How To Give Your Parents “The Talk”

giving your parents the talk

This article is part of my ongoing series of regular Wednesday articles for Green Options. This is last weeks article, find this weeks article here.

You recycle, you drive a fuel efficient car, you buy organic food, you turn the thermostat down at night, in short you are trying your best to make this world a better place. Your parents however still use incandescent light bulbs, still don’t recycle, and still look at you like an alien every time you suggest they trade in their giant land tank for something more sensible. If this sounds like your life it’s time for “the talk.”

When I was a young lad, my father sat me down for two minutes of the most awkward conversation I have ever had the misfortune to be a part of, in the end I was left with a shaky sense of fear, and a healthy dose of confusion. This isn’t that kind of talk.

If you have a parent, or grandparent (or for that matter brother, sister, or friend) that displays all the outward signs of intelligence, but doesn’t seem to be doing any of the many simple things to make this world a better place, it is up to you to help them understand why they should start. My advice: start small.

Try and get them to alter one portion of there life. I would start with recycling. Most places have curb side recycling, or a recycling center close by. If they aren’t into all that “hippy crap” then try the tactic of showing how much financial sense it makes to keep waste out of landfills. They will have to deal with the problems of what to do when the local landfill is full, so it’s a good idea to keep it from filling up. Explain that recycling makes the local government money, and hence provides funds for other services they enjoy (parks, schools, whatever).

Enable there choices by providing the tools needed to make the change. Get them the recycling bin as a gift, buy that programmable thermostat, bring over a couple compact fluorescent light bulbs. Let them drive your fuel efficient car, and show them it won’t kill them. Take them for a walk in the woods. Most importantly don’t be confrontational. Make suggestions, not demands. My mother used to tell me “you catch more bees with honey than with vinegar.”

Most people don’t think much about the kind of light bulb they buy, or the kind of potato they get from the store. Talking to your parents about this will get them to stop and consider the choices they make. The biggest influence in our lives is our friends and family. The opinion of trusted loved ones can do more to change our behavior than a million Al Gores telling a million inconvenient truths.

Most importantly make sure to praise and reward any changes they do make. If someone is very set in there ways (“I have been doing it this way for 45 years…”) it can be very hard to suddenly change. Once you have them doing something small, (recycling, new light bulbs) start dropping hints about insulating the attic, or buying that new energy efficient washer dryer combo. Before you know it your mother will be showing off her new hybrid and reminding you to recycle your pop can. Good luck!