Just Sayin’: Dynamics, Family and Otherwise

Have you ever noticed that families, and for that matter, any group of people, are interesting animals?

Any family holiday get-together brings this thought to the up-close-and-personal level.  Uncle Ernie shows up and everyone has a good time. Cousin Joe shows up and you know there will be a fight. Auntie Sybil is there and it’s a possibility that your mother is going to end up in tears before the day is out. Grandmother Julie arrives and it’s like pouring oil on the water.

Seems that this would all fall under the heading of “family dynamics” or “group dynamics.”

I used to notice this phenomenon in the classroom, too. Add a certain kid, and the classroom erupts. Let that kid be absent and your day is smooth sailing. It can work in the opposite direction, too. However, affecting the classroom or group of people in a positive manner seems to be at least twice as difficult as affecting the group negatively.

Why is that? I’ve often pondered just what interpersonal mechanism is at work here.

Not being educated in the behavioral sciences, I don’t know why that’s true . . . but it sure seems to work that way. Maybe that says something about our own nature. It’s much easier to play to our baser nature than the other way around. It seems so easy to slip into the lower reaches of our own personalities. And it also seems to be a truism that many times trying to intervene when seeing the party headed down one of these disruptive paths, ends up acting as an accelerant.

Even in the classroom, even as a teacher, sometimes the best thing you can do is to excise the errant cell . . . better known as “sending them to the office.” Seldom does that do much for the behavior of the offending party, but it gives one a chance of herding the group back toward the positive side.

Hmmm . . . wonder if that technique would work in a family situation? Let’s see, if you could prompt your brother to ask Cousin Joe to  offer his opinion on his new tires, it might avoid the fight brewing. But how do you keep Aunt Sybil from making those snide remarks to your mother all day? Guess you can’t. That pattern was set decades before you arrived on the scene.

But it is also interesting to note: 1) everyone expresses joy at the thought that Uncle Ernie and Grandmother Julie have been invited,  and 2) moans audibly when informed that certain other members of the family are going to attend a given event. So, then, why we do keep inviting the same group of people? Well, they are family  . . . and after all, not to invite them would seriously damage our fantasy of what a perfect family gathering should be. Maybe this time Cousin Joe will behave.

I’m also certain that someone out there has figured out this conundrum: how to contain the disruptive elements, but manage to keep the fun guys (not to be confused with mushrooms) going.

Oh, if you have that secret, do share!

Nah . . . if we didn’t have these aberrations, what stories would we have left to tell at future family gatherings?

Adrienne Jacoby is a 40-plus-year resident of Shasta County and native-born Californian. She was a teacher of vocal music in the Enterprise Schools for 27 years and has been retired for 11 years.
A musician all her life, she was married to the late Bill Jacoby with whom she formed a locally well -known musical group who prided themselves in playing for weddings, wakes, riots, bar mitzvas and super market openings. And, oh yes . . . she has two children, J’Anna and Jayson.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Chamberlain, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.

Adrienne Jacoby
Adrienne Jacoby is a 40-plus-year resident of Shasta County and native-born Californian. She was a teacher of vocal music in the Enterprise Schools for 27 years and has been retired for 11 years. A musician all her life, she was married to the late Bill Jacoby with whom she formed a locally well -known musical group who prided themselves in playing for weddings, wakes, riots, bar mitzvas and super market openings. And, oh yes … she has two children, J’Anna and Jayson.
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24 Responses

  1. Avatar CoachBob says:

    I was the classroom phenomenon when I was in school! xoxo

  2. Avatar Canda says:

    "Our fantasy of what a perfect family gathering should be." Now that's about the truest statement I've ever heard. I've often thought that watching "Father Knows Best" and "Leave it to Beaver" as a kid, totally messed up my expectations of what a family should be. Mine sure never even closely resembled either of those shows. Between Grandparents cussing at one another, and another member baking into the corner of the house due to libations, there was never a dull moment at family gatherings.

    I also relate to the wide swings in classroom dynamics depending on who was absent on any given day. It really is amazing, as any teacher can attest to.

    Great article, as usual, Adrienne!

  3. Avatar Pat Scott says:

    I come from a huge family. Somehow we've managed to gather groups of 50 or so family members together and not have fights or snide comments but still have a lot of fun. It's probably because my sweet sweet mother wouldn't allow any other behaviors. LOL. I love your article. Makes me feel blessed.

  4. Avatar Claudia says:

    Perfect timing…my sisters and daughter are arriving today! The other side of the family splintered off after the beloved matriarchal passed away – I still miss those gatherings, though very chaotic at times.

