Another teary-eyed father sits in my coaching session rubbing his face, trying to hide his disappointment. He really wants to get things sorted out with his son, but his emotions are keeping him stuck. When I suggest that all he really wants is to be respected and appreciated for all he and his wife have done, he nods in agreement.
Father’s Day on farms is a mixed bag of celebration, avoidance and “let’s get back to work!” This year we will all be pressing hard to get the crop in, and hope that nature has a way of compensating delayed seeding. Delays in farm family conversations that embrace the need for affirmation and realistic expectations are not so forgiving.
According to the Best of the Family Business Advisor journal from Family Enterprise Publishers, part of succession… and personal maturity is “letting go” of the expectations one has towards one’s parents. When successors take hold of these four beliefs, they can let go of problematic expectations.
Adult farm successors, heed this:
1. Appreciate that your parents are not perfect, and they have made some mistakes in judgment. “Cut them some slack” and model forgiveness.
2. Accept parents for who they are… with respect… and love. I am amazed at what I learn about dads in tears when they tell me about difficult sibling partnerships, and addicted fathers, and so on. Everyone’s life experience has a back story that gives clues to their fears, dreams, and disappointments.
3. Understand that life is not fair. The cancer, strokes, divorce, heart attacks, and accidents that changed your farm’s direction are part of the journey of life. Instead of bitterness, how do you choose to make better decisions, and count your blessings?
4. Assume personal responsibility for your own life, security and identity. It is not the role of parents to make all of their children economically equal. What actions are you taking to be emotionally and financially mature? You can change you. You get the behaviour from others that you accept. What do you need and want to do differently?
The Family Business Advisor found that parents’ ability to let go of power correlates with the next generation’s ability to let go of emotional expectations of their parents. When farm parents see their adult children take personal responsibility for who they are, and their own success, the parents can’t wait to support the next generation. “The parents seem to draw on my strength. It helps them,” says one successor.
Some gifts to give Dad this year:
Grow up. Show up to the conversation as an adult, not an “entitled child.” Work on being more self-reliant, competent, and eager to assume farm business leadership.
Be respectful. Treat others the way you would like to be treated and stop yelling at each other.
Make repair of the relationship with reconciliation. Forgive the past mistakes, and clean the slate to make better plans together.
Show verbal appreciation. Speak words of affirmation to each other.
Take time for fun together. Parents are not usually best friends with their kids, but it does help the emotional bank account of the family to have fun together. What is fun for you? Find the fishing rods, the canoe, the horse tack, or the bikes. Life will pass by very quickly and you will never regret the intentional time you take to rally reasonable expectations for being a family, who happens to farm together.
Unreasonable expectations are the shortcut to discontent.
Let go of expecting perfection. Embrace the courageous conversations.
Enjoy a clearer understanding of what Dad and you both need to succeed.
Being a dad in 2013 is a basketful of roles.
Honour each other.
Happy Father’s Day! †