Your children do not love you

published Aug 18, 2009, last modified Jun 26, 2013

"Love thy father and thy mother": probably the most pervasive and destructive myths in our culture.

Children are not here for you.  You are here for your children.  If I set myself up as a teacher of sorts, the students are not here for me, I am here for them.  I don't care if you love me -- I care that you're happy.

Let me start by stating something that is all too obvious, so obvious that we forget it when we're talking about it: love can only be true love if it's not an obligation.  This is so true that we have many words to describe "forced love" as opposed to true love: manipulation, emotional blackmail, rape... the list goes on and on..  In short, I don't think it's a matter of debate that, if someone forces, blackmails or manipulates you into "loving" him, whatever you feel for him after the fact is not going to be true love.

So why is this rule different in the context of parent-child love?  The answer is corruption.

If you choose to have a kid, you must love him and teach him to love virtue.  Expecting him to love you in return by default is gratuituously stupid nonsense.  He may grow to love you if you are virtuous, but he owes you no love for your "amazing" feat of procreation, because they didn't choose you as a parent to begin with.  Parents who perpetuate this myth are:

  1. Either evil and manipulative people who know or fear themselves to be not virtuous and therefore can't afford to teach their kids love for virtue, so they manipulate their kids into loving them, or things, or ideologies.
  2. Or lazy and manipulative people who would force their kids to "love" (translation: serve) them by edict rather than teach them critical thought.

The crux of the issue is this: telling your kid "you must love me because I am your parent" is nothing but emotional manipulation based on your position of relative power over the child, because the child -- being a defenseless creature -- depends on you; When you give him him this manipulative edict, you are implicitly telling him that he is a bad child if he doesn't love you.  Therefore, you are blackmailing him -- you are, in effect, threatening to withdraw your approval from him if he doesn't love you first.

So, I ask, why not act like a decent human being instead, and see if your kid chooses to love you under those conditions?

Ironically, this is not just about the father and the child.  The "love your parents" manipulative lie has deep consequential ramifications for society that has been throughly studied by social psychologists: practically every atrocity is enabled in no small part the authoritarian mentality of "obligation towards authority" that authoritarian people mistakenly call "love".  You name it patriotism, nationalism, unconditional love / respect for your parents, blind obedience to authority, it all stems from the same act: the manipulation of people into servitude on account of a morally false imposed obligation.  You see, authoritarians unconsciously draw a metaphor between authority and their parents (their earliest authoritarian influence), so the measure of blind obedience and forced love they were manipulated into by their parents, is the measure of obedience that you can blackmail out of them by displaying authority.  In other words: teach your child to love and obey you unconditonally, and you'll be teaching a man how to perpetrate evil on command.

Nurture your children by teaching them love of virtue -- so they can be happy and spontaneously love virtue in people -- and then asking yourself: were I not his parent, would he still love me anyway?  If you can honestly say yes, you are doing a good job.

For the rest of the podcast where you can find these ideas, you can go here.