In my last blog, I discussed an issue that plagues most wealthy families but is not limited to the wealthy: family conflicts and broken relationships. I can’t tell you how many families I have counseled who at first stubbornly refuse to even communicate with a family member or who painfully regret past conflicts but don’t know how to resolve the issues. I have good news; we all can have victory if we first define the root cause of the conflict and then define how to bring the family back together.
Last week I began the discussion with the first and most prolific cause of family conflict: General Neglect. Any relationship you value that is neglected will eventually erode and finally disappear.
The second cause of family conflict is Rejected Family Values. Many times, we have seen the children of wealthy parents have rejected their family’s primary virtues and core values. They choose a course for their lives that is the antithesis of everything the family stands for. Children may become involved in drugs or excessive drinking, marry outside their family faith, or live a promiscuous and immoral lifestyle. Often, this is their response to neglect they experienced at home, but more often than not they are simply rebelling and trying to find their own unique way.
For a wealthy entrepreneur father, having a lazy and unmotivated child is excruciating. The daily newspapers all too often feature true stories of wayward children of wealthy families. That is why, whatever your political leanings, the Trump children are an enigma. They demonstrate parents that spent time with them, encouraged them and loved them.
The third cause of family conflict is Failed Expectations. Does this sound familiar, “Dad, I will never live up to your expectation, no matter how hard I try, you’re never satisfied.” Wealthy parents mistakenly think that they can buy happiness and satisfaction. No matter how good the schools or tutors or coaches, some children are just made differently than the parents. Maybe they would rather teach or play an instrument or paint or work for a ministry or go on a mission.
Living in a shadow of a very successful parent can be intimidating and discouraging. The children have their own desires, talents, and drives and a parent that assumes that the child is going to run the business may be terribly disappointed and create a huge gap between him and the child. Yet most children would like to please the parent so these expectations can make the child suffer horrible conflict and sadness.
The fourth cause is Self-Gratification. One of the great advantages of the wealthy is there is plenty. One of the great disadvantages of the wealthy is that there is plenty. Children who have the opportunity to get everything that they want will probably want everything. Children who grow up with access to “easy” money, lots of free time, and little responsibility become consumed with getting and doing what pleases them. They often become so self-focused that they only live for themselves.
They may reject the idea that they need to contribute to the family. They expect to have it all and they will make not only their parents miserable but their spouse and children as well. They become irresponsible and have a difficult time adjusting to life. The self-gratification problem can persist indefinitely and is one of the hardest conflicts to resolve without a lot of pain.
The last two causes of family conflict are Lack of Honesty and Parental Favoritism. There is no more devastating violation of a human relationship than to intentionally deceive someone you love. There is one kind that is particularly pervasive among the wealthy: promising the children that they would be at a sporting event or recital or class play and not showing up. Children are devastated by this absence. I know because my father never showed up for anything for any of his 5 children. We resolved that conflict before he died but believe me it showed us that the business and his friends were more important than us. There is no greater hurt than that for a child.
Most parents would say this is not a lie but it might as well have been. The tyranny of the urgent always took priority over the most important.
When parents show favoritism toward one child, they think that the others do not know. They know! Favoritism, like keeping your daughter away from important roles in the family business or giving the daughter a smaller inheritance or giving the oldest more than the youngest can all cut very deep. One that does not seem unreasonable is treating the spouses of your children harshly or differently than your child. That can cause a conflict in their marriage that could make your child pick between the spouse and the family…not a good outcome.
As you can see the causes of family conflict are many, varied and insidious. It would be wise to admit which applies to you and commit to resolving it…Jesus would want you to. In the next two blogs, I am going to tell you how to resolve these family conflicts and to make peace not only with a spouse or child but with God.
Download The Master’s Plan!
This is a book about transforming your family legacy – both today and in generations to come. It is for Christian families who want to eliminate estate and capital gains taxes, maintain their current lifestyle, pass on an appropriate inheritance to their heirs, maximize giving to worthy ministries, create healthier family relationships and leave a lasting legacy to impact God’s kingdom.
By Joe Sturniolo
Christian Family Legacy and Wealth Planning
Joe believes that stronger families are the vehicle God uses to bring about significant impact for His Kingdom.