Aristotle said participate

aristotleFor the past few weeks my friend (who is also a mum) and I have been to a series of talks with a philosopher. This modern day philosopher spoke on the topic, ‘Is there life before death?’ and the next day, my friend and I met for a coffee and a debrief on how the philosophies affect our parenting. It ran every Thursday over four weeks.

Much of what he was speaking about was counter-cultural to our society now and sometimes hard to relate to our lives far removed from 500 BC but at the same time, made so much sense. The centre of the four weeks was that, as a society, we have become so focused on ourselves, our feelings and thinking inside our heads that we often lose the importance of a meeting ‘between two people’. This meeting is an exchange of language and we move outside ourselves and have something ‘between’. We bring ourselves into community.

Last week Graham spoke about the philosophy of Aristotle and his take on ‘participate’.

Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and scientist in 384 BCE – a seriously long time ago. However he left us with a very valuable piece of information that can be translated into, the only way to have life is to participate in it.

This can easily be translated into parenting – the only way to love being a parent is to participate in it.

You have to move your feet to get to where you are going. So, in other words, you can’t just have children and expect they will be well-mannered, good, fun, independent – you have to take part and make it happen. Habits are not going to be formed without you choosing the habit and instilling it. Fun is not going to be had if you don’t set the right environment. If you want your kids to be readers, they need books. If you want your child to be a guitarist, he needs a lesson and a guitar. If you want your children to show empathy, they need to see empathy. If you want your child to be healthy, you have to feed them the right food. If you want to instill manners, you have to remind your child every time to say please and thank you until it becomes a habit. The list can go on and on, but basically as a parent we have to ‘move our feet’ to get our children to where we think they should be.

Aristotle’s view on participation can loosely be found in the following six categories. To find a balanced life, all six of the categories had to be accounted for at the same time. They are;

  1. Life – participating in health and exercise will ensure a long life (this could include many things!)
  2. Friendship – friendships and community are essential
  3. Religion – but not in the true sense as we know it, it can be translated into the capacity for awe or the capacity to say ‘wow’
  4. Learning – we are all life long learners and never an expert, there is always capacity to learn
  5. Play – we must have fun
  6. Practicability – the arrangements must be in place, physical arrangements like a place to live, a bed to sleep in ect.

We can not fully participate in life if we lack any of these six things and I think it has some merit.

I relate this list to my children and it makes sense for all six of the categories. My children need exercise and nutrition, they need a strong community and friendships, they need to be able to say wow and be in awe, they need to learn, they need to play and they need to have their arrangements in order. They will then thrive (well that is the plan!). It also resonates with me as a mum. I particularity love the community and fun aspects!

One of the best parts about the speaking series was I got to sit with my friend for 2 whole hours – no kids, no partners and with others. We also snuck in a kid free, partner free coffee the next day and continued our conversation and ‘meeting’. There was our fun and community aspect!

Participating and moving your feet all ties back into the ‘big picture’ of parenting and thinking about what is important to you and your family and how you can instill these values and goals.

So ask yourself, have you got these things in your life and if not, what is one small change you can you make to balance it out?


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About Anna Partridge

me and maddieAnna Partridge is a passionate educator, mother of three young children and founder of parenting and education blog, BombardedMum. She also runs parenting workshops about ‘Raising Confident and Resilient Kids’ and works with mums find their ‘big picture’ of parenting and fall in love with being a mum again. Through her blog, she is building a community of like-minded mothers who share the inspiration and challenges of raising the next generation. To work with Anna, contact her here.

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