When it comes to raising children, every parent is different, so it should come as no surprise that perspectives on parenting vary widely.
One topic that often sparks controversy is whether or not children are obligated to “pay back” their parents for raising them. The debate between those who believe that children owe their parents something for raising them and those who think such an obligation doesn’t exist has gone on for decades, and it’s unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.
But we will attempt to look at both sides of this heated argument so you can decide where you stand on the issue. If your opinion isn’t yet set in stone, keep reading to learn more.
Cultural and social expectations
The concept that children owe their parents something for raising them is deeply entrenched in several cultures, and it’s an expectation that can remain well into adulthood. Depending on the context, it’s usually expected in the form of financial support.
Many parents also rely on their children to care for them in old age as a way of showing gratitude for raising them. In some places, there may even be social pressure to do so, although certainly not every parent expects this from their children.
Ultimately, it’s important to recognize that every family is different and what works for one family might not work for another. Decisions about how to move forward should be made with mutual understanding and respect—not because of any pre-existing cultural or social expectations.
Financial obligations incurred by parents
Raising a child is no small feat and oftentimes, it means taking on larger financial responsibilities that one may not have had pre-parenthood.
Thus, if your parents were able to afford to raise you and pay for your education and other expenses, chances are they had to incur some debt in the process. This debt isn’t yours—it belongs solely to your parents—so they should pay it off. You can support them by helping out financially if you want, but it’s not your responsibility to pay off these debts.
At the end of the day, children should never be held liable for their parent’s debts. Paying back your parents for raising you shouldn’t translate into taking on this responsibility. But if you do, it should come from a position of appreciation and love instead.
Future implications if children do not “owe” their parents
When it comes to the future, a lack of “payment” from adult children could lead to a need for more expansive social support programs.
Governments may have to step in to help those who are aging and may not have adequate savings available to them. This could be a huge financial undertaking and one that could lead to significant tax increases to keep such programs running.
Whatever stance you take on this debate, it is impossible to deny that it can have major implications for the future of how societies handle aging parents and how they are taken care of once they reach retirement age.
Possible alternative ways of expressing gratitude
When it comes to paying back the love and effort your parents put into raising you, it can be difficult to quantify what that debt looks like.
While some may argue that financial compensation is the best way to show appreciation, it’s not the only option. Some alternative ways for children to express their gratitude for their parents include:
- Small gifts or acts of reciprocity
If you’re looking for tangible ways of expressing gratitude, small gifts like flowers or chocolates, or acts of reciprocity such as helping with home repairs or taking them out on a special day can all be meaningful demonstrations of appreciation.
- Expressing gratitude through words & writing
Sometimes, simple and heartfelt words of thankfulness can go a long way. Whether you choose to express it in person or through a letter or card, verbalizing your appreciation for your parents can be a good and often cost-free way of showing your gratitude.
- Different children have different ways of expressing gratitude
Every child uniquely expresses their appreciation. Some children may prefer to help in practical ways while others might value verbal compliments more. Every child is different, so it’s best not to put too much pressure on them, but rather accept whatever form they use naturally.
At the end of the day, the love and care that goes into raising children are immeasurable, and there is no doubt that parents do an incredibly difficult job. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that children “owe” their parents anything in return. Parents love their children unconditionally and do their best to give them the resources and support they need to grow and thrive. Whether or not this comes with a debt that the child must repay is not something that can be answered definitively. What do you think?