Teach Them To Be Kings

Unless you are currently in line for a hereditary throne, it’s unlikely your children will ever be a king or a queen. This is a good thing, as it seems like both a thankless and toxic job–to say nothing of its effectiveness as a form of government.

But still, you should try to raise your kids to be kings, at least in the Stoic sense. It was Musonius Rufus, the teacher to Epictetus and the advisor to many leaders, who said that a king needed to be a philosopher and that a philosopher needed to be a kingly person.

Whatever your kids end up doing, it’s important that they embody this idea. Whatever their gender, it’s important that they embody many of the ideals so admirably possessed by someone like Queen Elizabeth–dignity, restraint, duty, commitment, strength. It’s important that they follow the model of Marcus Aurelius, who strove not to be ‘stained purple,’ that is, not corrupted by the power he held. It’s important that they learn how to, as Seneca the advisor to Nero wrote, learn how to command the greatest empire in the world–our own minds, our own bodies, our own souls.

We don’t know how powerful our kids will end up being, what armies they might oversee or laws they might pass or money they might have, but we can set them up to be worthy of any of this power. And we do that by teaching them values, by modeling values, and reminding them that ultimately, it isn’t the job that makes the person but the person who makes the job.

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