Is there a limit to how far resourceful parents are justified to help their kids to get ahead of peers?

From Quora answer to "Is there a limit to how far resourceful parents are justified to help their kids to get ahead of peers?"

Question details: While I recognize parents should have the freedom to spend the money they earned on their kids, there seems to be a limit beyond which parental help becomes unjust: parents using personal connections to obtain well-paid and high-profile jobs may be seen as unjust by some. So where is the line?

Thanks for the A2A.

Of course there is a line. Where that line is will be guided by five factors:

1. The moral framework guiding the parent's values and their parenting style.
2. How skillful the parent is at helping their child individuate and become self-sufficient.
3. How much the parent connects their own self-esteem or self-concept with their child's accomplishments, or tries to live vicariously through their child, and consequently limits the child's choices and oppresses their development.
4. The child's natural capacities and desires for independence and self-sufficiency.
5. The child's natural aptitudes and abilities.

We could spend a lot of time discussing each of these points, but in an ideal world the parent would be morally advanced enough to recognize the importance of an "authoritative" parenting style (as opposed to authoritarian, uninvolved or indulgent-permissive parenting styles) where they encourage the child to create their own goals and priorities, and step back to let the child navigate their own path, being supportive but not controlling. In that ideal world the parent would also understand the importance of their child forming an independent identity that is not tied too closely to culture, class, wealth or family ties (this is tied to another form of individuation, in this case a Jungian one). And, in that ideal world, the child will not have mental or physical illnesses or limitations that restrict them, and have ample motivation to become independent, self-directed and whole.

Alas, we don't live in an ideal world. The advantages of such parenting are well-researched and experientially validated...but that doesn't mean a majority of parents aim for this, practice it consistently, or even agree with these conclusions. But even if they DID agree, "the line" would still be all over the place, moving according to variations in each of those five factors. So "the line" will be a very subjective (or intersubjective) thing. The best we can do is educate folks on healthy and skillful parenting - and what the course of healthy a child's development looks and feels like - if they are receptive to it.

A sad reality about human beings that has persisted into the modern world is that ignorance and arrogance combine into an incredibly destructive force. Many people believe they know how best to raise their own children - which is obviously ludicrous, since most people have never had any training or education about parenting, and are either just repeating the mistakes their own parents made, or overreacting to an opposite extreme. It's a very sad state of affairs. So parents can often exercise perpetual incompetence - and horrific emotional, physical, spiritual and sexual abuse - because their "right" to be an incompetent parent has so many cultural and institutional protections.

So, again, the best we can do is educate. To that end I recommend reading up on "separation-individuation" (first proposed by Margaret Mahler) and the four parenting styles referenced above (first proposed by Diana Baumrind), and Jung's musings about individuation as well. There is 50+ years of research supporting the conclusions of Mahler and Baumrind, and if parents could learn about these facts before they even had children - perhaps in high school? - the family relationships might become a lot more compassionate and skillful than they generally are today...and "the line" we've been discussing defined by much clearer and more constructive terms.

My 2 cents.


Trackback specific URI for this entry

This link is not meant to be clicked. It contains the trackback URI for this entry. You can use this URI to send ping- & trackbacks from your own blog to this entry. To copy the link, right click and select "Copy Shortcut" in Internet Explorer or "Copy Link Location" in Mozilla.

No Trackbacks


Display comments as Linear | Threaded

No comments

The author does not allow comments to this entry