Does anyone ever follow advice? I think it is part of human nature to ignore advice from others, plunge right ahead into disaster, and learn from our own mistakes. Rumor has it that a lesson learned the hard way is a lesson remembered. The most frustrating job a parent has may be that of knowing that a good bit of the parental advice you are expected to give is going to be ignored.
When a child is little (the terrible twos and threes), they almost have to ignore their parent. Telling mommy “No!” and doing it anyway is part of learning and gaining independence. That doesn’t excuse a parent from not telling the toddler, “Don’t touch the stove. It’s hot!” Some kids will believe mom and back away. The brave and adventurous ones, however, will not. They will ignore the advice, touch the pretty red burner – one time – and learn “the hard way”.
While we (as children) grow, we are given more and more advice (do your homework, get eight hours of sleep, wear your seat belt), much of which we choose to ignore. Two different personalities begin to emerge – the “easy”, compliant child who follows advice, thus not getting in trouble regularly, and the adventurous, daring child who seems to create their own trouble to get in by ignoring and not trusting advice given to her. I’m not saying either type is right or wrong; only different.
I was told by my parents that smoking cigarettes was bad. That didn’t stop me from trying it in high school; it only told me that it was something I should hide from them. My father was a smoker at the time, so had to tell me, “Do as I say, not as I do”. These days, kids get the same message not only from their parents, but also from the media and the cigarette package itself. Still, way too many kids (and adults) don’t follow this advice even knowing the health risks now that weren’t known a couple generations ago.
One piece of advice that I received more than once as a young adult was in regards to marriage. My father wisely told me, once again to “do as I say and not as I do”, and finish school first before marrying, and know the guy long enough to know him well. He was married, against the odds, for fifty years after knowing mom for only six weeks before marrying, and mom did finish her degree. It is still excellent advice that many of us give, but few of us follow. Maybe that’s why the odds are stacked against any marriage succeeding these days – we plunge right in because our mind is made up and we know better than all those people giving us advice.
Interestingly, ignoring advice is not just a child to parent thing. It goes the other way too. My kids have given me suggestions that I’ve ignored, and I’ve tried to give my dad advice that falls on deaf ears (literally) – “Get a hearing aid, dad!”
We (the defiant side of the human race) don’t like to take any advice from any others; we know what we’re doing, really we do. The speed limit is fifty five; we can handle this road at seventy, there aren’t any cops around. Either the lesson is learned the hard way with a ticket or a wreck, or we “luck out” and don’t learn the lesson this time.
Had we all just followed advice, maybe we would all be in happy relationships, have rewarding careers, have stable financial situations, and have just the right number of well behaved, well adjusted kids. Maybe I would have done my homework and gotten good grades, thus being invited to attend the best universities. I might not have been divorced twice and struggling to pay bills if I’d listened to everything my parents (and other authority figures) told me to do.
I’m a decent, contributing citizen with very few regrets in life. I’m proud of who I am and what I’ve done, especially the fact that I’m a unique, slightly rebellious individual who tends to learn the hard way. So parents out there – keep handing out that free parental advice and try not to get too frustrated. I must have let some of it sink in since I’m doing ok, but let’s face it – hindsight is a wonderful thing.