“Loyd I have tried tough love and it did not work.”

Such was the frustrated, emotional exclamation of an 83 year old business owner trying to deal with a 58 year old son who was apparently acting like a teenager. According to the explanation, irrespective of pleads by his parents who were technically in control of the business, the son would spend from the family’s business on his personal desires and wants. Based upon the dad’s description, the son stepped across the line one day and could not tell the difference between the reasonable and the ridiculous.

“His mother and I need him to attend to us and if he abandons us due to our tough love like he has done in the past, we pay the price for his indiscretions. I don’t care about him spending money, I just want him to ask me before he spends it.”

Another opportunity for AskLoyd@RawlsGroup.com; how do I control my son when tough love will not work?

There are two issues here. “Tough love” is challenging because it is generally tougher on the giver than the receiver! The receiver (son) is used to “life in the stress lane” and frequently tries to trade peace and harmony for impulsive needs and wants. It’s a real bummer to go out on a limb to help a love-one because often times what happens is you become spotlighted as a control. On the other hand, it’s demoralizing to be attacked and isolated by someone who takes the “blame-game” to Olympic performance levels. There is truly no sense in attempting to give tough love if you are unable to stay the course until the desired adaptive behavior is achieved. 

As I considered my clients situation I expressed,

“Based upon the circumstances I assume that you have no other children who could help with accountability and you are unable or unwilling to step back into the business and put a halt to your perception of financial non-sense. Additionally, neither your security nor life style is at risk by your son’s behavior. With this foundation, I recommend: don’t sweat the small stuff. 

As long as your son has not lost his marbles or is not under the influence of something bad, recognize the futility of your position and add credence to my credo “there is no business gain worth a family price.” Advise your son that you have expressed your feelings and priorities but you are not going to let disagreements over business management impair what father-son relationship you have remaining. Then as humbly and unemotionally as possible follow with a statement that your perception of his business judgment will determine how your estate will be structured. In other words, “I’ll shut up (knowing I really have no other recourse) but when it comes to determining your access to the “mother-load” I am going to take your current behavior into consideration.”

Then let the chips fall where they may  recognizing that although you love your son, you have a stewardship responsibility not to hand over direct control of the remainder of your estate to a self indulgent, child and discipline in business is about as good a test as circumstances can provide.  

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