Friday, September 19, 2008

Do parents have rights over children?

It was shocking to read the letter by Mr Charuhasan (brother of Kamal hasan) on the issue of taking care of parents in old age by their children.

Here is his letter to the Editor.



Many retired people think of their own comforts and want a law to punish children who fail to maintain their parents. I do not see how fair this law could be. During childhood, some parents impose restrictions on the thought process of their young ones. Now they seek a law to continue their authority over their children in their adulthood. Parents have no fundamental right to claim maintenance from the children."

S. CHARUHASAN Alwarpet, Chennai

(From Deccan Chronicle, Chennai, 18 sep, 2008. )


Any legislation to force the children to take care of parents is unsavory, because such care must come from within and not imposed.

But to say that such a law is unfair on the grounds that parents seek to continue their authority on children in their old age, as they did in their young days by controlling their (children's) thought process is absurd.

No child grows without some guidance or control from their parents.

And no parent longs to get a child just to wield their control.

Control and guidance happen as a part of shaping up one's life.

Control of thought has to happen to inculcate the right sense of do’s and dont’s in children.

It happens with everything and at every stage in life.

You can not just drive in the traffic as you like.

You have to follow some rules.

Life is also a journey and one must know how to conduct oneself in the numerous instances of trials and tribulations.

Parental teaching comes in handy even without one realizing that.

When parents are meek and on low money resources,

the children – now old enough – step in to take care of them

This must happen naturally and without one having to tell the other.

There is no fundamental right involved here.

What is involved here is human right ( Humane) to care for the one who is in need and more importantly who cared for you when you were weak and dependent.

Unfortunately Mr Charuhasan repeats what many youngsters of today say without realizing how the parent-child relationship must be..

The most commonly heard notions of youngsters of today are

Ø Parents took care us. It is their duty and so did that. How can they expect a pay-back for that? Like them we also would take care of our kids as a duty. What they showed to us, we will show to our kids.

Ø If they expect something in return, then theirs is not love. Love expects no returns.

Ø Parents have no right over the kids. They can not dictate and say what kids must do. Just because kids are born to them, they can not say they have control over them. They are only facilitators in their birth. They can not claim any right over them.

It is really a sad state of affairs that such thoughts are prevailing among the youth of this country that is known for very well defined notions and practices in parent-child relationship.

Perhaps western thoughts and the hand of the media are to be blamed for the corruption of Sanatanic notions on this wonderful relationship.

I can quote many versions from sanatna dharma to show what duty the child owes to the parent. But that would be dismissed as ‘manuvadi’ by the youth nurtured on corrupt notions of the media (films, books) and the West.

Let me therefore just point out what Thiruvalluvar has to say on this (published at the end of this post) to show that it is universally accepted that Children are the assets of the parents and that they both have a mutual give an take with each other.

While the parent’s duty is to see to it that the child is brought up well and helped to reach a place among the Noble, the child’s duty is to make the world praise the parents what a penance they must have done to get such a child!

Such a praise can not be heard if the children leave the parents in misery and left un-cared for – and as a worst case, needing a legislation to force the children to take care of the parents.

Coming to the most commonly head notions,

let me give the replies.

Ø Parents took care us. It is their duty and so did that. How can they expect a pay-back for that? Like them we also would take care of our kids as a duty. What they showed to us, we will show to our kids. <<


Only two things are comparable with the parents, one is your country / government and the other is Nature.

They sustain you just as your parents.

But you can not avoid your pay-back to them.

This country has given you a place to grow and air to breath and water to drink.

You pay for all that by way of taxes.

Even for using the road in your own vehicle, you have to pay a tax.

You just don’t say that it is country's or governments duty to give you all that

and refuse to pay.

If you refuse, that is all.

You will be punished.

Take the case of Nature.

The earth has given you so much and if you refuse to take care of the earth what will happen?

They will punish you after a long wait, say, be means of tsunami, ozone layer hole, global warming, water table depletion, contamination of water etc.

Earth and universe have given us all ingredients to live; in return it is our duty not to misuse the generosity of mother earth and universe. If we do, we will be punished at the appropriate time. It is nature’s law. No one can change it.

And no one can accuse Nature for punishing us.

Such punishment happen as a sequence of our misuse, not of an action of Mother earth.

The same happens with your parents.

But they don’t punish you if you mis-behave.

