I'm (kinda) asking this question for my parents and family.

My parents and I share very different values. For example, I think we should replace our old washing machine with a new, energy-efficient one, but my parents think the extra energy consumed by the old one is no big deal. This leads to constant quarrel and sometimes fight.

I'm at university age so my parents can no longer influence my values, and I should have my own views on social issues by now. On the other hand, we cannot avoid talking about these because they all start from casual topics (like replacing old appliances or my plan for the future). The time we can spend together is limited (I'm attending university and doing internships), so endless arguments are really the last thing I want.

Background: Asian family.

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    I'm well past university age, and my parents can still influence my values. They aren't the only influence of course, but I hope never to lose the ability to learn from them! Jun 4, 2017 at 14:19
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    I'm also well past university age, and I'd say, honestly, just put up with it until you're financially independent (if you're not already), then move out (if you haven't already) and limit contact with them. A lot of it depends on the values in question, though. Your example seems relatively mild but I don't know what else is going on. My parents disowned my sister for dating (and ultimately marrying) a black guy. So I supported my sister (and BIL) and disowned our parents.
    – Charlie
    Jun 4, 2017 at 15:48
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    Totally off-topic, but they could well be right: you need to look at lifecycle costs rather than just operational costs, and in the lifecycle analysis of the old machine, the energy used in manufacturing is a sunk cost.
    – Mark
    Jun 4, 2017 at 17:58
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    If their washing machine still functions correctly, you would be causing extra waste by replacing it. When they need a new one, that's when a case could be made more effectively. Nov 19, 2018 at 21:49
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    is it about saving money on fuel bills or using less electricity for the worlds good, as these are 2 very different discussions.
    – WendyG
    Nov 20, 2018 at 11:40

7 Answers 7


I like Paul's suggestion to just do some research and figure out the pertinent facts. I could imagine, however, that the argument is not so much about the financial cost but the ecological impact. That's going to be a much harder question to answer with facts. Also, you might win an argument by presenting facts, but winning arguments isn't really the important thing here.

Why don't you just steer clear of arguments? I mean, so you're talking about old appliances, and you say you'd like to replace one, and they say no, it's not worth it, and suddenly you notice there's an argument underway. So once you notice you're launching into an argument why they should do what you think is right, just stop. Don't try to get your parents to agree with you. Do what you want once you have your own apartment/home, and let them keep their old appliances and their values. It cuts both ways, obviously: They can no longer influence your values much, but neither should you try to force yours on your parents.

That's just going to come up more and more the older they get. They'll keep doing things in ways they're used to, and you'll see loads of easier ways to do them, but if they're happy the way they are, why try to convince them to change?

Pick your battles. Don't sweat the small stuff, like whether to buy a new washing machine or continue using the old one.

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    To be clear, the research piece was only part of my suggestion. My main point was to try and understand the parent's point of view, and if they have common ground wrt the money, then that could be a way to have an objective conversation about it instead of an argument.
    – Paul
    Jun 4, 2017 at 14:10
  • For manufactured goods, lifecycle cost is usually a reasonable proxy for lifecycle ecological impact.
    – Mark
    Jun 4, 2017 at 18:01
  • Yes pascal you got the point. Financial impact is not the major concern. We are arguing because we disagree on whether "protecting the environment" is a valid reason for the upgrade. But of course @Paul 's suggestion to do some research won't do any harm. Maybe I should also stop persuading them as you said. The problem is, our opinions also vary on big stuff, like how much should I get involved in social issues so and so
    – Ryan
    Jun 5, 2017 at 3:09

So, to some degree you will each need to accept that your ability to affect other peoples' values (family or otherwise) is limited. And it's more limited the longer held those values are.

That said, you come from a common background, so there should be some mechanism by which you can understand their views, and then figure out what part of their views are at play.

For example, you indicated that in this particular case you both are money conscious (you feel that the energy savings is worth pursuing, they feel that the new machines' cost doesn't outweigh its value).

That's an easy one, imo. Do the research/math and talk to them objectively about your findings. How does the energy efficiency affect their monthly utility bill? If it's, let's say $10/month (or pounds, I'm on a US keyboard), then that translates to $120/year. If the expected lifespan of the machine is 10 years, rough numbers suggest that if you're paying less than $1200 for the new machine you're saving money in the long run.

