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Getting Dads Blessing!

20th August 2015 Wayne Rivers, Family Business Institute Inc

One of the least understood and most overlooked issues within family businesses is having Dad’s blessing or approval.

One has only to go back to the Bible to learn how important this issue can be. Remember the story of Esau and Jacob?

To a son working in a family business, nothing is more important than the knowledge that Dad approves of you and has given you his blessing. Money, power, titles… none mean as much to a son as hearing Dad say, "I am proud of you. You are an outstanding business person.”

Before women start accusations of sexism, let us explain that mothers generally give love and approval unconditionally to their children, so when Mom is boss this is not so much an issue. The need for Dad’s approval is present when a daughter works for her father, but it is not as strong a force as with sons.

Children know of the difficulties and struggles that were encountered in making the business a success. They worship their father - Dad is a hero to his children. Since he is such a hero, nothing is more important than having his approval. Further, there is a certain competition which exists between fathers and sons. The young man wants to believe he is as good as or maybe even better than Dad.

Obtaining this approval is a motivating force that will be a factor in every family and business decision until it is resolved. Do not underestimate the lengths to which children will go to get Dad’s blessing. The child may say it isn’t important, but don’t believe him. In most cases, it is vitally important.

What About Mom?

As children get older, they recognize the role Mom has played in the family and become more appreciative of her. They recognize that Dad couldn’t have done what he did in building the business if Mom hadn’t handled most of the other facets of their lives. They also realize that, even though she wasn’t on the payroll, she listened to the everyday heartaches and triumphs, providing valuable support and encouragement.

Mom achieves an increasing level of admiration from her children. Besides, most children will tell you that they know their Mom loves them and approves of them. That has always been a given in their lives.

Three Ways To Attain

There are three ways children generally respond to this need for Dad’s approval. One is the 'defiant child.'

Usually seen in the first-born, the child challenges Dad frequently to show that he is equal to the 'old man' and therefore worthy to receive the blessing. Frequent disagreements and arguments are the norm, generally over disputed methods to reach the same goal. The child wants to demonstrate leadership and ability by showing Dad new ways to do things, thus proving himself worthy of Dad’s approval. Dad often sees the child as impudent, wanting to change the way things have worked successfully for many years.

Sometimes Dad’s emotions come into play and he might think the child is trying to usurp his authority. Often there is so much competitive drive in Dad that he can’t allow anyone, much less his own son, to best him. Sometimes this leads to shouting matches in front of employees or customers, backing both parent and child into corners from which it is difficult to retreat without losing face. There is a competition taking place and both feel only one can win. This can be a dangerous sport and must be recognized for what it is before relations become so strained they can never be repaired.

The second approach is to be the 'compliant child,' willing to do whatever Dad wants, even if the child doesn’t think it’s the right path. The logic is that if the child does his best to do what Dad wants, surely he will see a worthy child who deserves his blessing and approval.

This can be very frustrating for a child who may seldom feel personal growth and doesn’t like feeling like a doormat. Dad might even privately express concern that the child isn’t demonstrating any leadership in the business. Sometimes the only way for a child to work for a domineering Dad is to become compliant, but it generally isn’t healthy for the business or the child.

The third approach is the 'escape artist.'  This child, for whatever reason, decides that he cannot compete with his father and siblings in the family business arena and win Dad’s approval, so he finds a field in which he can compete and excel.

The thinking is that if he can show Dad how great he has become in his own area of expertise, Dad will approve and shower his blessing on him. The escaper talks about how great it is not to be in the business, but secretly he still craves Dad’s approval. Since he is removed and working in a field Dad probably doesn’t know much about, this approval might be a long time coming.

Approval Must Be Earned

Many entrepreneurial parents have difficulty expressing affection and praise to anyone. It isn’t their nature, and because they don’t need or crave praise themselves, they don’t understand children who do.

Even if Dad is full of praise, it is meaningless unless the child feels himself worthy. All of the compliments in the world will not register if the child doesn’t believe in his heart that he has earned the recognition on his own. False praise has just the opposite reaction from what was intended. Until they receive Dad’s blessing, this approval is a major issue in children, especially sons of successful, entrepreneurial family business owners.

Fathers are often reluctant to tell sons how proud they are of them believing that too much praise might spoil the child or cause him to 'ease up.' Quite the opposite is true. When sons no longer have to worry about whether or not dad approves of them, they are finally free to focus on other, more important issues. Relations become much smoother, family gatherings more pleasant and the business operates better when the child finall

Happily, most children do come to believe they have their father’s approval. Understanding the need for approval and the emotions involved in this issue can be critical in making family businesses more effective. 

About the Author - Wayne Rivers is the president of The Family Business Institute, Inc. FBI’s mission is to deliver interpersonal, operational and financial solutions to help family and closely-held businesses achieve breakthrough success. 

 

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