You make them suffer and you will suffer not because of any curse by them,

but because of the logical sequence of a action-reaction chain of your own making.

You take care of your kids. You say that you don’t ask them to pay back.

Your parents also don't ask you to reimburse the costs.

They have none to depend on except you when they can no longer support themselves.

Without them asking you to take care, you have to take care.

That is humanness, compassion; even if not as parents as a fellow human beings.

Ø If they expect something in return, then theirs is not love. Love expects no returns.


If you do not give them back in their times of need, then yours is not love.

How do you show your love to them?

In her talks to Hanuman in Ashoka vana, Sita tells

that Kausalya was a magnanimous person because

while everyone gives birth to a child for their own sake and for protecting them,

she had given birth to Rama for the sake of society.

If it for oneself or for the society – it does not matter.

What is known from this is love and duty should not be confused with.

The love of the parent acts as the healthy nutrients to the child to grow as a pleasing personality.

Such a personality is ingrained with a sense of duty to others –

to parents and to the society where it is born.

To quote Thiruvalluvar, a parents' duty stops with making the kid rise well in life

and be well placed. (avayatthu munthi iruppa cheyal)

It is to a make them reach such a pinnacle,

they impose all rules and guidelines but not to make them suffer.

But the child (now an adult) also has a duty as a pay-back.

This is to make the world exclaim what a wonderful deed

the father has done to get such a child. (ivan thanthai en-nOttraan kol enum sol).

If the child refuses to take care of the parents,

is it indicative of a wonderful deed by the parents?

Ø Parents have no right over the kids. They can not dictate and say what kids must do. Just because kids are born to them, they can not say they have control over them. They are only facilitators in their birth. They can not claim any right over them.


The parents are the bearers of the child and helped the individual soul to be born in this earth. Every other relationship in this world may or may not materialize. Say, a person may never get a spouse (never marry) or may not enjoy good friends. But he can not have had parents. Parent’s are the inevitable link given by destiny.

Their help does not stop with birth. They continue to help them grow to maturity. If they stop helping, there is no difference between human beings and animals/planets. (even animals help their kids till they are on their own)

As such, they continue to play a role in the children's life.

To tell them why they must play a role, say,

control or have a say in their affairs is like asking why they have to tend the child.

If you don't tend your child and leave it, you ill be punished by law and also by law of Destiny.

A child is like a seed given by God in the custody of the parent.

The parents must see to it that it is sown and raised well.

They have to guard it from pest and climatic variations.

They have to nourish it with good fertilizers for the healthy growth.

They have to remove the weeds for the proper and healthy growth of the child.

Like a gardener taking care of the plants, the parent takes care of the child.

In the process he may have to be harsh, impose his will etc,

but all that will be like what a gardener does to protect his crop from pests and weeds.

He has to do all this till the time of harvest.

Harvest in a child's life happens –as Thiruvalluvar has said – avayatthu mundhi irutthal-

getting fully ready to be in the forefront and lead a life – that will do proud to the parents.

This is how the cycle of parents – child – parents – child goes .

Coming to the issue of the legislative action to force the children to take care of the parents that Mr Charuhasan has opposed, his accusation that parents impose thought restrictions on the children is un-founded.

His opposition to legislative force to help parents must be seen like this.

(As in the case of the gardener taking care of the crops to mature ) there may be instances where the seed may not be of good quality –i.e., the person is born with poorva vaasanas that are not of good nature.

And there may be instances where the parents due to their vasanas may be unreasonable .

We can see 4 combinations of these through which we can understand the issue of parental role and the need for any legislation to force the children to take care of the parents.

a. If the seed is good and the parental care/nourishment is also good then there is no need for any law, children automatically take care of their parents both emotionally and finacilly.

b. If the seed is bad and parental care/norishment is also bad then alsothere is no need of a law because both know how to deal each other.

c. If the seed is good and parental care / nourishment is bad then the the children will take care of the parents because of their basic character. Hence no need of law.

d. If the seed is bad and parental care / nourishment is good and the parents are not in a position to take care of themselves at their old age then the law is needed to help them.

May be, the law can be explicit to identify the case (d).

(From Thirukkural)

1.2.3 புதல்வரைப் பெறுதல்
1.2.3. The Wealth of Children

61. பெறுமவற்றுள் யாமறிவது இல்லை அறிவறிந்த
மக்கட்பேறு அல்ல பிற.
The world no higher bliss bestows
Than children virtuous and wise.

