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My 24 year-old daughter lives apart from me with her father. A year ago she bought an expensive coyote fur-trimmed Canada Goose brand coat, knowing that it was coyote fur.

At the time, I was unaware of the Canada Goose brand and their fur-farming practices. Now that I am privy to this brand and their practices, I find that I am increasingly bothered to look at her in this coat, each time we meet for our weekly family brunch.

A part of me feels that it's a petty issue, but another part of me is sort of astounded that my daughter seems to value status and vanity over ethics. This choice is in conflict with what I believe are our family values, and I feel like she is rejecting them. Even though I would not consider myself a vocal animal rights activist, I am an animal-lover. She mentioned when she bought it that it kind of bothered her that an animal was killed for it, but she went ahead in spite of that. That is immensely disappointing to me.

When I say "family values", her adult brother is also in opposition to the coat but wants to avoid conflict over it. Her father did not influence her decision other than helping her with a loan to purchase the coat. I have not spoken to him about this, although he is aware of my position. He avoids conflict so doesn't express what he feels, but I would say that he tends to see me as the moral compass of the family. So he supports my position although he does not seem to have a personal opinion on fur-farming ethics nor acts on it autonomously. (Just as a footnote, although we are a meat-eating family, I tend to buy only organic or ethically-raised meat and try to reduce plastic waste.)

I haven't talked to her about this yet. I don't know how to approach the subject without a showdown, as every time I try to discuss any real issue with her she becomes aggressive. But I want to let her know this as I have a duty, not only to my family but to myself, to speak up. I feel like by wearing this coat all the time, she is going to great lengths to reject not only the way she was raised, but in essence, me.

How can I express my disappointment about the coat to her, without causing a dispute?

My priority is to be able to state my opposition without a blow-up fight, as each time I address a sensitive issue with her it's ended badly. Yes, she has a right to not care about fur-farming lack of ethics, but it's about enjoying her company and my time with her, and not being afraid of blow-out meltdowns.

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    Hello! I've made some edits to incorporate your previous comments and hopefully make the question easier to read, please feel free to re-edit or rollback if I accidentally took something important out. One question, you mention your daughter is "aggressive" when you try to discuss issues with her - could you explain what do you mean by that? It would help answers to know what sort of behavior you're trying to avoid and what usually triggers it. – Em C Nov 30 '18 at 3:02
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This came out to be longer than I'd intended, so, direct answers to the question:

  1. Keep the focus on the decision to buy the coat and her reasons for doing so. DO NOT focus on what you imagine the broader significance of that decision to be, nor your personal judgment of your daughter.

  2. Ask questions about why she chose as she did, and what she knows about the process of manufacturing the coat. DO NOT lead with your assessments of her quality as a person or her beliefs about treatment of animals.

  3. Do not even suggest that being a part of the family requires that she believe exactly as you do, and deviation from those beliefs automatically indicates that she has chosen to be kicked out.

  4. Determine whether or not voicing your opinion is really all that you want to do, and if so then don't do more than that. Voicing your opinion does not require any response or discussion. If you do want something other than that, pretending otherwise won't help avoid a dispute, and my advice for how to talk to your daughter would be different.


Background and rationale for my answer:

I see four major issues that are likely to turn any conversation into a more heated dispute:

1.

"What bothers me is that this choice of hers is in conflict with what I believed are our family values."

This framing implies that, if she feels the coat is acceptable (for whatever reason) then she is defined out of the family. It may or may not be what you mean to express, and you may or may not be OK with that implication, but the position that "if you don't recognize that buying that coat makes you a bad person, then you're not really my daughter anymore" isn't one that you can plausibly throw out there without expecting it to cause a dispute.

It may be the case that she really has reconsidered her values and believes differently from you and the rest of your immediate family. But what, exactly, does it mean to you that she might hold that different belief? It might also be the case that she's unaware of whatever factors informed your ethical concerns, and so doesn't realize that she's crossed a boundary you both believe in. Assuming that she has not only intentionally transgressed but also willfully abandoned a key part of being your daughter will only intensify any discussions or conflicts that might arise.

2. It's not clear to me what you really want here.

I don't know you personally, so this may not be a fair take on your position. But, in my experience, people are rarely satisfied just to express their opinions on topics like this one. Far more common is when someone wants to express their opinion, be acknowledged by the other party as being totally correct, and have the other party agree in the end that they are wrong to have done whatever they did. In addition to that being the typical way I've seen scenes like this play out, the tone and focus of your question reinforces my impression that you're looking to do more than express yourself.

You could easily mention to your daughter "That's a nice coat, but I think that it's morally wrong to wear animal fur", and have that be the end of it. It seems to me that you are planning for, if not necessarily expecting, there to be more to the conversation after that. There's nothing wrong with that, but if you do have some other motivation or goal, that would need to be explicitly addressed (and, as mentioned above, I can't guess very well at what other goals you might in fact have).

3. This may be clearer for someone actually in your family, but it's not clear to me where the line is on your animal rights position.

