Their Lives Should Be Good, Not Easy

Seneca was born into a wealthy family. His father was a well-known writer and orator whose family immigrated from Spain into the aristocracy of the Roman empire. And, in time, Seneca would go on to earn his own fortune in politics. 

It’s natural then, that as a father and as a philosopher, he would have some strong thoughts about raising kids amidst privilege and wealth. Because that’s no simple thing—it’s better than the opposite, of course, but it comes with its own challenges. 

In his essay, Of Anger, Seneca gives us a prescription about how to balance the success we might have (or hope to have) financially and how to keep that from spoiling our kids or sapping them of motivation. As Seneca writes:

We ought to allow him some relaxation, yet not yield him up to laziness and sloth, and we ought to keep him far beyond the reach of luxury, for nothing makes children more prone to anger than a soft and fond bringing-up, so that the more only children are indulged, and the more liberty is given to orphans, the more they are corrupted.

He to whom nothing is ever denied, will not be able to endure a rebuff, whose anxious mother always wipes away his tears, whose paedagogus is made to pay for his shortcomings. Do you not observe how a man’s anger becomes more violent as he rises in station? This shows itself especially in those who are rich and noble, or in great place, when the favouring gale has roused all the most empty and trivial passions of their minds. Prosperity fosters anger, when a man’s proud ears are surrounded by a mob of flatterers, saying, ‘That man answer you! you do not act according to your dignity, you lower yourself.’ And so forth, with all the language which can hardly be resisted even by healthy and originally well-principled minds.”

In short, while we want our kids’ lives to be good, we don’t want them to be too good. We don’t want them to grow entitled or lazy, and there is no better way to encourage those vices than by giving them everything they want without having to work for it.

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