“For the begetter is the ruler by reason of love and age…” Aristotle, Politics
Perhaps we do not normally think of parents as rulers. Aristotle did.
He seems to think that after giving children life there is nothing more important than giving them direction: direction in how to live; that is, live well. This presupposes that there are right ways of living, and wrong, and that children need to be guided to the right.
Ruling and authority have a bad name today. But for the ancients authority is an office of special beauty and importance in human life. Authority is necessary in order that people—in this case children—be able to find true happiness.
Parental rule is rooted in age, as age denotes a wisdom that comes from experience. A ruler must have knowledge of the real goal of human life, and how to get there.
Parental authority is also rooted in love, and is an exercise of love. It is always fundamentally about the children, and their good.
But if true authority must be exercised with love, it is also the case that parental love must be exercised with authority. Parents need to rule. Not that ruling and making rules are synonymous. Rules have a place; yet praise, encouragement, instruction, gentle correction, not to mention leading by example, are all essential. These can set the nurturing tone of well-exercised parental authority.
Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), student of Plato, tutor of Alexander the Great, has been considered by many to be the greatest ancient philosopher.
Image: George de la Tour, Joseph the Carpenter, 1642
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