When our children arrive in the world, we hope to create a life that will equip them with the tools to be happy, confident, and fulfilled. We want them to know the joy of contentment and to avoid the internal “noise” of comparison. And we might wish we had been handed a user manual with the swaddled baby bundle!
Parents all over the world raise their hands! 🙌🙌🙌
Why focus on Aristotle?
Aristotle was one of the greatest philosophers who ever lived, and the first genuine scientist in history. Sadly he didn’t share instructions for Walmart meltdowns or how to get babies to sleep, but he was interested in helping us achieve happiness. His ethical guidelines can be seen as his version of a “user manual.”
We all want happy children.
Aristotle insists that “the highest good, virtuous activity, is not something that comes to us by chance.”1 That means we all have the chance to lean into our gifts and talents and find fulfillment. With practice, we can build real-life superpowers.
If you think as Aristotle did, then you agree that being happy requires developing good habits, so that children grow into productive and fulfilled people. What more could we want? Many parents believe that good habits formed during childhood make a huge difference later in life. In other words, start early and stay consistent at guiding good habits in your kids.
An early foundation of practicing and building good habits creates children who grow up with intrinsic motivations that reflect the habits they’ve built. If you guide your kids to practice kindness towards others, or to be environmentally conscious, they’ll grow into adults who practice these virtues. It will be a part of their character.
It’s possible that names like Aristotle, Socrates, and Plato are not ones that pop up during conversations with your mom-friends, or while driving to soccer practice. But these philosophers actually really wanted people to have a well-lived life.
In the Zuko and Allie Puff series, the super puppies act as role models for this process. And while children might not always listen to parents, they’ll be captivated by the lessons shared by Zuko and Allie Puff!
Parenting with Aristotle’s virtues
What are the virtues?
You don’t need to know exactly who Aristotle was to tap into his theory of living. To break it down, virtues are traits that Aristotle considered morally good.
Aristotle was of an ancient time, but with adaptations to today’s world, his virtues remain relevant for children as they strive to make good choices.
In case you haven’t cracked a philosophy book recently or EVER googled “Aristotle on raising kids,” these are eight basic Aristotelian virtues2 that are easily adapted to use with children:
The benefits of Aristotle’s virtues
A parent’s job is hard.
Parents are trying to raise successful young people. We want them to have strong emotional health and to be satisfied with their lives.
Meredith Evans, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, wanted me to note in my blogs that Aristotelian virtues are “the building blocks to being a good and well-adjusted person.”(Evans, Meredith. 2022. E-mail message to author, August 7)
What I appreciate most about raising children using Aristotelian virtues is that I found them to
- teach children to make good decisions
- show children how to develop a positive self-image by looking inside themselves as well as outside
- celebrate each child’s uniqueness and encourage children to be individuals
- encourage children to be open to their special talents, dreams, and abilities
Teaching kids to make good choices
“We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.”— Aristotle3
My interpretation of Aristotle’s virtues is that we have an inherent motivation to make good choices but we will always need a LOT of practice!
It’s all about finding balance—living neither in excess nor deficiency, doing neither too little nor too much.4
Balance is tough to achieve though, and children may not find it if we set overly high expectations for them! They need space to explore, because it takes practice to use virtues when making choices in life.
My picture books follow two cute puppies, Zuko and Allie Puff, as they face challenges and pick which virtue to follow. (Zuko even imagines himself wearing a medal that displays that book’s virtue!)
They find balance by taking time to play and enjoy time with their friends. It’s not all about using their superpowers around the clock!
Aristotle understood that we are all individuals with different talents, personalities, ambitions, and life circumstances.
Each child is unique, and kids need to realize it! They won’t have the same skills and abilities as their friends, because everyone is different. Understanding this is the antidote to feeling ‘less than’ when kids compare themselves to others. As you guide your kids’ growth and development, remember to encourage them to recognize and celebrate their differences.
“We have to find our own sense of self and that comes from recognizing talents, practicing them, and also understanding that your talents may not apply towards all things. When we appreciate the talents in others it helps us appreciate ourselves and encourages growth to develop new talents.”— Meredith Evans
Just like children have different abilities, Zuko and Allie Puff have distinct superpowers. But they work together to reach their full potential and solve problems.
In order for adults to help children become successful—whatever that might look like—children must first feel comfortable exploring their gifts without pressure.
Aristotle’s virtue of truthfulness can encourage children to be honest with adults about their limitations and their strengths.
Kids should be themselves and not what they think adults want them to be.
Honest self-advocacy helps build a child’s confidence as they develop into the person they were meant to be.
Zuko and Allie Puff are honest about their abilities and own up to mistakes when they make them. They challenge each other, but they don’t ask each other to do more than they’re capable of. This helps them complete successful missions, feeling happy and fulfilled.
Virtues and super puppies
Pursuing a life full of learning, adventure, awareness, and kindness.
These virtues aren’t just for children; they can guide all people through their lives.
The super puppies of the Zuko and Allie Puff series acquire superpowers and go on missions, but they also spend time fostering good habits and relationships.
Raising happy, ambitious, confident, and successful kids requires good habits of our own. We need resources to help us, such as a community of friends, great children’s books, and sometimes a little research (because we weren’t given a user manual with our bundles of joy).
You can have fun laying the foundation for a life of fulfillment for your children by following Zuko and Allie Puff on their many adventures!
Perhaps your own ambition will be sparked along the way!
- Aristotle (1955). The Ethics of Aristotle: The Nichomachaen Ethics. (rev. ed.) (J. K. Thomson, trans.). New York: Viking. p. 104.