Every family is going to have their own rules. Some parents want a “Yes, sir” and “Yes, ma’am”; others are OK being called by their first name. Some tolerate elbows on the table; others won’t even allow screen time. Every family is different, so every family will have different rules.
But shouldn’t there be some boundaries that we all teach? Values that transcend borders and cultures, styles and status? Yes. According to Plutarch, every parent needed to lay down the following rules of conduct: “To practice the simple life, to hold the tongue in check, to conquer anger, to control the hands.” In short, that Stoic virtue of self-discipline or temperance. That’s a rule for life and for all ages: To be in control of yourself.
Ok, but how do you teach it? Plutarch has no easy answer besides the one we’ve talked about a thousand times here. We teach self-control by example. If you want your kids to live the simple life, you must live the simple life. If you want them to watch what they say, then watch what you say. Control your temper, control your hands—that’s how you show them to do the same.
It’s straightforward, though of course not easy. But you must lay down these rules anyway. Just remember: It’s less about enforcement and more about example. Show more than you tell. Embody to inspire, and to make the rules stick.