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David Werdiger's Familosophy

Family Conficts: Carrot or Stick?

Q. My child is not performing in their role in the family business / will use their inheritance to support a cause I despise / wants to take over / doesn’t want to take over / doesn’t want to do what I want. What can I do to bring them into line?

A. Since time immemorial, parents have been trying to get their children to do what they want, or follow in their footsteps. Which specific method to use is often a function of the age of a child. When they are young, we can tell them what to do and they might listen. But as they move into their teens, this becomes more difficult. Indeed, during a rebellious period (which some children never outgrow), they are inclined to do the opposite of what parents want.

The ‘stick’ works, but only for a very limited time. Using the stick (e.g. threatening to cut them out of an inheritance or other coercive tactics) on an adult is fraught with danger. While it may achieve the desired short-term result, the collateral relationship damage may be permanent. On the other hand, the ‘carrot’ can be akin to bribery, and also can send the wrong message to children about what is important.

It’s worth looking outside the box at interest-based negotiation, and even acknowledging that your children are adults who may not make the same life choices as you! These may not result in getting the children to do what you want, but may well result in a healthy and positive family relationship.

Consider This: (for parents) How has the way you try to get children to do what you want changed as they have grown up? (for children) how does the way your parents seek to get you to do their wishes make you feel?

Original articles:

Here is more on reading on family conflict resolution.

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