How to Tell When One Needs to Dissuade One’s Parents

Years and years ago, after I had taught my kids to persist in trying to stop parents from transgressing against moral righteousness, my kids would argue with me when I asked them to do certain unpalatable things like studying, saying, “You told us to dissuade you from doing what is wrong” and “You said we didn’t have to obey or cooperate when we sincerely believed you to be wrong.” Of course, allowing that would have been tantamount to issuing young children a license to disobey parents and to be totally uncooperative.

So I gave them a simple rule to use to tell when one needs to disobey and dissuade one’s parents. It wasn’t just when one believed parents to be mistaken, it had to be when one’s parents were about to or in the process of committing an offense against moral righteousness. It was when obeying and cooperating would have helped your parents succeed in committing that offense. The test for children who were still too young not to be self-centered and stil too young to be any good at abstract thinking, was that it had to benefit the parents or the whole family, not benefit or please the children themselves, to not follow the parents’ orders. And, it was emphasized, the need to disobey parents rarely arose, if ever, for most children.

Otherwise, even if they sincerely believed the order to be dead wrong, like studying some more instead of playing when they already believed themselves to have fully mastered the material, they were still to defer to their parents’ judgment and obey the order.

It is on big and moral issues such as, say, one parent philandering and wanting to divorce the other parent that children must speak their opposition and attempt to dissuade, and persist in the performance of this duty no matter what.

Again, hopefully one never has to oppose one’s parents.

Of course, as the children grow older and approach adulthood their judgment is trusted more and more and they need to defer to their parents’ judgment less and less. Fifteen I have found to be a watershed: around that age children’s minds morph and mature into a more adult like mode. They become more capable of abstract thought and are no longer as self-centered, becoming capable of seeing things in general and seeing their own situation in particular from an objective instead of a subjective point of view. Around age fifteen I have started letting my kids call their own shots when it comes to things like when to study. Of course, even though I tell them I will no longer issue orders once they reach fifteen, it doesn’t mean I don’t bug them about things.

Feng Xin-ming

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