Today I’d like to recommend a brand new book titled: If Aristotle’s Kid Had an iPod: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Parents.
Isn’t that a great cover image??!!
The book has 222 pages, but I flew through it this past week, because author Conor Gallagher’s style in this philosophical book is conversational rather than academic. Gallagher has a Masters in philosophy and a Juris Doctorate, but he also has 8 kids of his own and he wrote this book to help parents focus on the “big picture” and ultimate aim of parenting.
Gallagher is also a Christian, and he wrote this book for a theistic audience. Yet for his inspiration, he looked to the great pagan Aristotle and focuses on the concepts of human nature, human reason, and human virtue. From the short dictionary at the back of this book, he reminds parents that Aristotle (384-322 BC) was “A student of Plato and tutor to Alexander the Great, one of the most influential thinkers in logic, ethics, metaphysics, politics, and the natural sciences.”
Virtues, good habits, pleasure, and friendships – these are the four cornerstone ideas discussed in this book, examined through the words of Aristotle and “baptized” – as he says – with Christian understanding and modern psychology. Even for non-Christians, however, the pagan perspectives of Aristotle summarized here are clearly worth your time contemplating as we all try to figure out how to parent and why we parent. What is the difference between parenting a child and raising a dog, for example? For those who love to philosophize, this question runs deeper than the ocean.
Let my melancholic soul admit to finding some of the material slightly depressing, and I’ll tell you why. I have written previously – on this own site – that I think the extensive use of headphones (or ear-buds), video games, and cell phones are not a good idea for kids, mostly because they are “isolating” though also because it’s a challenge to teach kids what a safe volume is for those ear-buds. Yet I can’t go out in public without seeing kids using iPods or cell phones. It drives me nuts, and this book explains why from the perspective of friendship and developing into a socially-normal adult. What “depresses” me is that so few parents seem to give things like this any thought; if all the kids are doing it, it must be okay, right? And if all the other parents spend more time on Facebook than on the family dinner, it must be okay, right?
Maybe this book will encourage more parents (as well as kids) to develop a “chest” – “the place where reason and passion come together” – Gallager referencing the ideas of CS Lewis here. This book encourages us to be more clear and firm about what our parenting responsibilities and potentials are. I came away humbled, yes, but mostly encouraged and inspired!
[Oh, and since it’s a humorous parenting book written by a man, it might make a good Christmas gift for the dads you know.] Have you read it yet? Drop me a comment and share your thoughts.