Family Feuds by the Rules

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Country music star Naomi Judd, shares her family’s nine essential rules for fighting fair — and resolving conflict. From Naomi’s Guide to Aging Gratefully: Facts, Myths, and Good News for Boomers

  1. No interrupting. (Wy used to say I’d make a great parole officer because I never let her finish her sentences.)
  2. No shouting.
  3. Everyone must realize we each have our own realities. (This is a big one for all family members to grasp.)
  4. Everyone gets as much time as they need to fully express themselves.
  5. Everyone should be prepared with their thoughts and solutions so time isn’t wasted. This encourages the quiet, introverted ones to participate.
  6. Pause to think before you speak so you address the person as if he or she is a friend.
  7. No fair bringing others’ opinions into it. (So-and-so said…)
  8. Silence can be another form of arguing. Say what’s on your mind.
  9. Everyone needs to be aware that there will always be some “issue.”

We came up with the powwow rules on our own in the early nineties. Since then, we’ve added many similar guidelines. After we saw how they really helped us, our family decided to also create a contract for the holidays so there’d be no more “holler/daze.” Yes, Virginia, there is a Sanity Clause.

As blood relations, we assume (and remember: to assume makes an ass of u and me) that everybody thinks alike and wants the same things. Big mistake. Holidays are already intensely stressful. Period.

For Thanksgiving dinner 2005, all three households (husbands included) submitted a list what they wished for and what they didn’t want. We faxed our lists to one another. Wishes included taking a group photo around the table; the oldest one says the grace; take a walk after the meal; everyone says what they are grateful for during dessert; etc. What we didn’t want: talking showbiz, politics, or anything depressing, etc. After deciding on the menu and who was responsible for each dish, we figured out the assignments. Grace did place cards, Elijah filled water glasses, the guys were responsible for cleanup. We all were very pleased at how smoothly our day went. It was one of the best Thanksgivings we ever had!

It’s important to put things in writing and give everyone a copy to keep so no one can claim he or she “forgot.” All of us signed the contract. I even put it in the scrapbook where the family photo is in the front of my daytimer. This idea, to allow each member to express his or her wishes and concerns, worked so beautifully we plan to make it a habit before any major get-together.

Naomi Judd, a country music superstar as well as one of the most admired women in the entertainment industry, has sold more than twenty million albums and won six Grammys and American Music Awards. She’s received three honorary doctorates in the arts and nursing and is a highly sought after speaker. As a humanitarian and social advocate, she is the spokesperson for the American Liver Foundation. Author of Naomi’s Guide to Aging Gratefully (Copyright © 2007 by Naomi Judd) and Naomi’s Breakthrough Guide, she has also written three children’s books and Naomi’s Home Companion, a collection of recipes and kitchen-table wisdom.



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