In a recent discussion with my wife on the topic of children -- which we plan on having in a few years -- I wondered what would be the appropriate response if my adult child had committed himself to, say, Christianity.
There are some helpful comments in another question about how to approach a child's curiosity of religion at an early age, but what if my child fully embraces religion once they are an adult? Should I tell him that I'm disappointed in him? Should I withhold my disapproval in order to keep a good relationship with him?
This question amounts to relationship advice.
An adult child is an adult. To maintain a good relationship with an adult, you must respect his choices. This doesn't mean you must agree. But it does mean that you must disagree with civility.
There's nothing wrong with indicating one's disappointment, but as an adult, one must never consider one's own disappointment with someone to be a reason for them to reconsider their choices. If you wish your unhappiness to be of great importance in another person's choices about how they view the world, you are, in effect, asking them not to be objective. You are asking them to think about you above reality.
I've seen this in parents many times: the parent is angry or upset with the child, and proceeds to argue along the lines of: "look what you're doing to me!"
Rational communication requires reference to reality rather than emotional manipulation. Your role as a parent does give you great power over a child -- even an adult one. Moral use of that power requires you do not attempt to put your own ideas or feelings above or in front of the child's own grasp of reality.
A parent should teach a child, ultimately, not to worry about disappointing his parents. This is because parenting is not about the parent's feelings. Parenting is about the child's success.
Badgering a child about his religious views is not productive. Set the best example you can, and then step away from the child's mind and let it work. If you don't, you risk causing the child to fixate on rebelling against you, rather than on observing the truth.
answered Oct 02 '12 at 11:36
John Paquette ♦