‘To follow’ or ‘not to follow’ in the footsteps of parents


In India respect is a very crucial and big thing. It not only determines your behaviour and actions, but also plays a big role in you taking your life changing decisions, especially in a society, the central tenet of which is the family.

In our country, since birth, one is taught to respect his/her elders, one of the first and most important teachings in Indian households. ‘Respecting elders’ just on the basis of a number called ‘age’ thus becomes the norm, the social expectation, the preferred behaviour, which is then reinforced by parents and other family members through rewards and punishments.

And as a natural fallout of this norm, children are usually expected to follow the parent’s footsteps in life. So doctor fathers dream of having doctor sons & daughters, businessmen parents dream of their children to carry on their family legacy, and following these dreams and desires of parents, often becomes the measure of whether one respects one’s parents or not.

But wait, I’m not saying that one should not respect one’s parents or elders. What I want to say is simply this – that one should respect ‘people’ and ‘human beings’ as well as ‘themselves’ and not just ‘elders’. Also, ‘respecting’ should not be mixed with destroying one’s own dreams for those of one’s parents.

Your respect should have far more substance than being just another baseless emotion that is partial to anyone who is connected to or who happens to be at a greater age than you. You respect someone when he/she deserves it, it might be someone younger or not related to you by blood. In short – You need not follow your parent’s footsteps just because you need to prove that you respect them.

Questioning the base of respect

Apart from the question of ‘to follow’ or ‘not to follow’ in the footsteps to prove respect, a second more fundamental question is also that do you ‘ALWAYS’ need to respect your parents? This of course is a very complex enquiry that has both schools of thought justifying themselves against teach other. For instance, what happens when you come to know that your parents steal? Or maybe, cheats people? Intentionally causes harm to others? Is patriarchal and dominating?

Examples can be endless. It’s an unfortunate thing to happen but you see, one must also realize that parents are also human, as human as you and me or anyone else. And humans make mistakes and err. So the first thing to realize is that just because they are your parents you need not follow them blindly.

The question of ‘you’ as a person

Lastly, remember this – you are a complete person who is and should be a separate entity from your parents, personality wise as well as goals or aspiration wise, even if you love and care about them.

You have a separate and distinct personality and characteristics of your own. You have your own set of beliefs and preference. You can be Indian, you can be a part of a joint family and you can love your parents.

But, you can also have your own code of ethics – idea of right and wrong and set of principles governing your life, and your own dream that you want to pursue and fulfill. Ultimately, what all parents desire inside is the happiness of their children and your happiness is guaranteed not by respect or following their footsteps but in understanding yourself more, visualizing your own dreams and then realizing them in your life.