You eat meat, so it would seem that you are willing to accept animals being raised and slaughtered for human benefit. You state that you tend to buy ethically raised meat, which suggests that at least some of the time you do not.

From your question I believe it likely that you are interested in the conditions in which animals are raised, and the fur industry (generally or in the specific case of Canada Goose, either way) is over the line for you. But it may not be as clear to someone else where you feel that line should be. If you sometimes buy unethically raised meat, why can your daughter not buy a single fur-trimmed coat one time? I would imagine that you can describe your positions more fully than in the question here (that much context would be off-topic here anyhow), but it could easily be the case that your complete ethical position is not/was not clear to your daughter.

4. Her choice of coat is probably not about you.

You know your daughter better than I do (which is to say, at all), but I think it's probably not the case that she was intending to send any sort of message to you in choosing the coat. Your feeling that

[…] by wearing this coat all the time, she is going to great lengths to reject not only the way she was raised, but in essence, me.

completely shifts the discussion away from both being about her decision to buy the coat as well as the broader issue of animal rights. Your position seems to be that, even more important than the underlying ethical issue, the main problem is your personal offense at her choice to buy the coat. Wearing a winter coat in the winter is not exactly "going to great lengths" to do anything, regardless of how many coats she owns or how much she likes them.

You could be totally correct, and this was a gesture aimed at you. But if that was not the case, then fundamentally mischaracterizing your daughter's decisions and motivations makes a fight a fair bit more likely.

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You're going to have to accept that she bought the coat and it's here to stay. But you may be able to prevent this happening again!

From the way you've written this question, it sounds like your ideal outcome would be for her to stop wearing the coat around you or trash it entirely. But let's think about this from her perspective: this is something that she had to work hard for--she even went so far as to take out a loan for it! As a young adult, saving up and finally getting something you've wanted is a big deal--she probably finally feels like a real adult!

All of this together makes any criticism of the coat a criticism of her ability to be an adult. Coming from you, her mother, it'd be even more devastating. Now I know that's not how you view it or at all what you're trying to say, but that's likely how it'll be taken.

As such, I'd give up all hope of trying to get her away from this coat. In fact, I'd actually go the exact opposite way and praise her for her dedication in wanting something and seeing it through to the end. This is an essential quality to being successful in this world!!

However, I think right now you're reading way too far into things here and jumping to conclusions:

What's become apparent is that she did buy this coat more for status than warmth, overlooking any ethical responsibility and that is immensely disappointing for me.

You've said yourself that you haven't yet talked to your daughter about the coat yet, so how do you know why she bought the coat or that she even realizes the ethical implications of what she's doing?

Already any discussion you try to start with her will go wrong if you go in thinking like this. You've already made her out to be the bad guy! And this feeling of "she's wrong! How could she do this?!" will seep into the discussion no matter how hard you try to mask it.

If you want to have a calm discussion without turning into an argument or a yelling match, you're going to have to be prepared to drop any preconceptions you have of the situation and actually listen to what she's saying.

When you have a discussion with her, stick to the facts. Try to figure out how she feels about the coat and whether or not she understands the implications behind it. If she went so far as to take out a loan to buy it, this is clearly something she cares a lot about. Why? Why this coat specifically and not any other expensive coat? How did she choose this one? Why does she love it so much?

Let her talk about it and try to really understand how she feels about this coat--it sounds like it's really precious to her!

Then, once she's done, I'd compliment her on this accomplishment of saving up and earning something she really wanted! Only after complimenting her and making sure she understands that you're proud of her for the way that she persevered for this would I mention that in general, this company might not be good to buy from next time because of the way they treat animals.

Make the compliment the main point and the critique an addition at the end. This is a slight modification to the Sandwich Method that I think will work here.

Again, you should be proud of your daughter, she's trying to make things work on her own instead of coming to you asking for money! If all you focus on is how badly she's messed up and what a terrible person she is, you're only asking for a shouting match.

Best of luck!

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The main goal of my response is to challenge you on some of what you said in your question, which hopefully will allow you to have a calmer and more productive conversation with your daughter.

Since I feel I'm quite judgemental myself in my answer, I'd like to add here that all I have to go on is your question. Those are the impressions your post have left me with, and even if you think my assumptions are wrong, I encourage you to do some introspection to see if there is any truth to what I'm saying here.

Aggressiveness rarely comes from nowhere

You say she becomes aggressive when you discuss any real issue with her, but it wouldn't surprise me that she's only responding to your own "aggressivity". The words you've chosen and the perspective through which you see your daughter's action are quite strong. You're "immensely disappointed", you're a "moral compass", you have a "duty to speak up for the family". You're using a lot of words which elicit strong emotions (and quite a bit of judgement). And then there is this :

I feel like by wearing this coat all the time, she is going to great lengths to reject not only the way she was raised, but in essence, me.

