To Reason or Not to Reason – 講不講道理


To reason, we should be reasonable and to reason with people, but reason is to be reasoned by two person who knows reason. Educating children is even more so.

I’ve seen many parents try to explain and reason to their little kids. Some even try to do so to their toddlers who can barely speak, much less reason. It is funny or sad for me to see how parents seem to be expected to explain and account for their every actions and decisions while kids seem to be given a blank cheque to do as they please.

The Family Ground Rules 家規

Being born in a Chinese family, I was brought up in quite a different environment. While my parents were relatively open-minded to begin with and in many cases, entertained my “WHYs” when I was in my mid to late teens, there were many moments where they put their foot down and basically let me know that I’ve crossed the line. What line? The family ground rules (家規).

In my family, there are certain Dos and Don’ts that everyone have to observe. It is not a democracy. It is the family ground rules (家規). It is not something that we sit around and discuss how we would revise it. These may vary from family to family or clan to clan, and most parents
adapted or inherited theirs from their parents. In most cases, it was from either parents or a hybrid decided by the parents. Democrats can argue all they want, but I don’t see the whole nation go have a discussion on the constitution or the law every other day. Members of parliament (or senators in US) represent the citizens and they try their best to protect their interest. By electing them for their term of office, you trust their judgement and integrity to protect your interest. If they fail, don’t vote them the next term. Rinse. Repeat.

In the case of our parents, you did not elect them. Buddhist believe that we are all linked in some ways, some deeper than others. Parents and child are strongly linked in past lives and the links serve as a condition for this lives’ parent-child relation. So in a way, we elected with our link with people. Associate with wise people and you probably have a better chance to have wise parents (and wise kids too!). Associate with foolish or nasty folks and … …

Then there are those who are already on the path to Enlightenment and they associate with the foolish and nasty people in order to help them. Which are you? The former or latter?

I don’t know about the mechanisms for choosing parents or kids in other faiths or cultures, though I heard that the stork was responsible for people in the west.  In the past at least! :p

But My Parents Are Nutjobs

In any case, you are born to your parent.  If you are going to spend your life suspecting that your parents have no integrity and are out to mess with your life, DON’T!  It just isn’t productive or wise to do so. Unless your parents are abusing you or are *really* some nutjob, as in really medically unsound and not just because you don’t like their rules or them telling you what to do.  In which case you should seek family services and get help. Once you get help, study, get some good stuffs in your brain/mind/heart so that you don’t become the nutjob your parents were.  Be better than they are.

As and when you can, you should then go back and help them in whatever ways is useful. Usually, material help is easiest while it is more difficult to help them become better persons. But have compassion for them. Consider their situation and background. If you were in those same exact situations, would you have become any different?

Ok, I’ve drifted. Back to the parents and their rules.

But I Don’t Like The Rules

In the case where your parents are not nutjobs, then you should trust their judgement, take their advice and follow the family ground rules (家規). It is as simple as mutual respect, and do I have to mention anymore about respecting one’s parents? If we can follow library rules and hush or at least try to hush, put on the proper attire to dine at certain posh restaurants, why can’t we follow family ground rules? Are we rebelling for the sake of rebelling or are we really right and our parents really wrong. Again, if your parents are nutjobs, read the above again. If not, learn something from your parents while you are still under their charge and care.

Does it mean that we submit ourselves to their whims and fancy for our whole life? No. I am not suggesting that. When we are past twenty (some who are just not matured enough may need to wait till they are fifty), we should be sufficiently matured enough to decide on matters in our life. Out of love and respect to our parents, we should still consult them and consider their opinions and feelings. But, we still have to decide ourselves. That’s what make us adults. To have the ‘power’ to decide for ourselves, and have the *sensitivity* to consider the impact of our decisions and actions on others. Kids on the other hand do not have such power and sometimes lack this sensitivity. That’s why we call them kids.

Parents too, play a very important role in this. When the child is under your charge, it is your duty to nurture him into a good and
useful person in society with integrity and morals. Yes, love your child, but that’s not the only thing about parenting. There is something called 家教 loosely translated as family upbringing (education / teaching / discipline). While the school teaches the child mainly about what is out there in the world, it is the main duty of parents to teach the child what is inside of his heart.

If we take a look at the various Chinese festivals, many of them are celebrations of people of integrity and values. Some argue that the characters or events are sometimes romanticised, but that is besides the point. The point is that these festivals celebrate and promote such integrity and values. The flip side is that perhaps, such values are not so readily apparent or prevalent, but I digress (once again!).

Today, we adore and idolise people with skills, looks, money or power. More the latter three than the first. Parents, is this what you are nurturing your children to be preoccupied with their whole life? Don’t forget about integrity and values. Love built on gifts can usually last only as long as the gifts last. Love and respect arising from filial piety and because you taught them well to become a good person with good morals and integrity will last their life (still not eternity though. Till they reach Nibbana perhaps!).

Parents should also learn when to take a back sit and play an advisory role.  Which type of parent are you or do you want to be with your 20+ or 30+ child?

  • Type A – The parent that your children respect, love and look up to for advice and counsel.  They trust you and your judgement but are thinking adults who can decide for themselves whilst valuing your opinions and are sensitive to your feelings.
  • Type B – The parent who is a micro-manager at home and controls the child’s every step.  The child is either waiting for financial independence to dump you or is too afraid to make any decisions so remains under your ‘control’.

Children should be appreciative of their parents and not simply demand the whole family or world to revolve around them. Everybody wants to get what they like, prefer or want. But life is not always about that. In fact, many times, we cannot get what we want. If we are going to throw a tantrum and be angry each time this happens, we have sentenced ourselves to a life full of disappointment and unhappiness. Whereas, if we can still be happy (or at least at peace) whether we get what we want, then we can assure our own happiness. We don’t give others our emotional remote and let them get us angry. Further, when we can do this, then we are ‘qualified’ to pursue after what we want or need. Why? Because then our pursuits do not have the ability to bring unhappiness.

There is a time to reason, and there is a time to tell your child, to stop whining and eat your dinner!
Now is the time to decide wisely.

Merry X’mas and Happy Holidays!

PS: I do not have a belief in any god(s) but if a certain celebration can help some people have lesser greed, anger or delusion, so that they may bring more benefit to themselves and others and not bring harm to themselves and others, then celebrate it!

PS2: X’mas trivia – Do you know that X’mas was once banned in United States? Google it.

Or for what it’s worth