"Stealing" an Emotional Asset

June 3, 2022

I’ll start with a Jewish joke.

A guy comes home followed by three young women. “One of them is going to be my wife,” he says to his mother, “Let me see if you know which one it is.”

"It is one on the left,“ says his mother.

“How did you know?!?” he exclaims, surprised.

“This is the one I hate already,” she answers.

Here is another one.

A guy walks into work, and he is all black and blue and scratched and bloody.

“What happened?!?” his coworkers ask.

“I buried my mother-in-law yesterday.”


“She did not cooperate,” explains the guy.

These terrible jokes remind me of the stress a founder feels when s/he decides to groom their son or daughter to take over the business. This often introduces conflict into the relationship. The offspring has his or her own ideas of what should be done with the business which the old leader rejects and a stressful relationship develops.

What seems to be the common denominator?

A mother raises her son or daughter from infancy to adulthood. She gives her child all her love and then, some young woman or man comes along and “steals” her offspring and his or her affections.

The founder of a company builds a company for years and years and the son or daughter wants to take over and manage it as they see fit. The old founder resents it and stress makes it into the family.

I call it stealing an emotional asset.

It is not stealing in legal terms and the word “stealing” is wrong because it is not done in hiding but it feels like it; What you build and cherish so much, what you put years of emotional energy into, is being taken away from you.

What to do?

The best solution I learned from a person whose daughter was getting married. He told me the news and added: “I got another son”. He did not feel he lost a daughter. On the contrary, he gained another son. And the same can happen for a daughter-in-law. She could be another daughter and not someone who takes away your son.

What makes the difference?

How the two treat each other. Does your in-law son or daughter call you mom or dad or not? Do you treat them like your son or daughter?

If it does not work this way in the family, visit your mother alone. Give her your time so she knows you are still her son or daughter. Yes, bring the life partner to family gatherings, but visit your mother alone and give her hundred percent of your undivided attention.

Founders of companies, either sell 100% of your company to your offspring or put it in your will so it is passed to your son or daughter upon your death, but not before. Do not try to give management of the company to your son or daughter and you still hang around trying to control the company. This can turn into a stressful relationship. You already built your Taj Mahal. Let them build theirs.

Written by
Dr. Ichak Adizes