While parents are obviously older and more experienced than their children,it is frequently less obvious that their particular experience or knowledge has given them exclusive access to the truth or provided them with sufficient wisdom to judge always what is right and wrong. “Experience is a good teacher,” but it does not always teach what is right; knowledge is better than ignorance, but a knowledgeable person is not always wise.
It has impressed me to see how many parents in deep trouble in their relationships with their children are persons with very strong and very rigid concepts of what is right and wrong. It follows that the more certain parents are that their own values and beliefs are right, the more they tend to impose them on their children (and usually on others, too). It also follows that such parents are apt to be unaccepting of behaviors that appear to deviate from their own values and beliefs.
Parents whose system of values and beliefs is more flexible, more permeable, more amenable to change, less black-or-white, are inclined to be far more accepting of behavior that would appear to deviate from their values and beliefs. Again, it is my observation that such parents are far less likely to impose blueprints or try to mold their children into preconceived patterns.
These are the parents who find it easier to accept their son’s shaving his head even though they would not value that choice for themselves; who find it easier to accept changing patterns of sexual behavior, different styles of clothing, or rebellion against school authority.
These are the parents who somehow seem to accept that change is inevitable, “that life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday,” that the beliefs and values of one generation are not necessarily those of the next, that our society does need improvements, that some things should be vigorously protested, and that irrational and repressive authority often deserves to be strongly resisted. Parents with such attitudes find much more of the behavior of youth understandable, justified, and genuinely acceptable.