Why Grandma is a Bully

February 23, 2009

Please don’t take offense at this headline, I have a lot of explaining to do. I came across the expression “why is grandma a bully?” from a very insightful ten-year-old farm kid. She had observed the pressures building in the farm home over the holidays and made this astute, honest observation when the smoke from the conflict had cleared.

I hear from many farm families who are earnestly seeking a gentle and gracious way to transfer the ownership of the farm or ranch to the next generation. The labour is mostly done by the younger generation, with some help from the founding dad. Grandma is unclear about her role, as she is not needed like she used to be.  She is still trying to figure out the hurt of being left out of her parent’s estate and inheritance. She vows not to repeat the same mistakes with her beloved family, but it looks like the cycle of disappointment and pushing with shoving will be repeated.

If Grandma is in her 70’s, she was a little girl in 1939 or l940’s. These were the war years, and the tail end of the depression. Her family knew scarcity, and so did she.

Decades later she is still hurt by the notion that boys are more important than girls, especially if there is a farm transfer to take place.  Years go by, and she finds her place on her own farm, a full partner with a hard-working husband, who honors her and treats her as an equal. Unfortunately, when her parents’ will is read, she is not included, or if she is, the amount that goes to her just doesn’t seem fair. She worked hard on the farm as a young girl before she married and moved away.

Grandma may be angry because she is hurt, and afraid that she may not have enough to live on until she is 90. People are living longer you know. She really could have used some cash for her post-farming days and decades. She operates from a sense of scarcity not sufficiency.  She doesn’t think she can safely talk to anyone about this because they might call her greedy. She knows at some level that the amount of money left to the children is not necessarily a true measure of the parent’s love for that child. Girls were expected to marry well and start their families independent of the farm. Boys who stayed on the farm were promised that “someday it would all be theirs” and they hoped that Dad and Mom would invoke that promise through the will and the estate plan.

My two aunts know this scenario. They were given an education. They trained as a nurse and a teacher and married. They were given some money, but not the opportunity to have land or farm assets that their brothers got. “That is just the way is was.” said my relative.

Bullies in the classroom have lots written about them these days. But where does a Grandma who is angry and acting like a bully go for help?

First, do some self-awareness work. Read books on anger and dealing with disappointment. Talk to a professional counselor or pastor who is trained to deal with loss. Engage a coach to facilitate a healthy, respectful family meeting where you can all talk about your expectations around the estate plan, succession plan, and lifestyle plan. Write lots of words on paper, vent, and burn them.  Journal your thoughts and reflect on what you are learning. Have tea with a woman you admire who has experienced similar disappointment, yet seems to have forgiven and moved on. Pray. God knows the hurt, and He offers you healing in your grief.

Get your financial affairs in order and have a reality check on what you really do need to have for an income stream to live well into your nineties. Take action. Engage a financial planner.

Ask forgiveness from your family who is just not sure why Grandma is so controlling, bossy, and mad. Go to the physician who specializes in wellness, and figure out if you have a medical reason for your nastiness, like a low-grade depression.
These things are not easy to admit to or write about. Many people are pretending at the curling rink that all is right with the world when it really isn’t. You don’t want to see the legacy of hurt over estate decisions repeat themselves in the next generation, so you know you need to take the bull by the horns and act.
Both Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and US President Barack Obama have said that “Hope trumps fear.”

I sincerely desire that you will address Grandma with grace and curiosity, bathed in hope.  “Grandma, we’ve noticed that things have been hard for you lately, we’re curious if you would like to talk about it.”

Family farm history is a great teacher. If you know the stories of the past, they can help family and advisors set the context for some of the current behavior or fears.  We can’t read minds, but we can offer a safe place to share anger, fear, hurt, and frustration.  Come for tea Grandma. We need to talk. I’ll listen.
Elaine Froese is a catalyst for courageous conversations, and a certified coach and mediator. Her work with farm families is confidential. The stories she tells are woven from real-life scenarios and you may recognize yourself in them. Many do.

Fixing Your Time Stress Mess

60 minutes

Workaholics will discover helpful strategies for managing their time stress. Gain understanding for the tensions of your age and stage on the farm. Learn why some problems are not solvable, but just need to be managed as polarities. Self-renewing people are joyful and productive producers.


