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My U.S. born and raised 17-year-old son has embraced communism — the works of Lenin & Marx. I disagree wholeheartedly. How should I handle this?
My dad was a quintessential authoritarian parent. There were rules and the rules were obeyed. When the paterfamilias commanded, he expected obedience. But even that guy, the guy who liberally applied the paddle to my ass, who commanded his children to church every Sunday, who was model of WASPy parenting style never fretted overly about what ideas we expressed to believe in.
My dad is not passionately into philosophy. He doesn’t sit around reading Kant or Plato (I doubt he could tell you who they are). He reads the Bible and I think he will burn through a book or 2 each year (he’s reading the O’Reilly “history” books right now). Nevertheless, I can remember him wanting his kids to be smarter than he was and always believing in our innate right to be who we are.
I remember him telling me that after we were old enough to throw punches, he resigned himself to advising and listening more than commanding and demanding. He knew that I was an ornery young man who wouldn’t be told what to do. Your kid is 17, there is literally nothing short of a lobotomy you can do to change his mind.
I find it hard to believe you think otherwise. Stop thinking about him. Think about you. Was there any magical phrase that could be spouted when you were 17 that would change your mind? How about this, instead of trying to change his mind, why not try to change yours? After all, you’re confident you’re right …. right? So show your wisdom and say, “Know what, son? I love you. And I’d like to see what you see. So let’s do this together. I’ve gotten my copy of The Communist Manifesto, let’s read it together, highlight a few things we find interesting and discuss them together.”
After that, I might suggest you read these books:
- Sapiens by Yuval Harari (Best possible book to read together)
- Postwar by Tony Judt
- Wild Swans by Jung Chang (this one may change his mind)
- The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer
- Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant
- Letters to Atticus by Cicero
- Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler (Honestly, it’s next to unreadable)
- The Republic by Plato
- Leviathan Thomas Hobbes
Burn through these books together. Stop trying to change him. Start arguing for his beliefs. Validate them. The second you validate your kid’s beliefs, you disarm him. Once he’s disarmed, he’s open to new ideas. Don’t shove the ideas down his throat, introduce them to him by introducing them to yourself. You’ll grow, you’ll grow together and he’ll maybe even change his mind. But more importantly, you’ll build your relationship with your kid.
Dan Holliday is currently finishing his bachelors of computer science and has transitioned from being a third-party recruiter to an internal executive recruiter for one of the U.S.’s leaders in chemicals & manufacturing. You can read more Quora posts here:
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