On Respecting Parents and Valuing Children

Most people agree that respect is something that needs to be earned not commanded; unless, of course, you’re a parent.  Parents consider it a given that their opinions are to be considered innately infallible to their children, and thereby are to be honored by fiat.  The message is clear:  Parents are to be shown respect, simply on account of being the parents, while children have to earn respect through persistent acts of good-works.  The rationalization many parents make for this hypocrisy is that by virtue of having made the children, they are entitled to a certain degree of adoration from their offspring.

I’m disturbed by how many accept this non sequitur of an explanation.  It is true that a person’s existence is wholly dependent on her parents’ existence.  However, how does this fact lead someone to conclude that a child ought to respect her parents, just because they are her parents?  The sentiment appears to be that a child is indebted to the parents for granting her life, but at which point exactly, prior to having been born, did any child ever ask to be given this grand gift of life.  Because, by necessity, the decision was entirely one-sided.  Hence–keeping in mind that no child asks to be born–if parents are permitted to claim that they have earned the respect of their children on account of having made them, why aren’t children permitted to claim that they, too, have earned the respect of their parents on account of having made them parents to begin with?  After all, individuals cannot be parents independent of having children (either biologically, or through adoption).  Therefore, the respect parents wish to reserve for themselves by right of being “creators of life,” holds no true bases in logical discourse, since children can also be said to be creators; creators of parenthood itself.

Now, the question that a reader might be wondering is, do I think that parents are due any respect whatsoever?  My answer is yes, parents are due all the respect they have rightfully earned through their actions.  I have little care or regard for those who respect their parents for no other reason but that they happen to be their parents, and when I encounter such individuals it immediately tells me just how much respect their own parenting skills deserve.  Respect, like love, cannot be commanded by virtue of authority, it must be earned.  Otherwise, all you’re doing is partaking in emotionally blackmailing your own children; to which the only respectable response can be undying resentment.

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