Rave reviews

“A joy to work with, heard loud and clear. When the farmers laughed or asked a great question, I knew they were listening and really wanted to learn from her. Her tips were easy to understand. It was just about understanding that conflict happens, and to have the confidence in yourself to ask for what you want. In the glowing review from farmers after her presentation, I knew they had heard that loud and clear.”
Maddy Berner, Event Planner & Communications Coordinator, National Milk Producers Federation National Milk Producers Federation
“I wanted to say a HUGE thank you for your virtual kitchen table chat with Arlan Academy. My wife and I signed up as it was exceptionally relevant to our current journey with potentially transitioning to her parents’ farm. The session was able to cover so many aspects of these crucial conversations and hearing you speak to both sides of the conversation was eye opening for my own perspective on this topic. It seemed to be very well attended and sounded like there were many other people who would echo my thoughts and feelings on it.”
N. Oakley, Farmer, Ontario
“Elaine helped me allocate $1 Million of assets the night I listened to her. Elaine’s presentation brings value to the use of my services in my office.”
Don Forbes, Forbes Wealth Management
“I recently joined in and listened to your Healthy Farmer Agriwebinar for FMC. I truly enjoyed hearing your perspective and even went and grabbed my Mom, away from her work, to come and listen in on some of your main points as well! One area that really stood out for me, both personally with our own succession plans and with our clients, was your discussion involving "Instant Influence" and how ready are you to change? I loved this concept!”
Annessa Good, FCC Transition Specialist, Alberta
“Elaine Froese truly is the Farm Whisperer. With her big heart and stern resolve, she guides families through uncharted waters and helps them arrive safely at their desired destination. She has been there, done that, and has helped hundreds of families come out on the other side. With your family and your farm legacy on the line, you owe it to yourself to start this conversation. You do not need to do it alone. Let Elaine Froese guide you through. Your legacy is being written day by day. How will you be remembered?”
Tracy Brunet, Host of The Impact Farming Show & CEO of Farm Marketer
“You speak like you’ve been sitting at our kitchen table! You know our family issues well. I am feeling more comfortable understanding what we now need to do. Elaine Froese is real.”
Audience Member,
“I attended the meeting you spoke at in Stratford Ontario recently. We held an emergency family/farm meeting today because of issues that I had enough of. We used a 'talking stick' like you recommended and wrote a chart of rules. The rest of the family thought the idea that we needed a meeting was worth rolling their eyes over, until we got started. The younger ones were quick to clue in that they now have an opportunity to be bluntly honest. The older ones took a bit longer to believe they could truly say what they think. In the end, the meeting needed two sessions because there was so much to talk about… and so many things people didn't realize were a big deal to the others. Your lessons and encouragement have given us the tools we need to get to a better place in our relationships and our business. Truly thankful.”
Kim Martin, Dairy Farmer, Ontario
“Helped me develop my framework to start having constructive and meaningful conversations around the farm.”
Tennille Wakefield, Farm Partner
“Some great lessons, Elaine! You continue to do some remarkable and potentially life-changing work.”
James Mitchell, Principal, Conversations Consulting
“Our family had a good farm meeting yesterday afternoon. Your Fairness video was a great topic of discussion. One of the action items after the meeting was to have my two non-farming siblings watch the video before the next big meeting they are involved with on the farm. It will be a great conversation starter as we catch them up on our current plan. As they are younger, we also hope it will help them to ask new questions that may not have been on their mind.”
G.G., Farm Family Legacy Coach, Alberta
“Elaine gives me excellent tools that help me work with my clients!”
Laurianne Osmack, Financial Planner / Partner, Doell Osmak Wealth Management
“She has a sense of “knowing” quickly what is happening in the family dynamic. Her messages to her audiences drive home what needs to be done next to solve the complex issues of farm transition and conflict resolution.”
Audience Member,
“Eye-opening. Excited to open the door of communication with my spouse and farm family.”
Ashley Hoppe, Farm Partner
“The Strong Farms, Strong Families session gave farm families an opportunity to meet face to face with Elaine Froese... hear her own story, experiences and skill set. From this information packed session and related materials, families could identify areas of success in their journey and other places they need assistance. The greatest take away was that participants could see that Elaine Froese is someone they can trust with the things that they hold most precious.... their family and their farm.”
Nancy Atkinson, Nobleford Ag Society, Alberta
“Elaine’s real-life scenarios help her audiences know they are not alone, knowing there are creative solutions to help them get the life on the farm they have always wanted.”
Audience Member,
“A long time female client who had refined the art of procrastination was so moved by the end of your presentation that she accepted your permission to “drop the bananas.” She contacted me soon after for an appointment to do some planning which included the selling of the family “Century Farm.” A very, very emotional decision on her part that was not likely to have occurred without your presentation.”
Don Forbes, Forbes Wealthy Management
“I just have to say… that your work is amazing and I have never forgotten your teachings from our session in Williams Lake at TRU. It is super important work. I know so many people going through the trauma of succession. I hate to use that word, but I was an “out-law” and know it can get terrible. I continue to forward your emails on to others. Keep doing what you do! You are amazing. You kind of walk into the fire regularly… and with a smile. Proud to have met you.”
Megan, BC Rancher
“As my husband and I eagerly started the course we were optimistic and excited to be taking this next step in our Farm Transition. We were starting to question ourselves and whether or not we were just being selfish and greedy, and if this Farm Transition was still an option for us. We barely got through the first Module and were already having such a huge relief. As we moved through the modulus there were so many times that we just sat back with our hands in the air and thought YES. My husband and I would smile with relief because all of the concerns that we have been struggling with were relevant and came up in the modules. We really enjoyed the course and are excited to move on to the next stages to find our farm resolution.”
Shannon Gilchrist, “Get Farm Transition Unstuck” online course participant
“My hubby farms with 2 brothers and parents, and it’s become a really toxic place. No communication, no respect, etc. Twelve months ago, my husband’s brothers told him they don’t want to work with him anymore and offered him a pay out. His parents did nothing to stop it! He had no choice but to leave. Three months later, we moved off the farm and into town. He has been offered heaps of jobs and is now truck driving and carting hay and grain. We have tried communicating with his parents about what happened but they are not interested. So basically my hubby has lost his family. Very sad but we as husband and wife are overall in a good place and moving on to create our own life. Please continue on with all your wonderful work in helping families on the farm. I continue to tell any farmers I know about you, that they must ‘google’ you, and read your books.”
Donna, Farmer, Australia

Book Elaine
for your next event

Contact Elaine to start the conversation.

+1-204-534-7466 | elaine(at)

Contact Elaine