We talked recently about Michael Schur’s fun book of moral philosophy: How to Be Perfect. He ends the book with a meditation on what of the toughest jobs for even the wisest and best of us (as Marcus Aurelius showed)…how to pass these lessons on to your kids.
But this passage (which reminds us of a great children’s book Here We Are) captures perfectly what we have to teach our kids:
“You are people on earth. You are not alone here, and that means you owe the other people on earth certain things. What you owe them, more or less, is to live by rules they wouldn’t reject as unfair (assuming they’re decent, reasonable people).”
He has a great little exercise for his kids to remember too. As you go through life and are thinking about doing something, he says, ask if your brother or sister would think it was a good idea. Then keep going, ask if a friend would think it was a good idea, or a teacher, even a kid you don’t like but think is smart. Ask, he says, explaining Kant’s Categorical Imperative to a five year old, “Would it be okay if everyone did this? What would the world be like if every single person were allowed to do whatever I’m about to do?”
As we’ve said before, we’re not just trying to raise successful kids or smart kids, we’re trying to raise decent and kind human beings. The way to do that is to teach them how their actions affect other people, what their obligations to other people are.
You don’t have to be a philosopher to pull that off…just a good and decent person yourself. And a good and decent parent too.