Froese elaine
Certified Farm Family Coach
Elaine Froese, CSP, CAFA, CHICoach and her team of coaches are here to help you find harmony thro...

An American farmwoman who moved from Florida to become part of a family farm in the cornfields of Iowa called me one day to say, “Elaine, I am tired of all the ranting on social media about problems with in-laws. Something needs to shift, and we need to see solutions.”

Lauren Lundt is a gifted young mom who wants things for farm family dynamics to be different. Here’s some of the issues we need to address.

  • Farm dads to understand how to build respect, trust and ask for what they need. Recently, a young man told me he was committed to staying with his plan to farm, even though his dad rarely affirms his value, never appreciates his input and treats the young man disrespectfully with “You are going to run this place into the ground” hurtful comments. I coach young people to not accept bad behaviour and ask for more respectful communication. Profanity on farms stops today.

  • Farm moms, mothers-in-law, daughters and daughters-in-law yearn to be seen, have a voice and stop being the “pig in the middle” of the conflict triangle. Conflict is not bad, but it needs to be resolved. If your mother-in-law is going through your husband and your father-in-law without speaking to you directly, you need to ask for direct lines of communication. “What would you like me to do differently?” is a great open-ended question to help find understanding as to the tension triggers being kept fueled by conversations that are not getting to the bottom of the issues.

  • Farm successors to stand up for what is right and seek common ground. What is it that everyone in your family truly wants? More positive relationships and better communication? Then start acting with kindness, listen well, and stop being so judgmental. I cannot fathom why parents continue to hang up on their daughters-in-law or walk away from important conversations. You need to sign up for love and respect once your successor has chosen their life partner. Blessing is your choice, and cursing is not an option. If there are irritations in behaviour or language, then address those issues in the moment with curiosity. “I am just curious; is there something bothering you we need to talk about? My intention is not to cause harm; I want to know what I need to do to make things right with you!”
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  • Farm sons and daughters-in-law to understand family of origin conflict styles and communication. I come from a line of strong women who were a bit “Irish” in their direct communication style. My hot buttons are people who are aloof, the kind who are not honest in sharing what they are truly thinking, feeling, needing and wanting. What is your communication style? Do you need time to process because you cannot think quickly on your feet? Are you a bit too abrupt and concise when it would work better to use a few more words and slow down in your speaking? Are you like me when you want to focus on the status of the relationship and talk about people issues before you get to the “meat” of the conversation?

  • Navigate new language and approaches for positive conflict behaviour. Change your attitudes about conflict being something to be avoided. You are now going to use language that seeks to find out the other person’s perspective. Ask the other person, “What creative solutions do you think will work to help us out with this disconnect we are having?” “Please be patient with my tears, I express emotions easily and, in my family, it is a good thing because we know that feelings need to be validated. My tears are not intended for manipulation.”

  • Provide tools for profitable family business meetings while sitting with deep emotions. Let’s work out a family meeting to nip these conflict issues in the bud. If you would feel better having an outside facilitator, a farm family coach and her team can help us over Zoom. Let’s talk about what we need in the family circle for better family dynamics and keep that separate from our strategic meetings for the farm transition.

  • Outline the keyways to prevent divorce on farms for the younger generation as well as the founders. Divorce on farms does not have to happen. As a farm coach, the divorces I see are the founders getting off-track with their marriage breakdown and the inability to see conflict resolution as a business risk management strategy. Asking for a pre-nuptial, cohabitation or marriage contract is not a hard conversation for the reality of farm asset values in 2022. If you are avoiding having this fear-inducing conversation, you can ask a farm coach to navigate this with you for your farm team.

I look forward to the day when women in agriculture are singing the praises of their in-laws on social media because they are using conflict resolution tools that keep the family circle healthy and whole. Our farms are crying out for solutions because “hope deferred makes a heart sick.”