Academic journal article McGill Law Journal

Honour Bound

Academic journal article McGill Law Journal

Honour Bound

Article excerpt

Echoing the language of commandment round in the Decalogue, article 597 of the Civil Code of Quebec provides that every child owes respect to his or her mother and father. Notwithstanding its expression in legislative form, most experts think that this duty to honour one's parents is not legally binding. After sketching what attitudes to article 597 say about the constraints on legislative rules of conduct, the author considers whether article 597 might alternatively be imagined as a source of learning. By seeking to teach through the law of interpretation and the formal deployment of a symbol for parental authority, the legislature has enacted article 597 hot as precept but as preceptor. Article 597 is thus an invitation to use legislative enactment, on occasion, to shape behaviour through counsel rather than by force.

Faisant echo au langage de commandement du decalogue, l'article 597 du Code civil du Quebec stipule que chaque enfant doit respect a sa mere et son pere. Nonobstant son expression dans la forme legislative, le devoir d'honorer ses parents, selon la plupart des experts, n'a force de loi. L'auteur esquisse d'abord la pertinence des approches a l'egard de l'article 597 qui decrivent les contraintes des regles legislatives de comportements, puis se penche sur l'alternative selon laquelle cet article pourrait etre une source d'apprentissage. En voulant enseigner par la loi d'interpretation et l'emploi officiel d'un symbole d'autorite parentale, le legislateur adopta l'article 597 en tant que precepteur et non pas en tant que precepte. Ainsi, l'article 597 convie a une utilisation de la legislation afin de modeler les comportements par des recommandations plutot que la force.

 I. Legislation As Precept (and the constraints on this view)
    A. Duty and Sanction
    B. Duty and Intimate Family Life
II. Legislation As Preceptor (and the learning in this view)
    A. Teaching and Interpretation
    B. Teaching and Symbol

PARENT : Clean your room.

CHILD : [No response]

PARENT : [Voice raised ever so slightly in a cunning effort to suggest at once injunction and request] Clean your room.

CHILD : [Innocently, of course] You didn't say please.

PARENT : Please, [the tone suggests that the word has been cut free from its etymological connections (placidus: gentle; placare: to soothe) and the pronunciation (pleeeeez) puts the listener in mind of antonym rather than primary meaning] please, clean your room.

CHILD : [Wielding the big and proven stick of indifference] Huh?

PARENT : [No longer in a dialogue with Child but engaged in unpleasant encounter with Self (the Child within)] Clean your room ... or else.

CHILD : [Testing the obligatory character of the proposed rule of conduct, as a matter of legal theory and domestic governance, by suggesting a necessary relationship between the existence of the rule and a formal sanction] Or else what?

PARENT : [Now actually cleaning the room as he speaks (in a sovereign mumble)] Or else nothing.

I am a parent of three small children. I like to think of our home as a happy one--a place which my partner and I have sought to organize around an ideal of the hidden order in chaos rather than the chaos that often hides (we console ourselves) in more ordered households. In our lighter moments, we smile at the gentle disarray of our daily rives, with the thought in mind that it reflects not a domestic rulelessness but a sensible approach to our children's obvious creative flair, their right-sided braininess and the ascendancy of the spiritual over the material in their little catalogues of values. In a moment less light some weeks ago, Jane said to me, "You know, I'm not sure if the kids listen to us when we tell them what to do. At times, they don't seem to behave very respectfully?'

In our despair, we reach for those miserable books that outsell Piaget for me-generation parenting--the titles tend to be their only differentiating feature--Helping Your Child Learn Right from Wrong: A Guide to Values Clarification or The Answer Is No: Saying It and Sticking to It or Discipline without Shouting or Spanking. …

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