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Does the Influence of Parents Determine Our Outlook and Values or Does It Set Us Free?

by Gini Cunningham

posted in Home and Family

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Parents have an enormous influence on their children from the moment of concept and through every phase of life. Whether parents are present and actively engaged or if they have disappeared into other realms, their impact remains. In fact, I have found that long after their deaths, the values and strengths (plus a weakness or two) that my parents instilled in me, drive me each day. I am fortunate to have had two kind, loving, intellectual parents who had great expectations for me. They guided without directing and they supported without interfering. They loved learning and they infused that into my being. Above all my parents taught me to listen, evaluate, adjust, and then fashion an idea or an action into my own instead of relying on others to boss me into line.
When I taught students always had many questions, especially during an election year. We'd have heated discussions with opinions coming from a dozen directions as we added facts and then separated the two. It is all right to hold an opinion unless it is based on lies, exaggerations, and misinformation. Then it is important to research, ask questions, and analyze fact versus opinion and align the mind and personal beliefs accordingly. Some students could do this with ease, even though it was sometimes difficult for them to recognize and then accept that some opinions from family and friends were constructed on fallacies or misjudgment. A video on the Internet as you know can be tampered with to show and say and expound upon a topic with none of it based on the truth. The same holds true with all media as well as platforms and pronouncements.
Other students could draw their own conclusions only after much input and re-evaluation. "My mom says"... or "My grandpa knows... " would start their conversation as discussions and reading led them into other directions and complexities of thought. As adults we know that just because we hear it or see it on television or the Internet, the facts may be misconstrued. Students with slightly open minds were able to rethink and form a more individualistic opinion, one based on facts rather than only on hearsay.
The final group was unable to budge from their original thought pattern. Their opinions were deeply engrained and no amount of proof otherwise could be heard or digested. They had been brainwashed or preprogrammed or persuaded through home influence that there was only one way to think, say, or do. Bound by philosophical restrictions or the fear of stepping outside of the box, they remained inert and unmovable. One point of view was plenty so why consider any other way? It felt like the playground scene where one child dominates and no other options are available.
I wonder how I would have been different if my parents had been close-minded and had insulated me from any opinions and ideas other than their own. What if I had been indoctrinated with hatred for certain races or lack of understanding for other religions or felt the need to intercede with my beliefs when others are getting along just fine. Would I have automatically been able to discern personal autonomy in a world saturated with all politics and principles lined up on a one-way street with blinders to protect me from viewing outside of my personally designated confines and maybe a lobotomy to keep my thoughts under control? Or is there a chance that given time, opportunity, and an education that I could have formulated my own thoughts, theories, and personal philosophy.
I would guess the latter to be true as being open-minded through research and conversation I have not been convinced to close my mind to any ideas except my own, but maybe it is because I know how to seek that I am also able to find. Maybe all of this adds up so that I am free to think and act and do and also tolerate others who do not think or act or do in the same way. I must thank my parents for the wonderful model that they displayed for me and I must also thank them for permitting me to be myself.
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