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Children tend to copy each other, but even more often, they tend to copy adults. Due to their “I know everything” mindsets, it seems as if kids do not listen to or care about what their parents say. In the end though, they often end up being a lot like their parents. This is what James Baldwin meant when he said “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” I on the other hand, disagree.
I think that children do listen to their parents and that they do not usually end up imitating their parents as they grow older.
Most young children tend to cling to every word that comes out of their parents’ mouths, but they seem to grow out of that fairly quickly as they develop their own independence. At that point, it seems as though kids could not care less about what their parents have to say, but in reality they do care and they are actually listening.
For example, while growing up, Jeannette Walls was let down by her father countless times when he repeatedly promised to build the Glass Castle but never did. (Walls 25) After being let down numerous times, most people would just quit listening to empty promises, but Jeannette continued to believe everything her father promised, without losing faith in him. Another example is that even though I find myself arguing about everything that my parents advise me to do, I usually end up listening to them and doing what they recommend.
I believe that many kids end up being different than their parents. For example, my mom’s aunt and uncle are very successful business owners and have worked very hard their entire lives. They left school after eighth grade, started learning a trade, and worked their way to owning their own, very successful small business. Their son, however, is completely different.
He studied theater in college, never used his degree, has never held a steady job or had a lasting relationship with a woman, and has no source of reliable income. Another example is the fact that despite the situation in which the Walls children grew up, three of them turned out to be very successful individuals. They did not let their upbringing get in the way of leading successful, fulfilling lives.
I think that after growing up and spending so much time with their parents, kids figure out what they do or do not want to be like. For example, if a kid grows up with a dad who is an alcoholic, they may see that and decide that they themselves never want to drink. I think that this is what happened to the Walls children. They grew up under unusual and unfortunate circumstances and they decided that they did not want to continue living like that, or to let their background hold them back.
In summary, I think that James Baldwin was incorrect with his statement. Children do listen to their parents and are influenced by them, but in the end I think that everyone makes their own decisions in life. Kids learn from their parents and then take that information and chose how they want to live. I do not think that children imitate their parents, otherwise there would not be very many family disagreements. When children grow up, they will make their own decisions whether they make them because of their parents or in spite of them.
“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” Anne Frank Parents are our earliest and greatest mentors. We spend the first eighteen years of our lives living with them, listening to them, and watching them. They give us advice and teach us what is right or wrong, and, for the most part, we listen. Despite all of this influence however, we become our own person as we grow up, and our character will be formed by ourselves, solely by ourselves. When Anne Frank said, “Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands,” she meant that a person forms his or her own character, and I definitely agree.
Everyone is their own person, and regardless of how different from or similar to their parents they might be, children and parents will never have all of the same characteristics. You can drill something into someone’s mind countless times, but it will never permanently change their character unless they allow it. For example, the Walls children did not grow up under ideal circumstances and for the first eighteen years of their lives, they grew up learning how to live under these circumstances. Their parents gave them advice and taught them what they considered to be right, but in the end they all decided that was not how they wanted to live and they did not agree with their parents on what was right or wrong. Once grown, the children moved to big cities and each became the type of person he or she wanted to be, not the type of person their parents were.
Regardless of how many times parents tell their children to do or not to do something, it is definitely not guaranteed that the children will listen. As a parent, you can try your hardest to teach your children what is right or wrong, but they will surely make wrong decisions at some point in their lives. I think that the type of decisions a person makes in life, good and bad, are one of the biggest things that builds a person’s character, not the influence of someone’s parents.
Everyone makes wrong decisions, but what truly builds character is how a person handles their mistakes, and what they learn from them. For example, when Jeannette’s dress catches on fire and she ends up in the hospital for a while, she gains a healthy respect for fire. (Walls 15) She learned an important lesson from her mistake, and she will not ever forget it. I think this is how we learn most lessons in life. We try things and succeed, or we try things, mess up, and adjust.
Overall, I do not think that society today has very good values and morals. I think that this lack of standards is starting to negatively influence people’s characters. Things that should not be considered ‘the norm’ are being accepted as such. Our parents would never encourage a lot of the things that we are exposed to, yet a lot of people accept them. I do not agree with this and think that it is up to us whether or not we let these new norms affect our character or not. It is not our parents’ decision, but ours.
In summary, I think that no matter how hard parents try to influence their children to become who they want them to be, they will never completely succeed. A person’s character is ultimately formed by that person and by that person alone, regardless of how much someone else tries to influence him or her. Our parents cannot make all decisions for us, make us learn from our mistakes, or form our characters. We can only do those things for ourselves.
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