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My question concerns my eleven-year-old
daughter who has been vegan since birth. It's getting
to be more and more of a challenge to raise her as a
vegan; not that I'm giving up, but she recently "tested"
me by saying: "Mom, I think I want to try chicken."
I was washing the dishes and, without missing a beat,
I turned off the water, dried my hands, and said "Okay,
let's go and get some now." She jumped up from the table
and said, "I didn't mean NOW; I meant when I'm about
thirteen!" I resumed washing the dishes (although I
must admit that I used one hand to pat myself on the
Realistically, I know that the day will
come when she will experiment, probably not with meat
because she can barely tolerate the texture of meat
analogs, but possibly with dairy (my husband of twenty-two
years is lacto-ovo). When that day comes, I don't want
her to do this behind my back (I used to hide M&M's
in my underwear drawer for fear my mom would find them).
I feel that no matter what she experiments with, she
will ultimately come back to veganism. In the meantime,
what should I do?
Virtually all parents long for their
offspring to adopt their values, but, of course, there
is never any guarantee. It is painful for parents to
allow their children to make pivotal decisions because,
despite our greatest hopes, we worry that they will
make what we consider to be "poor" choices - those that
go against our own convictions. Perhaps the toughest
challenge of parenting is setting children free to become
the individuals - and independent thinkers - they were
meant to be. In order for young ones to mature, they
must eventually make their own mistakes and come to
their own conclusions.
The seeds of children's ethics are planted
when they are very young. By the time they are adolescents,
their basic value system is firmly rooted. By this age,
they should have a clear understanding of behavior that
is "right" and "wrong," acceptable or improper. In order
for youngsters to embrace their parents' code of ethics
and accept it as their own, they must be aware of and
understand the reasoning behind it. Most children develop
a powerful sense of loyalty to their parents' principles,
but unless behavioral expectations include an appreciation
for their moral underpinnings, there is a very real
chance that children will abandon these ideals in the
During the teen years, it is common
for children to rebel, but defiance and rejection of
one's family values are less prevalent in homes where
relationships include mutual respect, trust, and open
communication. The stage for close interactions, however,
must be set early on. If dialogue has never included
acceptance and honesty, nurtured in an atmosphere of
genuine affection, by the pre-teen years, the critical
period for introducing these will have passed.
If you want your daughter to share her
thoughts, interests, and concerns with you, create a
safe, nonjudgmental environment in which she can do
so. Allow her to open up without restriction or fear
of your disapproval. If you establish a foundation of
loving admiration toward your daughter, blended with
a solid example and awareness of vegan practice and
the ethical principles that guide it, she will be well
equipped to make appropriate moral decisions imbued
with responsibility and wisdom. She will also have the
security of knowing that she can share her choices and
feelings with you and still be loved and appreciated
whether or not her lifestyle parallels yours.
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