Fatherhood & Stoicism: The Overlap Between an Ancient Philosophy & Present Parenthood
Peaceful Parenting & Stoic Principles
There are several themes that overlap between peaceful parenting and stoicism. I unknowingly adopted both principles before I knew they had labels.
Early in my journey as a father, I decided that I would not hit, manipulate, slap, spank, or shame my children. I also committed myself to living a life where I focused on what was within my control and let the rest be how it may.
Years later, I learned about Stoicism and Peaceful Parenting, and at first, I thought, “Well, that’s fucking cool, I figured out some philosophies before knowing they were a thing".” second, I realized that there were many others out there who felt the way I do, and also that these folks knew more than I as they’d done the research. I went headfirst into the deep end, learning all I could, reading the blogs, books, and articles, which led me to discover that it is significant enough of an overlap between Stoicism and Peaceful Parenting that it deserves its own field of focus.
Below, we’ll focus on five areas that stand out as the most overlapping elements and complementary teachings between the Stoics and those looking to raise their children in a violence-free home.
Both peaceful parenting and stoicism emphasize the importance of emotional regulation. Peaceful parenting encourages parents to regulate their own emotions in order to respond calmly and empathetically to their children. Similarly, stoicism teaches individuals to cultivate emotional resilience and maintain inner calm in the face of challenging situations.
How can you expect your child not to scream at the TV when they lose the video game they’re playing if you’re over there screaming at the screen when your professional sports team makes a fatal mistake in the game?
Children follow your example, not your advice; don’t tell them how they should live, show them.
Both peaceful parenting and stoicism advocate for accepting the reality of the present moment. Peaceful parenting encourages parents to accept and understand their children's behavior without judgment or resistance. Stoicism emphasizes the importance of accepting things outside our control and focusing on our responses and actions.
I share my mistakes with my children, I want them to see when I miss the mark; I don’t do this in a self-deprecating manner, I do it so they can also be given the opportunity to watch me pick myself up and focus my efforts on controlling what I can - my response the obstacle.
Life is not always sunshine and rainbows, sometimes rain clouds roll in, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You can’t control the weather; you can learn how to dance in the rain.
Both peaceful parenting and stoicism encourage individuals to cultivate mindfulness and present-moment awareness. Peaceful parenting promotes being fully present with our children, listening to them without distraction, and appreciating the present moment. Stoicism encourages individuals to focus on the present moment and be fully engaged in the task.
While preparing for the “What ifs”, and the possibility of good/bad things happening, the focus must be on the present, as it is the only moment we have; the past is gone, and the future has yet to arrive.
I cultivate this in my children by having electronic free time, talking to them about presence, and leading by example without a screen in my face or hand 24/7. I immerse in the moments, and through my photography, I have found another medium that helps me capture the present and explain to my children how I view the world. A father’s vision must be shared with his children; without it, they will be sent out into the sea of the world without a map.
Peaceful parenting and stoicism place a heavy emphasis on the importance of self-control. Peaceful parenting encourages parents to model self-control and to respond to their children's behavior with patience and understanding. Stoicism emphasizes the practice of self-control in order to resist impulsive reactions and make thoughtful decisions.
It’s clear to anyone who gives these fields a moment of their time that the Stoic parent is the mother or father fitter to handle the spikes of emotions which come with children. Let us not kid ourselves, there will be times when you are going to lose patience, and when that patience is lost, you need to control the response given. I can tell you now every single time I’ve yelled at my children, it has come from a place of my personal loss of patience/emotional control. They were being kids, and I was stressed; the result was an outburst.
I can count on my two hands how many times I’ve yelled at my kids, but the fact that I need two hands is a problem.
Both peaceful parenting and stoicism highlight the importance of empathy and compassion. Peaceful parenting encourages parents to empathize with their children's emotions and needs and to respond with understanding and compassion. Stoicism emphasizes the cultivation of a benevolent and compassionate attitude toward others.
While there are overlapping themes between peaceful parenting and stoicism, it is important to note that they are distinct concepts with their own principles and practices. However, incorporating elements from both approaches can help individuals in their journey toward peaceful and mindful parenting.
My son is 13, and my daughter is 10; these two beautiful souls I created with my wife are growing up. The time I have to make an impact on them and to have an influence that outweighs that of the world at large is less and less with each passing year, so my focus needs to be on being my best in the present so as to set them up for the best future. I don’t have the stresses that many parents do, as I know I’m doing my best day in and out; through the study, understanding, and application of stoicism, I am a better peaceful parent, and the result is a strong bond with children who are resilient and know that their father loves them.
- Zachary Small
PS: Every week for over three years now, we’ve run a fatherhood video conference inside the Fraternity of Excellence. If you want to completely immerse yourself in becoming a better dad, join us and join the discussion.