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The father factor in farming

How is Dad’s style of relating affecting your decision-making on the farm?

“Your father’s particular parenting style is the template that forms the father factor in your career… If your father has died, that doesn’t mean that the feelings from the relationship are dead.” — Dr. Stephan B. Poulter, author of The Father Factor: How Your Father’s Legacy Impacts Your Career

Poulter believes that we learn from our father’s rule book about work, relationships, ethics and money matters. I have learned to ask the founding parents lots of questions about how they got their farms, and what kind of relationships they have or had with their father. I am not a clinical psychologist like Poulter is, but I am looking for patterns and “internal rules or beliefs” that shape the current conversational conflicts I am coaching.

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How attached are you to your dad? Poulter describes four emotional bonds as intermittent, avoidant, depressed and secure. I am still coming across men who refuse to seek out a doctor’s treatment for depression. These bonds will give light to some of the workplace issues like self-doubt, lack of focus and motivation and fear of failure. Some of my immigrant families who have grown up in a culture of “work hard, don’t play” have an extreme fear of failure that is driving them, and driving their kids away from the family farm.

Insights into your dad’s style of relating may also help you figure out how his behaviour is impacting your farm business decision-making.

Is your dad what Poulter calls:

  • A super achiever?
  • A time bomb?
  • Passive or negligent?
  • Absent?
  • A compassionate mentor?

How your father interacts with you is a critical piece of information that helps shape you. I discovered this when I asked the founding father about his relationship to his dad. The father died when the founder was only a teenager. For many years this farmer has been very cautious, self-sufficient, and not wanting to disclose his true fears to his farm family. This does not surprise me, but it helps me understand why the successors are frustrated. They want action, and Dad wants caution. The farm mom confessed she should have called months ago.

Another example is the “time bomb” father whose adult business employee children noted that Dad’s emotional inconsistency is creating havoc in the workplace. Their farm business needs better conflict resolution and trust. These adult sons have become very good at reading people and their moods, because of their father’s “time bomb” style. Unfortunately, I see this style all too often with fathers who are not great at collaborative conflict resolution.

The father’s “rule book” can be internalized by sons and daughters. It’s 2018 and daughters are also the successors to the farm. They are exhibiting the values of hard work, ambition and achievement, just like their fathers, BUT, they are also crying out for work/life balance. Poulter says: “Do you need to update your ways of relating that are based on your internal rule book? There are unspoken rules that guide behaviour, thoughts and beliefs.”

Values concerning work on the farm are shaped by the role your father has played in your life. Could you take just a few moments now to reflect on how your father has influenced your beliefs and attitudes about your farm career? Do you respect your father’s opinions? Can you book out some quiet time to have a courageous conversation with your dad about his “time bomb” style and how that affects you? Can you choose to respond to him in a much healthier way? Check out the domore.ag website. Their mission is “Talk more. Ask more. Listen more.” We need to change the culture of silence in agriculture and share our mental health stories.

Do you realize how much your father is impacted by your grandfather? What insights about your dad’s legacy can you learn from your mom’s impressions? Do you realize that you can work out new beliefs and ways of relating to your dad? How would you like to thank your dad for his mentoring and compassion?

What if you don’t like your dad’s girlfriend? Yikes. I said it. My mom died at 65 and my farming dad had a long-term girlfriend. I’ve met young couples who are deeply frustrated that they cannot speak to their dad about his “new” love life and how the uncertainty of the arrangement is impacting the farm’s financial plans. Talk more. Ask more. Listen more. This is also a good encouragement in this circumstance. Find out what everyone’s intentions are. Be calm and respectful in your conversations.

Stephan Poulter comments:

“Even after your father dies, he will still affect your professional relationships and career development. No matter what boys or girls say to their fathers in a fit of anger — for example, ‘I’ll never be like you’ — or how much they try to distance themselves as adults, their dads still cast a long shadow. Typically, people undervalue their father’s impact on their lives until their parents’ death. Even then, many men and women don’t see how a father’s influence extends past personal traits into the professional world. The values you carry concerning work were formed many years ago in the context and backdrop of your father-daughter or father-son relationship.”

I challenge you to honour your dad and respect him. Fathers in my coaching sessions sometimes go away feeling a little beat up, because the focus of the issues has many connections back to their choices. I encourage families to recognize what is really important to them and seek to understand the other person’s perspectives.

As a young farm girl I was taught to be fearless around large steers, drive a combine, and drive in the big city. My dad saw me as a leader, and encouraged me to explore the world. At my wedding he announced that he was pleased I had chosen to marry a farmer. No one is perfect, and we can seek healing in understanding our relationships with our parents.

You might also like to read Healing for the Father Wound, by Dr. H. Norman Wright.

Cherish your family. I’d love to dance with my dad, but he is gone.

About the author

Contributor

Elaine Froese is a certified farm family coach and farm partner. Seek her out at www. elainefroese.com or call 1-866-848-8311. Buy her books for your mom. Share your stories of how these phrases have impacted you. Elaine wants to hear from you on Facebook at “farm family coach” or Twitter @elainefroese.

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