How do I become more sensible and mature in order to understand my parents?

A student asked me this question:

How do I become more sensible and mature in order to understand my parents?

It helps to talk to more people older than you, and if you can, people of similar age range to your parents and older to gain the various perspectives.

One of the difficulties in trying to understand parents or anyone in authority is the fact that we don’t have the full picture of what’s going on, of the problems or constraints that they themselves face, and the good/bad experiences they had in the past that shaped their decisions and actions.

And sometimes it can be difficult to gain full understanding of one’s parents (or anyone in authority) from talking. Because sometimes, they feel that certain information is best kept secret from you — not because they don’t trust you — but because they don’t want you to have additional anxieties, or drag you into a problem that you shouldn’t have to deal with (either not a battle you should be fighting at your current stage in life, or whatever).

And I’m saying this also as someone who recently transitioned into becoming a lecturer. The kinds of information and perspectives I have access to is very different from what a student has access to. And sometimes I have to make certain decisions that students cannot understand, but it’s actually good for them. The irony is, some of these decisions cannot be explained while they do the assignment, as it’ll then change how they work on the assignment (which then defeats the learning objectives).

The point I’m making is, that if someone has charge over you, there are some information that they cannot share with you, and so it can be frustrating not to be able to see the full picture from your perspective. So it does help to at least be patient about and understand that there are some things that we just cannot fully know, at least for a certain span of time.

So talking to other older people helps a lot! Because these people can freely share their own perspectives that your parents (and other people of authority of you) won’t share. And as you hear their stories, the reasons behind their actions and decisions; and as you hear more narratives from other people of similar age, you begin to form a general sense of what their generation has to go through, their concerns, fears, and also, their hopes for their children of your generation. That understanding will enrich your own perspective about life and the world, and it does help you become more sensible and mature as you reflect on their stories and compare it with your own life experiences.

And I can tell you that this definitely works because it is something that I’ve been doing ever since I was in secondary school. The kinds of stuff I did back then often required me to work and interact with people from their 30s and up. And I’ve been quite fortunate to hear their stories, their struggles, their hopes and fears, their dreams and losses. I was very much enriched by their stories.

A good starting point is to talk to your taxi/grab driver, the auntie/uncle running the food/drink stall that you frequent, or even the older folks who work as cleaners or waiters. And have a chit chat about such things with them. You’ll be amazed at the kinds of things they’ll be willing to share with you.

Author: Jonathan Y. H. Sim

Jonathan Sim is an Instructor with the Department of Philosophy at the National University of Singapore. He is passionate about teaching and he continues to research fun and innovative ways of engaging students to learn effectively. He has been teaching general education modules to a diverse range of undergraduate students and adult learners at the University.

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