COLLEGE PARK, MD –
Achieving filial piety is a lofty goal. It always has been and always will be. It has never been easy.
That achievement is a product of not just children’s piety, but of their parents’ proficiency at building capacity – capacity for their heirs to flourish.
It is a two-way street.
When it comes to parent-child relations, I have rarely come in contact with a young person that is simply an ingrate. Sometimes it is the case, yes, but it is an exception rather than the rule.
More often, what I encounter is a young person that does not have a family structure to fit into. In the absence of this structure, the child is left with no clear way to serve his or her parents.
There are always tokens of gratitude that can be paid, but real, sustainable solutions to the needs of ones’ parents as they grow into their last phase of life can be exceptionally elusive for the child that has no family structure to fit into.
As much as a child may want to serve his or her parents, without a structure of roles defining expectations the parent-child relationship will most likely leave both parties unfulfilled.
If there are siblings, it will probably leave them at each other’s throats.
As the family structures of yesterday are being deconstructed and abandoned with no viable alternatives, the shadow of individualism is cast over us. We must be cognizant of this and be vigilant to guard against it.
Taking care of one’s parents is work, and, like any other job, clearly defined roles and expected deliverables are a key to being set up for success. Structure in a family is where these roles and expectations are set.
Family structure is without doubt under fire in our age. Most of us are not able to maintain one. God protect our families and their structures.
So what is a family to do? How can we ensure success into the next generation?
Well, I’ll say something not to do: play the blame game. Parents should never resort to guilt tripping their children to cope with their lack of fulfillment.
Depending on where we are in our family lifecycles we have different options.
Admittedly, if we are at an advanced stage of our family lifecycle and matters are not in good standing between parents and children, it will be very difficult to right the ship.
It is not impossible, but it is rare to turn things around that late in the game. Perhaps a good strategy is for everyone to simply try and be kind to each other at that point.
If we are in the early to middle part of our family lifecycle, we still have time to address the issue at its root. We can still edify our family structures and give our children an emotional home to fit into.
Next week I’ll discuss how this can be done, God willing.