Maybe this is true, maybe she has chosen a coat to spite you (in that case, I would first ask myself why my daughter feels the need to spite me like that, those things seldom happen without reason). But the likeliest truth is that this has nothing to do with you. Nothing. She didn't think about you at all buying that coat, just how pretty it is. We as people tend to take things very personally, while often the person "offending" or "attacking" us didn't spare us a thought at all. It is very possible that the explanation your daughter gave you (feeling bad it has fur but loves the coat anyway) is all there is to it.

This choice is in conflict with what I believe are our family values.

Even if this is actually something that your whole family feel strongly about, by using that kind of language you are alienating her from her family. Worse, you're making her an enemy, someone other. Don't speak for the whole family, and just express your own opinions and feelings. The fact that it's an important issue for you is enough.

Understand this from the perspective of your daughter : she does something with probably little thought, and you come along and accuse her of abandoning family values and disappointing and rejecting you and the whole family. If the roles were reversed you'd probably feel attacked yourself. Even if you don't use words like that when talking to her, the fact that you have this opinion of her will color your tone, your facial expressions and what you say. She'll know you're upset, she'll know you're on the warpath. She'll respond in kind.

When I want to talk to someone about something that they have done that upsets me, I like to reframe things in my head. It's rare that someone actually wants to hurt you or do things just to spite you. And no one likes to be accused of such things. So instead I take a minute to reframe the issue in my head from "They wronged me !" to "They've done something that ended up hurting me, I'd like to have a conversation to know why they did what they did and express how their actions have affected me". This allows me to have a calmer conversation and have an open mind during that talk. People often sense that and respond in kind, meaning they feel safe to explain their side and even apologize (instead of getting defensive). No one likes to be lectured, even less about something that wasn't their intention.

Moral high ground

A lot of the words you choose gives the impression that you are morally right, and your daughter is morally wrong. As long as you give of that vibe, your chances of having a meaningful conversation with your daughter aren't high. I'm a vegetarian transitioning to veganism. Just saying this, many people feel judged, because it is, for many, a moral issue. Also, many people react aggressively because they have had repeated experiences of higher-than-though extreme vegans or animal activists. To have a conversation (not a lecture) with people, I have to put extra effort to make them comfortable, to know that I'm not in fact judging them, and that I'm not here to harass them about their choice. That if they have questions, I won't mind educating them on the subject. I'm not here to tell them how bad and wrong they are.

...although we are a meat-eating family, I tend to buy only organic or ethically-raised meat and try to reduce plastic waste.

She mentioned when she bought it that it kind of bothered her that an animal was killed for it, but she went ahead in spite of that.

What I feel when I read your statement about still eating meat must be quite close to what you feel towards your daughter's choice. What you find lacking in your daughter's explanations, I find lacking in yours. However, I'm aware that this is a personal choice. I don't do it to be better than meat-eaters, and people who eat meat don't do it to spite me.

Your daughter probably thinks you believe to be better her than her. That she is less for having that fur coat. The words you use tells her you're not interested in discussing this with her, you just want her to hear what you have to say, and agree with her. In her place, I would be very frustrated too and unwilling to talk with you. If this is how your "talks" on real issues go, she's maybe not even willing anymore to have discussions with you if she feels her opinions don't matter and are discarded if they don't align with yours. This all means that to be able to have conversations with your daughter, where she listens to your arguments (and you listen to hers, and respect her), it will probably take time. I strongly encourage you to self-reflect and really think how you talk and treat your daughter, and if you have played any role in the fact that you two can't seem to have civil conversation about sensitive subjects.

Know what to ask

How can I express my disappointment about the coat to her, without causing a dispute?

Expressing your disappointment about the coat will cause a dispute. Or her shutting down. I can almost guarantee it. If your only goal here is to make her aware you disapprove and she's making a terrible choice, I'd ask you why. Why do you ask us how best to berate your daughter, instead of how to have a conversation with her about her choices and the impact it has ? Since your conversations about other sensitive issues has gone bad in the past, I think your best bet is to make her think about her choice and let her come to her own conclusions, instead of just telling her what you think. Something like :

"I'd like to ask you about something. I've done some research on Canada Goose, and I was quite surprised when I learned about their fur farming practices. Are you aware of them ?"

Then let her respond.

You also had a second goal in your question, which I think is more achievable (and reasonable).

...it's about enjoying her company and my time with her, and not being afraid of blow-out meltdowns.

There will be only blow-out meltdowns if you press the issue every time you see her, I don't think those happen without provocation. And I don't think you'll be able to force her or expect of her to not wear the coat, so I would abandon that goal. What you can do is express how the sight of that coat makes you feel, and ask, as a favor, that she tries to not wear it when she knows she'll see you (you can't force her though). You can do that after she tells you why she finds fur coats ok :

"I just always thought animal welfare was an important subject for you too. As you know, it's an issue I'm very sensitive about, and seeing that fur coat makes me deeply uncomfortable. I would very much appreciate if you try not to wear it when we're supposed to see each other. If that's not possible, I at least don't want it in my home, thank you for understanding."

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