The difference between people and animals is that people have wisdom and know that they should be filial, follow the rules, and observe propriety. People who don't know enough to follow the rules, show filial respect toward their parents, or serve their country are unaware of the basic requirements for being a person and don't differ much from cows and horses. We should pay attention to this, especially when we are studying in school.
Being filial to your parents means making them happy and peaceful at heart. Merely giving your parents good food to eat and fine clothes to wear is not enough. How can you be a filial child? First of all, listen to your parents' instructions and be very respectful when speaking to them. Always be pleasant and agreeable in responding to them. When your parents tell you to do something, do it immediately. Don't be lazy or reluctant. If they scold you, accept it gladly and don't ignore it. Parents are strict only because they hope their children will become outstanding people. The Three Character Classic says:
If the son is not taught well,
It is the father's fault;
If the teaching is not strict,
It is the teacher's oversight.
There is an ancient saying: “The discipline of the rod produces filial children.” These are ideas of the past; they can no longer be applied now. In the United States in particular, such methods are virtually unheard of, because Americans teach their children with love. They don't beat or scold their children, but allow them to develop freely. In general, parents should be neither too strict nor too permissive; they should follow the middle way.
Chinese people honor the practice of filial piety. Zeng Seng, one of Confucius' disciples, said, “When one's parents are alive, one should not travel afar. If one must travel, one should have a definite destination.” Children should not go far away from home and leave their parents. If you have to travel afar on urgent business, you should let your parents know where you will be staying so they won't worry. If you make your parents anxious, you are not being filial. A proverb says: “When the son travels a thousand miles away, the mother is plagued with anxiety.” Mothers are always greatly concerned about their children.
A talk given on September 16, 1983