62. எழுபிறப்பும் தீயவை தீண்டா பழிபிறங்காப்
பண்புடை மக்கட் பெறின்.
No evil comes and no blemish;
Noble sons bring all we wish.

63. தம்பொருள் என்பதம் மக்கள் அவர்பொருள்
தம்தம் வினையான் வரும்.
Children are one's wealth indeed
Their wealth is measured by their deed.

64. அமிழ்தினும் ஆற்ற இனிதேதம் மக்கள்
சிறுகை அளாவிய கூழ்.
The food is more than nectar sweet
In which one's children hands insert.

65. மக்கள்மெய் தீண்டல் உடற்கின்பம் மற்று அவர்
சொற்கேட்டல் இன்பம் செவிக்கு.
Children's touch delights the body
Sweet to ears are their words lovely.

66. குழல் இனிது யாழ்இனிது என்பதம் மக்கள்
மழலைச்சொல் கேளா தவர்.
The flute and lute are sweet they say
Deaf to baby's babble's lay!

67. தந்தை மகற்காற்று நன்றி அவையத்து
முந்தி இருப்பபச் செயல்.
A father's duty to his son is
To seat him in front of the wise.

68. தம்மின்தம் மக்கள் அறிவுடைமை மாநிலத்து
மன்னுயிர்க் கெல்லாம் இனிது.
With joy the hearts of parents swell
To see their children themselves excel.

69. ஈன்ற பொழுதின் பெரிதுவக்கும் தன்மகனைச்
சான்றோன் எனக்கேட்ட தாய்.
The mother, hearing her son's merit
Delights more than when she begot.

70. மகன்தந்தைக்கு ஆற்றும் உதவி இவன்தந்தை
என்நோற்றான் கொல் எனும் சொல்.
The son to sire this word is debt
"What penance such a son begot!"


Anonymous said...

Very true. Well thought out article. It is visible in many families in the modern era. The challenge infront of us is how to inculcate good traits in the minds of younger ones. The seed may be bad; how to make it grow with health is the toughest challenge.
Anyone has answer for this question?

Jayasree Saranathan said...

How to make the seed grow with health?

A difficult task in my opinion.
It is because, as quoted in the Kural (63), Children are a wealth that one gets due to their past good karma. When children become a source of sorrow, it is wiser not to accumulate fresh karma by taking up arms against them. I mean judicial route looks unsavory. It might get the parent money and not care.

The causes for the increasing deterioration in this regard is the destruction of family values and lack of / absence of awareness about one's duty / responsibility to the other.

The awareness must come from within. It can also be inculcated right from childhood.In olden days Ramayana and puranaic stories on how people behaved, told at childhood helped in shaping the thoughts of children on certain ethics. But today's bed times stories are different. Most children grow up without knowing the importance of selfless relationship that has to be there between parents and children.

Parents, society and media all have a role to play in giving a positive direction to remedy this issue.

Anonymous said...

I think here the discussion is on how to make a bad seed good. It is not possible. Say, you think the seed given to you is going to give sweet fruit. But it turned out to be Poisonous fruit. You cannot change anything here, except get rid of the poisonous tree. Because you have given the seed you cannot try in vain to change the poison to sweet. It is against the nature's law.

But a seed which is going to give good sweet fruit is being spoiled by the other palnts nearby ( poisonous) you can as a gardener do two things. 1. Disclocate the good plant to a safer andd healthy place 2. Remove or eliminate the poisonous plant from the vicinity of the sweet seed.
Here again the rejuvenation of displaced sweet seed plant in a newer environmentdepends on its ability to adapt new situation and cooperate; its health condition. It is not in your hand. Its inherenct ability of the plant itself.
So my answer is, if the seed is basically bad, one cannot change, whatever effort one put.

If the seed is good, but environment is bad, one can try to dislocate it and save it; but its growth depends on its ability to pick up the new environment; again depends on its inner stuff. Gardener has no role to play except try.
Hope I answered the query.

Jayasree Saranathan said...

A nice explanation. Thank you.

But I think like the gardener, any parent will keep trying and trying as he will still be thinking and expecting that his seed is a good one.

He will try his best to manipulate the environment factors. These battles are going on in many households.