I doubt there will be any disagreement that parenting is a challenge. Surely anyone who has been privileged with offspring will agree. As a succession planner who is uniquely positioned within many families who are collaborating in business, I can affirm that bringing children into a family business greatly elevates the challenge of parenting. Family business is an oxymoron because family is an institution of unconditional acceptance whereas business is a institution of conditional performance.  As a result, being a parent can become even more challenging because, you can’t run a family like a business and you can’t run a business like a family.  As if the challenge of raising a child were not enough, the family business environment creates a constantly changing rule book. This can often lead parents to believe that the only hope for a child’s success comes with divine guidance toward a prayerful balance between unconditional love and performance accountability.

The spiritual drive of mothers to attend to the needs of their children is a power beyond my understanding.  For a “mom”, unconditional love appears to be a natural behavior with endless amounts of empathy, endearment and compassion.  This behavior is natural and extremely important to empowering and building productive adults.  However, if not careful, this behavior can also cross all boundaries including the murky family business borders between love/accountability and personal/business success. 

It is probably just the stressed-economic window I am looking through, but I have recently witnessed an increased number of “over-responsible mother” behaviors which can become a family business disease.  With economic times pushing us all to dig deeper, it appears that many mothers are not able to resist saving their children, even if they actually need to be held accountable or pushed further. This “help” can quickly transition from a mother’s empathy, endearment and compassion to enablement and entitlement. As a result, parents (both moms and dads) are frustrated that their good intentions are creating more problems. Motivated children are frustrated that some siblings are not allowed to fail. Key managers and employees are frustrated that there are two sets of poorly defined rules and expectations regarding family business behavior.

Far be it from me to contend that I have a simple answer for managing children who are struggling personally or in the business. However, I do believe that moms (and dads) can become more effective and find some relief by becoming more aware of the difference between support and encouragement vs. over responsibility and rescuing behavior. Constantly rescuing your children prevents them from maturing or learning how to deal with adversity. 

As a parent, consider, simply waiting until your child specifically asks for help. Then discuss the impact of the help with your spouse or another party before acting.  As a result, the negative impact of over-parenting can be significantly relieved. 

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