Megan_Koumori (megan_koumori) wrote in binky_betsy,

This would make Elly and John's head explode...

I subscribe to Quora, a website where users ask questions and are answered back by others in the community. Here's a question that was asked recently under "Philosophy":

"What, if anything, do children owe their parents?"

Quora doesn't allow nonusers to view their site, so linking would pointless. Instead, I'm going to copy and paste. Many of them were simply one word: Respect. But two went further.

*This first one in particular caught my eye because it is so opposite the attitude and philosophy usually presented in the strip, especially the last line:

Nothing from parenthood itself. People choose to become parents because they want to be parents, and not in an effort to do the kids a favour. I'm a dad because I want to be a dad, that's not some kinda sacrifice on my part.

But of course parents deserve the same courtesy as every other human being: if they treat you well, they deserve to be treated well. If they treat you with respect, they deserve that you also respect them. If they treat you with kindness, they deserve that you act with the same kindness towards you.

I find, children usually do this. It's more often the parents who fail.

For example, parents sometimes insist that children should "respect" the wishes or traditions of the parents, without being willing to show the child the same respect. The wishes of a parent is not automatically more important than the wishes of a child. (though of course sometimes maturity means that the child isn't capable of comprehending the long-time consequences of the thing they wish for: I'm not suggesting that 5-year-olds should be fed chocolate at all meals if they happen to wish for that)

I've never met a child who was treated with kindness, love and respect by the parents, who didn't feel compelled to show the same consideration back.

But I've met quite a few parents who seem to think that the child is little more than property to them, to be ordered around at will, and to be subject to the parents wishes, in some cases even after the child is an adult and financially independent.

I have for example, friends who are over 25, who earn their own money and yet whose parents nevertheless feel they've got the right to veto their childs choice of partner.


Short answer. No. You do not. I've explored it in greater detail below:

This is a complicated question, to say the least, and I'd like to emphasize that there is no answer which is of universal import w.r.t. this issue. The element of reciprocity here can be analyzed in three facets, as dealt with below.

1. Do you owe anything to your parent for having given birth to you? By "giving birth" I mean the choice to procreate as well as the physicality of conception and parturition that the mother underwent.

Regarding the choice to procreate, the answer, as would appear to me upon looking at it cursorily, would be that there is no inherent obligation - the child had neither the choice, nor any influence upon the parent's decision to procreate; in other words, the child didn't ask to be born, it was something the parents did of their own volition, knowing full well the implications of having a child. But what if the child was conceived out of accident - such as due to the failure of contraception, or worse, a rape? Even still the answer would hold good - as notwithstanding the absolute nobility of the parent to choose not to abort the fetus, and to give birth, it was not something the child had a choice or influence over. While nobility is indubitably a virtue worthy of infinite plaudit, that doesn't really create an obligation in itself.

2. Do you owe anything to your parents for their financial expenditure upon you?

The answer is NO. You do not. If the child is considered to be an economic deficit, it is the parents who created the deficit, and it is their responsibility and duty to remove the deficit by investing money. I don't believe anything is owed to someone for doing something which they ought to. I think it's a parent's obligation, in an unquestionable sense, to fund their child's education at least till the high school level, and perhaps even to a collegiate level - although the latter would not be an absolute duty, but one dependent upon the financial position of the parent. I also think that it is the parent's duty to fund all basic necessities, as well as wants which are reasonable, again depending upon their financial position. For instance, I believe it would be a parent's duty to purchase for their child - the occasional tool of recreation, but it is by no means a duty to buy their child the latest iPhone every year. That would be a choice, and should they exercise their choice and purchase it, then too, they cannot expect any monetary compensation as it is a "gift" and gifts by their very definition do not involve a contemplation of reciprocity. Gratitude is all that can be expected. Nothing more. Of course, some children choose to give return gifts, or to give money, or instead other things of value to their parents as a sign of gratitude - that too, is a choice, not a duty - that is owed to the parents.

3. Do you owe anything to your parents for their parenting and its entailments, whose monetary value cannot be quantified?

Once again, no. It depends really. Sometimes, parents have great parenting skills, sometimes not so much, other times, downright nefarious parenting skills, and their impact can often be cast in iron upon their children. I'd go to the extent of saying that where necessary, a child should legally have the right to sue his/her parents - although the presumption should be in favor of the parents, and the onus of proof upon the child. On the other end of the spectrum are parents who doted on their children, who were supportive and helpful and caring - often being the nurturers in the quintessential sense, in such cases - while their parenting is an act of nobility and is worthy of reward, it is not entitled to a reward. Once again, all that can be expected is gratitude, and perhaps, respect.

They deserve to be treated with the same courtesy one would afford to other people, because they too are human beings. But there is no implicit requirement, by virtue of their parenthood, to be given any special privileges. The amount of love and respect they provide ought to be reciprocated, that's all.

But what exactly does gratitude entail? Gratitude means a feeling of thankfulness for the troubles and expenses the parents incurred, but it does not go hand in hand, nor is it synonymous with reverence, servility or compliance. It does NOT entail an unquestioned compliance with the parents' wishes - regarding things such as religion, love, career choice, mannerisms, society and other such aspects, such that their own wishes supersede that of the children. Nor does it entail a right of parents to "veto" things where choices affect the lives of the children. While I can comprehend the desire of many a parent to live vicariously through their children, they have no right to impose their expectations and wishes upon their children whatsoever.

Regarding a point Sam Vela raised, I think that should parents become ill, or require financial support in their old age, it would be honorable for the child to help them, as much as they need - perhaps even more, but not as compensation but as a sign of gratitude. Moreover, though it would be the honorable thing to do, it should not be a duty that is imposed against the children's volition.

I think I have thus adequately addressed the issue.


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