Hello everybody, welcome to episode 136 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino and today we’ve got a question that came in about parents: are parents always right? Should we listen to them and just how well do they know us?
I like this one and I think it may come as a refreshing episode for those who have curious relationships with their parents or may still feel stuck under their parents thumbs a bit. Let’s take a look and hear what this listener has to say…
QUESTION: “My question is about taking advice from parents. It is my belief that our parents usually know what’s best for us and provide great guidance only because they know us better than anyone. They’ve also lived longer and have usually gone through what we have. I don’t think the human experience changes much just because of different eras. My sister feels the opposite way, and I get frustrated with her when she regularly undermines my parents. She tells me I shouldn’t “follow” them so easily. It’s become a point of tension between us and I’d like to know if you think her side of the argument is valid at all.”
Looking At Your Parents As Fellow Adults
Mmm yeah, this is a cool question. Another question that’s sorta off the beaten path. Really good one, especially for twenty somethings I’d say. I often find myself getting a kick out of how much my relationship with my own parents has changed over the years.
Anyway, that’s pretty much how I want to start my answer. As I’m sure you and all of our adult listeners have noticed, there comes a time where we find ourselves looking at our parents not as caretakers, but as fellow adults.
This is especially true if you’re the type of person who’s particularly independent or does a lot of self-work and regularly assesses or challenges old belief systems. And like all fellow adults, all peers, our parents come with their own experiences and have different types of biases.
Parents Always Right: Do Our Parents Know What's Best For Us?
With that being said, you’re partially right in that our parents CAN know us very well. However, that doesn’t mean they always do.
Of course we have an unspoken connection with them because they’ve raised us, we have a genetic connection with them, and they’ve known us since before we even knew what it meant to know someone.
They’ve watched us change and grow over the years, but enough factors are in play that stand to prevent our parents from still knowing us fully as we age.
Again, these factors STAND to prevent them from knowing us fully, but that doesn’t mean they necessarily do.
Let me elaborate on some of these things.
Identity Shaping Experiences
There are the identity shaping experiences that happen after you’ve moved out, particularly if these experiences happen in a culture that’s new to you, but unknown to your parents.
There is the tendency some parents may have to insist on seeing us first as children, because the thought of us being adults can be tough to bear, amongst other tensions parents can have with adult children.
There are the impactful things we might not tell them for any number of reasons. There is the inclination many parents have to see all things through the lens of their own generation.
There is the degree of closeness we choose to maintain with our parents or they choose to maintain with us – sometimes both parties fall into a groove of keeping the talk simple and shallow unless something serious is afoot.
And you of course have more obvious factors, such as older parents who may show signs of dementia and clearly have prohibited thinking.
The Relationship You Have With Your Parents
As you can see, there are countless ways in which, often despite the best of their intentions, our parents may not know us as well as we get older. But maybe none of them apply to the relationship you have with your parents.
If you honestly feel that, up to this point, they’ve given you good advice and you find that it continues to lead to decisions that you’re proud of, then they probably do still know you better than most, or anyone.
You and Your Sister's Views
As for your sister, you two are different people. Maybe her natural rebellion towards your parent’s advice is just what works better for her. Either way, neither of you two should be shaming the other one for what they do with parental advice.
You two can still respect one another’s differences when it comes to this, and I’d be concerned about the disagreement you two are having if it’s based on a lack of respect more than anything.
So regarding this disagreement with your sister specifically, I’d advise that you keep it respectful, and even ask her more about why she feels the way she does and be open to learning from her. This can be tough to do if your first instinct is to see this as “point of tension” as you called it, and needless to say, you want to do what you can to keep it from getting worse.
Parents Always Right: Should You Always Take Their Advice?
Now when all is said and done, this question really boils down to the core of what advice you do or don’t take from your parents. And at its core, this exchange is all about you and your actions.
It’s a question of if it’s best to take their advice for your actions. You can disregard their advice and still talk to them. You can disregard their advice and still enjoy your time with them. You can disregard their advice and still love them.
But advice is really geared to make someone take action. So where does that leave you?
Parents Always Right vs. Your Values
The main focus for you has to be on what your values are. If your values happen to align with your parents advice, terrific. If not, so be it.
The important sweet spot is to hear your parents' advice, and only follow it if it’s meaningful to you, not because they said it to you. You can respect and listen to your parents, while simultaneously questioning their beliefs and making sure that they truly align with your own.
You shouldn’t be taking anyone’s advice – not even your parents – if you haven’t also gathered your own thoughts about the subject you’re receiving advice for.
The relationship you have with your parents doesn’t hinge on whether or not you do things the way they tell you to.
And if you feel it does, that’s a separate problem; a problem more worth paying attention to.
To the woman who sent this in, I thank you for not only trusting us to help you, but for giving us an opportunity to re-evaluate the relationship we have with our parents.
This is something that many of us don’t do until something particularly significant happens, but it’s an important relationship in our lives, and unfortunately a relationship that most of us don’t have for too, too long. Gotta be grateful for it and make the most of it while we have it.
To all you other folks out there, if you have something you’re struggling with that you’d like help with on the show, you know what to do. Email us your concern at advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
Thank you for listening yet again, have a great day and I hope to see you in the next one.