals will be met by the work of others. I understand they want to joyfully give to the important people in their lives. In short, they want to please others.

But, there comes a time when the pleasing, the giving, the suggesting, the sacrificing, the silence, the compromising or perhaps the "giving in" are harmful to oneself, the "community of recipients" and the family business. It's time to step back and look at the players, the purpose, the process and the outcome.

Are you pleasing and giving because it is your choice or only the expectation of others?

Is it a burdensome habit or joyful tradition?

Is the giving at a level you cannot afford? (Time? Talent? Emotion? Health? Money?) 

Are you giving because you expect or hope to receive?

Are you pleasing because the result is worth the perceived or actual "cost?"

Are you giving because you love someone and your actions or relationship will keep you on good terms?     

I witnessed the sad result of "pleasing" as elderly parents sought information about my consulting work. Their plan was to have their five adult children determine how they should divide their large estate and then they would do what the children wanted.

I shared with them my perspective: "As parents, you certainly may have a private conversation with each of your children, but it is your job to decide the distribution of your own estate. Then it's important to seek the advice of your attorney and accountant utilizing their expertise and experience. Finally, you will need to inform the next generation of your plan if the assets of your estate affect the continuation of business, or affect the current residences or health care of your adult children. That way, all will know 'the rules of the game' and those of the next generation can prepare financially and emotionally when your plan is carried out."

I could tell the parents did not like my approach. It was not an endorsement of "letting them off the hook" of their responsibility to decide and act. In the interim, the adult children, knowing their parents' preferred approach, began to build "individual offense and defense." They frequently and blatantly lobbied their personal cases with the parents. And they shared their convictions, often at the expense of their siblings. The intent of the children became quite clear - "I must sway my siblings and parents to my version of a solution."

About 6 months later, the parents called me again. They were completely disappointed by the behaviors of their children. They said the conflict between their adult children had escalated to the point where they will not be spending Thanksgiving or Christmas together.

How sad. Now neither the parents nor children are "pleased!"

Asset owners and parents, you have a job! Not accepting personal responsibility and trying to "please" may actually kill future positive relationships between siblings; it may kill the business; and it may actually kill a pleasant and guilt-free retirement for the parents. 

In an upcoming blog video blog, I'll address the fact that you must let go of the illusion that you can keep or make everyone happy…. especially during the holidays!


Jolene Brown is a farmer, professional speaker, author and champion for the family owned business. She's from West Branch, Iowa, USA, and travels worldwide sharing leading-edge best practices that have the power to increase productivity, profitability and peace of mind. Her passion combined with her fun-filled spirit and valuable information brings humor, hope and helpful ideas to the people of agriculture. For more information and to check out her speaking availability, contact her at,

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