Take into account local utility company discounts for changing to energy efficient machines (most in the US offer those), and expected lifecycle costs like repairs and such.

It's hard to argue with well researched numbers, but if they do... then they do. They're grownups too and it's possible to love someone and still disagree with them.

  • It should be pointed out that it's not as simple as just calculating two numbers and comparing them. For example, different people have different "discount rates" - that is, to you a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, but to some it might be worth 1.5, or 3. Your parents might not be expecting to get a full 10 years from the machine, or they might value having $1200 now more than saving $10 a month in 8 years. -- I wholeheartedly agree with talking about why they feel as they do, and even agree that doing the numbers may help, but saying this is "an easy one" is oversimplifying.
    – R.M.
    Jun 4, 2017 at 15:25
  • I should clarify the issue is really not the ignoring of the discount rate. The issue is more that if you come into the argument with your numbers and a hidden assumption (no discount rate), it's easy to steamroller over people who disagree with the hidden assumption, but don't have their stance crystallized enough to verbalize it. There can be many of these assumptions, not just the discount rate. If you don't approach the conversation in an open way, you'll miss them and leave the other party upset, feeling that you don't understand them and are disregarding their opinions and feelings.
    – R.M.
    Jun 4, 2017 at 15:34
  • Yeah, the whole point I was trying (and apparently failing) to make is to come at the thing from their point of view, understand their point of view. Then if you want to have an objective discussion, have it with well-researched information.
    – Paul
    Jun 4, 2017 at 15:43
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    " They're grownups too and it's possible to love someone and still disagree with them." So well said @Paul .
    – Ryan
    Jun 5, 2017 at 3:04
  • Hidden assumptions...they are often a huge obstacle to move the discussion forward. good point @R.M.
    – Ryan
    Jun 5, 2017 at 3:05

You are trying to convince your parents that it is better for the environment to buy a new washer, but they are not convinced it is more economical. Therefore you should make a business case. Come up with some hard numbers based on research and your best guesses. How big is the potential upside? How uncertain is it?

You may similarly make an environmental case to challenge your own position. Is the environmental impact of constructing a new washer offset by its energy savings or is it not so clear whether this is an environmental win?


For Your Washer Example: Make Your Case

Based on your example (the washing machine), you're presenting one argument that's apparently close to your heart (the energy efficiency) but without explaining the reason (energy savings, or environmental impact).

You also don't state why your parents oppose. It may be that a new washing machine is too expensive in their eyes, or that they are more of the mind that some appliances are "for life", for their return-on-investment to be meaningful, and they see replacing one as a failure.

So, show your business acumen and flex that university-brain of yours:

  • Explain why it's good for the environment and why it matters for you, them, and their future grand-kids,

  • Explain why a more efficient will save money, and be specific: how many kwh will be saved by the new washer, and how much money will that save them based on the cost of electricity in your area? Then show how long it will take for the cost of the washer to be amortized.

  • Explain that the new washer may save them time, and clean better. It may also require less detergent than the older one.

  • Research the price you could get for the old washer if you re-sell it. While you may not want to put that old energy-hungry back on the market for someone else, there's also value in a circular economy. Donate it, recycle it, or sell it. If you can sell it, make sure to include that in your case.

For Your Point About Recurring Arguments

Inspect why these happen. Arguments happen because people are willing to argue. This may not be a bad thing.

I'm at university age so my parents can no longer influence my values, and I should have my own views on social issues by now.

For sure, and your parents surely respect that - even if they don't show or even realize it.

But you should also realize that it's not because you have your own values and opinions that theirs are suddenly invalid.

Some arguments are mostly fact-based, and can be taken out of context and analyzed in a vacuum. Many aren't, and the analysis is tainted by our experience, our culture, and our current setting. They may be your parents, and you share part of a culture and a bond, but they have a different experience, upbringing, and context than you do. You have different concerns in life, and different priorities.

Pick your Battles

On the other hand, we cannot avoid talking about these because they all start from casual topics (like replacing old appliances or my plan for the future).

That's how all arguments start. Make sure to detect when that happens, pause, and reflect on whether or not that battle is necessary.

There are usually 3 questions for that:

  • Can that battle be won?

    If victory is what matters and it can't be won, then drop it. On the other hand, if just standing up for a conviction is good enough, even if you can't win, then that fight is still an option...

