Parenting doesn't come with a manual—no matter how much we wish it did. Still, it would be nice to have a bit more guidance when it comes to raising our kids and instilling important values in them. At least, that's how actor Ethan Hawke felt.
The Boyhood star and father of four—Maya, 17; Levon, 13; Clementine, 7; and Indiana, 4—wanted a way to teach his children what he believes are the most important lessons in living a meaningful life. "I found it very difficult to talk to my kids about ethics without talking about God, and I really wanted to," Hawke says. "I wanted to talk to them about why they shouldn't lie or why it's valuable to show up on time."
Hawke put pen to paper to write Rules for a Knight, his new book out today. "My wife Ryan and I started this "rules of our house," and I thought it would be fun to fictionalize it," Hawke says. "It started as seven rules, and then it was 10. We put so much work into it that we self-published this little bound book and gave it to everyone in our family for Christmas."
Ryan drew the illustrations, and Ethan penned the parable of a knight who leaves lessons behind in a letter for his children the night before he goes off to war. Through the voice of this knight, Hawke talks about chivalry and respecting others, beauty and the temptation of superficiality, love, labor, and more.
"It's very hard with young people to have an excuse to talk about chivalry," Hawke says. "Where do equal rights and gender equality mix with young men actually needing to have respect for women? What is chivalry in a contemporary context?"
If it sounds lofty, don't be fooled: The book, like Hawke, is ambitious yet accessible, and he is convinced that stories like his Rules are the best way to teach our children how to grow up in this challenging world—much like a modern-day Aesop's Fables. "You don't really learn lessons until you live it, but if you know stories, then you have some framework [when the experience comes]," he says.
Still, Hawke doesn't claim to have all the answers. In fact, his goal for this book is to have parents and kids read it together and start discussions. He wants to help parents avoid the "preachy" tone that often takes over when we talk about morals and values. "This book," he says, "it's really a launching pad."
Ruthie Fierberg is an editorial assistant at Parents. Though she does not have children of her own, she's practically been raising kids since her first babysitting job at age 11. She is our resident theater aficionado and can be found constantly running around New York City to find the best new show, the most awesome dance party, or the hottest Bikram yoga studio. Follow her on on Twitter @RuthiesATrain.