How to raise children, Epicurean-style

It goes without saying that raising children is one of the most important things humans do. But there is so much bad advise on how to raise your children. In this post I’ll try to address what both the liberal secularists and the religious conservatives get wrong on parenting, and how to do it in an Epicurean fashion. Bearing in mind that this is written by someone who isn’t a parent, so comments and criticisms are more than welcome!

  1. Encourage independence of thought and action. Teaching your children independence has a vast array of benefits. It makes them more intelligent by giving them decisions that have consequences. It teaches them to learn things for themselves. It makes them happier, particularly if they make a decision that goes well. It instills a mindset of tolerance; as they learn to value their freedom, they believe in freedom for others. Most importantly, it allows them to learn from their mistakes.
  2. Trust your children as much as you can. Children can only act responsibly if they are given responsibility. Constantly questioning your children or disbelieving them will only cause friction. A healthy relationship has to start somewhere.
  3. Avoid being over-protective. This is a difficult one because parents naturally want to prevent their children from being harmed. But children are happier when they are freer. In Germany, children are encouraged to climb trees and spend a lot of time outdoors, even if the chances of them getting injured are higher. The idea that children should be protected from a little cold or rain is ludicrous in my view.
  4. Enstill your children with a strong set of morals. Post-modern moral relativism has gone too far in my view. Children need to know the clear difference between right and wrong, even given situations that are quite complex. Without this, children will always seek ways to bend the rules.
  5. Don’t pander to children. The most egregious example of parental pandering in the modern age is in food. Many parents will only cook a small choice of food because that is what their children like, supposedly. Whether its cutting bread a particular way, or always boiling vegetables to the same softness, parents are encouraging children to be particular. Rather, parents should expose their children to as wide a variety of food as possible. And while its often best not to force your children to eat it, you must not prepare a more familiar alternative. Hunger as a punishment for fussiness is perfectly appropriate. On a broader note, children must not expect to get their favourite toys or anything they see that they like. There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of generosity. But for the most part, if children want something, they should have to earn it.
  6. Allow a little bit of immaturity. The idea that children must always behave like adults is insane and unrealistic. Children are by nature sillier than adults. As long as that silliness is not hurtful or totally beneath the age of the child in question, it should be allowed. One of the benefits of having children is that it cheers up people that would often otherwise be very sombre.
  7. ┬áDon’t shy away from sex/nudity. One of the most preposterous contradictions of the morality of the modern age is that graphic violence is far more acceptable for child viewing than anything that could be construed as sexual. Instead of censoring all nudity and sexual content, parents should educate their children to be mature on such matters. If they don’t, the children will find out for themselves sooner or later. The only way for people to grow up with healthy attitudes towards sex is by proper parental instruction.
  8. Give your children an academic and cultured upbringing. Take them to as many museums, art galleries and theatres as possible. Read them Shakespeare, Homer and Dickens. Watch intriguing and important films with them. Put classical and jazz music on the radio. You’ll find this will give them a huge boost in life: you will always impress on when being interviewed for a job or writing a university application if you have a broad range of interests. You’ll also make your children more interesting people.
  9. Challenge your children, without being impossibly pushy. Children need to be taught the importance of ambition and aspiration. They need to be taught to work hard to achieve success. But there is a danger in pushing them beyond what is realistic. If that happens, children will feel demoralised and inadequate. This may manifest itself in mental health problems later in life.
  10. Regulate children’s use of technology. The overuse of technology, and in particular social media, can be detrimental to children’s happiness and mental development. Technology can be a wonderful resource, both for entertainment and information. But allowing children to whittle hours of their lives away online is a recipe for disaster.