My U.S. born-and-raised 17-year-old son has embraced communism and the works of Lenin and Marx. I disagree wholeheartedly. How should I handle this? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
My U.S. born-and-raised 17-year-old son has embraced communism and the works of Lenin and Marx. I disagree wholeheartedly. How should I handle this? He's ready for revolution against the rich "ruling class" and the collapse of global capitalism. What is he learning in high school that would lead him down this path? Should I be concerned?
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 and who commanded that his children go to church every Sunday, who was model of WASPy parenting style, never fretted much about what ideas we expressed and believed in.
My dad is not passionately into philosophy. He doesn't sit around reading Kant or Plato (and I doubt he could tell you who they are). He reads the Bible, and I think he will burn through a book or two each year (he's reading the Bill 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 he was an ornery young man who wouldn't be told what to do. Your kid is 17, and 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 your parents could have spouted when you were 17 that would have changed your mind? How about this: instead of trying to change his mind, why not try to change yours? After all, you're confident that you're right. Right? So show your wisdom and say, "You 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 each find interesting and then discuss them together."
After that, I might suggest you read these books:
- Sapiens by Yuval Harari (the 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 by Thomas Hobbes
Read 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 may even change his mind. More importantly, you'll build your relationship with your kid.