  • Should that battle be won? Should that battle even be fought?

    You may win that battle, or you may not but have made strong points. But at what cost? Sometimes, winning an argument is not just a matter of us going "you see?" and the other party graciously accepting your winning argument with a nice "Oh, of course, I see how you were right". Most of the time, there are emotions involved, and possibly also pride.

    As you're in university, maybe take a look at some Change Management modules if you have some. These will seem boring, theoretical, and contrite. And yet they contain very valuable lessons on handling personal and professional relationships, and the cost involved.

    Right now, you are dealing with a lot of change, and that triggers a lot of emotions for both you and your parents, without even realizing it. You standing up to them is probably something that's already hard to deal with, as it's a nice that times are changing. And we're supremely resistant to change, and we'll want to do what we can to prevent it from happening, sometimes even if that change is beneficial.

The time we can spend together is limited (I'm attending university and doing internships), so endless arguments are really the last thing I want.

Then I'd suggest to move the cursor on the "should that battle even be fought" a bit farther from the "YES" end, and to be mindful of the time you spend with your family. Dive in on some topics, let go of others, and don't turn it up to 11 every chance you get. When things get heated, take a step.

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    +1 despite this sentence clearly being incorrect "If there's an argument, one of us is wrong"
    – Ivana
    Jan 18 at 9:22
  • @Ivana: True. I will rework that part, I had left my crap day get to me.
    – haylem
    Jan 19 at 12:59
  • @Ivana: In fact, I've removed that part, it added nothing useful to my post. Thanks for keeping me honest and reminding me.
    – haylem
    Jan 19 at 13:01

TL;DR - pick your battles.

One of the things your parents have modelled is to be tenacious when you're right - what you now need to add to that knowledge is that when you're dealing with belief facts are largely irrelevant.

Before you decide to go for a 'win' - really have a good answer for yourself to the question: Where does this get us? Do a mental cost/benefit analysis to really check to see if it is worth the engagement and look at ways to gracefully back out.

Take the example you've given us. From the outside we see that you're advocating for a lower operating cost where they are trying to avoid a high opportunity cost.

Now go back to the question - Where does this get us?

The observer position is that heating water is where the energy is used and effectively wasted. The majority of any operating cost savings in a new machine come from heating less water to a lower temperature. They can probably achieve big savings on the machine they already have by changing how they use it.

If you win then you get satisfaction that your superior knowledge won the day. Go you! But your parents will probably go through some negative emotions which is going to cost you their goodwill in other areas, and they'll have to engage with a high 'opportunity' cost to replace a machine that (to them) was adequate for their needs.

If they win, nothing changes except everyone is grumpy at each other.

If you back out without giving ground by accepting that buying the super-efficient Wizzo 5000x is a big outlay that they might not want to spend yet even though it will save them money in the end. You can show you've heard their argument and you're still technically correct (which is the best kind). Then when this machine breaks, you can help them pick a new one that balances that initial outlay with a respectable total cost of ownership.

If this is something you really want to bring them round on then you need to get them to find out for themselves, ask questions that encourage them to show you why they're right rather you proving them wrong. But when it comes to family, having them in your corner is frequently far more valuable than being right.


Well, I understand and it happens with me too. When time reach to decide my future my parents want to make me a doctor and I want to go with the history and art they really don't like it and we have lots of arguments, but then I came up with an idea. I research the studies, expenses, and opportunities in both the fields and told them what will happen in the future and it will make me happy or not. I know it took 2 months but finally, my parents accept my request and my wish get fulfilled. So don't worry and if your parents are thinking economically then come with a plan where you buy a new washing machine in a exchange and it also uses less electricity or make your work easier. They can't ignore such important factors and definitely agreed. Don't lose hope.


Responding to the thing about the washing machine, I think what you should do is make them see that in the end it is a waste of electricity, You are not saying it to be harmful, but on the contrary you are looking for a way not to damage the environment and to lower their costs. Regarding decisions about your future, personally, I think that the one who should make the decision is you because in the end the future will be yours, the parents will not be the ones who work in those positions or careers. That is the mistake that many make: in wanting to make their parents proud, they force themselves to study things that do not interest them, and then when you are not really interested or passionate about something, you do not put the same effort into something that you do with pleasure. What I want to get at is that your parents have to be proud of what you achieve, not because you dedicate yourself to one thing or another.

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