Who is the Proper Parent?
Different parenting styles and the way children are raised impact the type of person children become; or do they? Will authoritarian parents who feel the need to control their children and demand respect and obedience rear the best offspring? Or are permissive parents who take no disciplinary action and prefer their children to see them as friends more successful? In Terence’s play “The Brothers,” Micio and Demea disagree on which parenting style is “correct.” As Terence’s play develops, he shows the strengths and weaknesses of Micio’s and Demea’s methods of fathering, but in the end, Terence reveals that a third type of parenting is superior to both Micio and Demea’s styles. This superior style of parenting is a combination of Micio’s and Demea’s, where the parent is someone who sets standards but allows their children to make choices, is strict but fair, and who is confident in doling out both rewards and reprimands when occasion calls for it. In his play, “The Brothers,” Terence shows that an authoritative parent, or some median between Micio and Demea, is the ideal type of parent.
Terence begins “The Brothers” by showing just how different Micio’s and Demea’s opinions on childrearing are. Micio, a bachelor throughout his life, adopts Aeschinus, Demea’s son, and raises him with kindness and generosity. He believes it is more prudent “to hold children to their duty by the ties of kindness and honour, than by the restraints of fear” (Act I, Scene I). In other words, the father’s responsibility is to train his son to do right from choice rather than from fear of punishment. For Micio, authority “founded on friendship” (Act I, Scene I) will be more permanent than one established by force. Demea, however, uses a very different method when raising Ctesipho, Aeschinus’ biological brother.
Demea’s method centers more on harshness and restraint than freedom to make one’s own decisions. Demea views his brother’s parenting as...