Expert Parenting Advice
Practical parenting tips and advice from experts around the world

A parenting lesson from a Roman emperor

Here's a better way to teach your kids good manners, by focusing on rewarding and demonstrating positive behavior.


Daniel Martin

One of my favorite books to re-read every now and then is Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.

Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor around 160 AD, and he wrote Meditations as a personal diary, documenting his inner thoughts, struggles, and worries.

What I like about the book is that this almost 2000 year old Roman emperor struggled with a lot of the same concerns as I still struggle with today.

For example, here's something I read this morning:

It was the critic Alexander who put me on my guard against unnecessary fault-finding. People should not be sharply corrected for bad grammar, provincialisms, or mispronunciation; it is better to suggest the proper expression by tactfully introducing it oneself in, say, one’s reply to a question or one’s acquiescence in their sentiments, or into a friendly discussion of the topic itself (not of the diction), or by some other suitable form of reminder.

Marcus Aurelius - Meditations

Reading this paragraph reminded me about something that Dr. Chelsey Hauge-Zavaleta shared when we interviewed her for our book "How To Get Kids To Listen".

Dr. Chelsey is an expert at educational neuroscience, social emotional learning, educational equity, and building calm, cooperative family relationships.

When we spoke to her, she shared a technique she calls "Re-casting" for correcting your kids when they misbehave or act rudely.

For example, sometimes when we are sitting at table, my son will rudely shout out "Water!" and then wait for us to bring him water.

What Dr. Chelsey recommends is that instead of saying "That's not how we talk in this family" or "You need to ask nicely" you instead "re-cast" what they said by saying what they should have said. For example, you "re-cast" by just saying "Mom, can you get me water, please?" and then waiting for your child to repeat it.

Similar to what Emperor Marcus Aurelius recommended in the above quote, almost 2000 years ago!

According to Dr. Chelsey, by using Re-casting instead of correcting, you focus the attention on positive behavior instead of focusing attention on the negative behavior.

Recasting is to restate for your child what they could have said that would’ve been correct. With the intention that they repeat it back to you ... What happens for a lot of us is our kids do something that’s rude, or frustrating, or said in the wrong way, and we pay a lot of negative attention to it. And it feels bad for the parent, and it feels bad for the child, and it doesn’t teach the child what they are supposed to do.

Dr. Chelsey Hauge-Zavaleta

Re-casting also allow us to stay away from nagging or over correcting.

recasting is a strategy that works for little ones and works for our big kids. It works because it helps us stay away from nagging, or from overcorrection. And nagging just breaks the relationship between the parent and the child, which I am just so careful about.

Dr. Chelsey Hauge-Zavaleta

In the full interview with Dr. Chelsey, she shares how Re-casting allows you to move away from nagging, and helps improve your relationship with your child.

She also teaches how to use Re-casting to remind your child to do what they are supposed to do.

I especially appreciated her advice on what to do instead of threats or consequences to get your child to cooperate.

You can find the full interview with Dr. Chelsey Hauge-Zavaleta - How to use “Recasting” to correct your child’s behavior in a positive way - here.