  5. Avatar Stan says:

    A couple of things…….

    1. Sometimes a "culture" gets set and folks just go along with it because it's "expected." Also, they can go along because it's "family."

    2. It seems to be human nature that we remember more bad things that happen than the good. I wish it were the other way around, but then how could the "newsies" stay in business?

  6. Avatar JJ says:

    We all know the joys and the perils of large family gatherings in rather contained spaces….

    And aren't we glad for the good times! (focusing on the glass half-FULL, don't cha know 🙂

    Love the article, Adrienne!

  7. Avatar Budd Hodges says:

    How true you are AJ about family dynamics. Ha, I most identify with 2 1/2 Men's, The Harpers, Allen, Jake,Charlie and Evelyn and maid Bertie.

    It's a hoot when you have a successful father and mother and one kid is CSF, all A's and another is a gangster who's got 5 pictures on Shasta County Mug shots. The daughter is smart but pregnant and doesn't know who the dad is.

    When these fine folks get together, the fun begins. I'd like to be a fly on the wall with a camcorder.

    Good collumn AJ!

  8. Avatar Steve Fischer says:

    Our recently created Thanksgiving tradition is to spend it and the following couple of days in San Francisco. Good food, good shopping – no family hassles!!!

  9. One solution is to just "keep the music going!"

    hummm…wonder if my kids were the disruptive ones in AJ's class????

  10. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyde says:

    I loved this article. At school, the mix in a classroom can be heavenly, or it can be not so much, and the difference can often be one person who exerts negative influence over others.

    I loved Pat's response to your article. She gives her mom credit for keeping the peace! That one person!

  11. Avatar Sheri Eby says:

    Your articles are great about getting everyone to think about the subjects and relate to them. Of course, I'm thinking of my family dynamics, as well as all the disruptive classes and non-disruptive classes and why they are that way.

    …and yes, wondering if, perhaps I…no, not me. lol

    On another note, this would be a good article for all members of a family to read before a family party, they too could wonder about their behaviors and how they effect others.

    Thanks AJ!

  12. Avatar amy gibbs says:

    I had a teacher in 9th grade, in an Honors English class who thought it would be funny when he took a day off, to tell the sub that we were the bottom class and the bottom class was the honors class. He was chortling when he returned and told us the sub never guessed that we weren't the bonehead class. I will never forget that. I was incensed.

    It speaks to both the behavior the class exhibited–ours– and the behavior the teacher expected. I am sure that you, Adrienne, don't blatantly treat some kids differently than others, but I can tell you that the sub we had that day treated us like idiots. To say we behaved like idiots would be simplifying the situation, but in reality, we did.

    The thing that our regular teacher neglected to mention later, and that I didn't think of until many many years later, is that it takes two to tango. Our teacher just gloated and needled us about how we thought we were such smart, hot kids and in reality we weren't that great, etc. etc. In trying to drive home HIS point, he really missed the bigger point. Expectations and attitude make a huge difference. On both sides.

    That being said, I have worked with kids in the classroom, and I can confirm that there are always certain kids who change the dynamic with just their energy. They can overwhelm the other kids and pull them along in their wake.

    Love your article, Adrienne!

  13. Avatar Magnolia Neighborhoo says:

    Vote the troublemakers "off the island" and life will be more calm.

  14. Avatar Juanita Echelbarger says:

    It is common to be more tolerant of family than of friends & acquaintances. Also, it is easier to dis friends & acquaintances than family members. There is a certain bond (blood as well as history) that allows us to show more grace to our own. Within my family of 7 siblings plus in-laws, and other extended family members, there are certainly some schisms and divisions. However, my Mom, now departed to a place of eternal peace, simply would not allow us to exhibit our differences up front. So it became habitual to conduct ourselves with decorum. Also, we truly like each other and are able to let go of the problem areas when we come together. This is not to say that there aren't differences of opinion and disagreement as to life choices, etc., but we have each other's backs and stick together when one or the other is experiencing a rough patch.

    I can see that most of us agree that there are the pot-stirrers and there are the peace-makers among us. But we still like to come together and experience each others differences without coming to blows. I think we find that those with the most problems and greatest dis-satisfactions distance themselves from the rest. So be it!

    P.S. I love our "conversations", Adrienne!

  15. Spot on with this write-up, I actually think this website needs much more

    attention. I'll probably be back again to read more, thanks for the information!

  16. Incredible! This blog looks exactly like my old one!

    It's on a completely different topic but it has pretty much the same layout and design. Outstanding choice of colors!