Guest Post – Ancient Greeks and parenting today.

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February 15, 2014 by Dadinator

Today I give you a guest post from the eloquent Arlene Chandler. She saw I am an ancient history/languages buff (a nerd in other words) and put together this post about what figures from Ancient Greece can tell us about parenting. Enjoy!

– The Dadinator


Ancient Greek Lessons to help you through Parenting


Arlene Chandler

Arlene Chandler is a working mother of one with a loving husband who calms her down daily. She is a freelance writer and critical thinker who studied Philosophy in uni not so long ago. Her daughter is addicted to Hello Kitty and the Hokey Pokey. 



A family is like a civilisation in many ways. It’s quite possibly the most basic form a civilisation, teaching us how to interact with the world at large based on our relationships with mum, dad, siblings and even pets. 

An Ancient Greek amphitheater in Segesta (source)

Many countries have often thought the family unit reflects the very nation that a family resides (as long as it’s the right kind of family). In Victorian England, the perfect family unit was headed of course by a Victorian gentleman with the Angel of the House by his side.  This model was sought after to attempt to bring about a better country for all. Through most of history, England seemed to regard themselves as the protective father figure to the rest of the world.

Given we can, or at least try to, say so much about a nation as well as history based on family dynamics, there seems to be many family-life lessons we can learn from different points in history and how nations have dealt with their problems. Going all the way back to Ancient Greece, we can see family lessons to be learned in raising our children, handling financial issues and being a close family.

A family needs a bridge between the rich and the poor classes.

Athenians in the early 6th Century BC were horribly burdened by debt and social inequality. Solon the revolutionary lawmaker, statesman and poet came about implementing unpopular compromises for the sake of national stability. He tried to enact laws against political, economic, and moral decline which paved the way for democracy even though in the short-term his reforms failed.

Some aspects of parenting may be improved upon by thinking like Solon. Two family dynamics will be very different, perhaps even opposite from mine. Even so, parents make up the rich class, both financially speaking and in the business of our daily lives.  Children need a Solon, somebody to “mediate” between the two social classes. As a parent you have to be that somebody.

It’s so important to spend time with our children to truly connect. We all get busy, but it is of utmost importance to occasionally take part in the Barbie pool party when they ask us to. How else will we help them develop into decent human beings? Should we leave it to the tube?

In addition, being able to earn an allowance and become rich in Hello Kitty or Lego goods is a huge deal to kids. We all probably remember yelling “that’s not fair!” and the truth is that being a kid can sometimes feel like you are part of the unfortunate peasant class, begging to be noticed by the nobility.

Children question everything, why shouldn’t we as parents?

Socrates stated, “The unexamined life is not worth living” and ended up with the death penalty even though he examined his and everyone else’s lives in the process. This was, of course corrupting the youth with of Athens and ultimately his ceaseless questioning was the death of him. He may have been a little extreme (especially according to Aristotle’s views – more on this later) but I tend to agree with the Socratic Method. Wisdom brings goodness to life and thinking we know all the answers usually is our downfall.


A sculpture of Socrates (Source)


Questioning everything, for my family has meant that we don’t take things for granted. The unending search for truth has made me want to prepare for the future, as it seems anything could happen. Why is my family immune to disaster such as a layoff or serious illness? Oh right, it isn’t and I shouldn’t delude myself into thinking it is. I found that a good starting point to answering these scary questions lies in researching different options that give peace of mind, such as this bill protect insurance for a safety net.

It’s finding the middle ground the will be the key to good parenting.

As Aristotle puts it in Nicomachean Ethics, “Therefore virtue is a kind of mean, since, as we have seen, it aims at what is intermediate.” If we give in to our children’s every want, we let them live in excess, risking health problems related to their exponential sugar intake, and never appreciating what they have. If we don’t give them anything at all, our children could starve both physically and emotionally. Aristotle says defect and excess are the characteristics of vice, while virtue both finds and chooses that which is intermediate. The middle ground is relative to each situation, but I think it’s safe to say that a five-year old doesn’t need a new smart phone, am I right?!

When handling family finances I try to be as Aristotelian as possible. We keep a strict budget and plan for the future, but we also have a lot of fun. We visit the City Botanic Gardens or the Daisy Hill Koala Centre with our daughter at least once a month. My husband and I find time to have the occasional romantic date night, and life is good.

As interesting as Ancient Greek civilisation is, I’m glad to being experiencing this era with my beautiful family and simply taking notes from the history books.



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