Almost every family I have worked with wants to see their child develop their own voice and become an independent young adult who can think well on their own feet. Parents are not looking for schools that will teach students what to think but rather, how to think.

Parents love the Harkness table style discussions where boarding school students are compelled to research, reason and present disparate views in an articulate, yet succinct manner.

However, sometimes parents want to have their cake and they want to eat it too. They want their child to cultivate their critical thinking and reasoning skills, as long as they do not disagree with their parent’s perspective, as long as they do not question some of their parents cherished beliefs and values.

The problem is, parents can’t have it both ways. Once you unleash your child’s research, critical thinking and independence, some of that will reverberate back to you, the parent, like a boomerang. This usually surfaces over the Thanksgiving, Christmas, spring or summer breaks when your child either questions something you believe, or they want to debate or argue with you when you are making a point.

A parent can only see a child the way they last remembered them, so it is hard when the same child that used to imbibe your every word is now engaging in a back and forth dialogue with you, and after a few passionate exchanges they still do not seem inclined to accept your perspective.

I am in no way rationalizing and justifying disrespect or contemptible interactions from students to parents. I believe parents must be esteemed and treated with respect, if not veneration. However, do we really want our children to be automatons? In life, they will have to be able to make complex decisions under pressure and amidst opposition. Don’t we want our children to come to their own beliefs because they have gone through their own exploration as opposed to just accepting our viewpoints in a robotic manner?