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Stoicism and Fatherhood: Embracing Virtue in Parenting
Happy Father's Day to the men who’ve brought life into the world (and made it a point to raise it) or assumed responsibility for a child's life.
Today we’ll reflect on the timeless wisdom passed down from the ancient Stoic philosophers on how we can use the life philosophy of Stoicism and apply it to leading children.
Stoicism and Being a Dad
Stoicism, a school of thought originating in ancient Greece, offers profound insights to help one lead a virtuous life, find tranquility amidst life's challenges, and also fatherhood. The core principles of Stoicism and how they can empower fathers to embrace virtue, shape character, and cultivate meaningful relationships with their children is another testament to the point that how you live is how your children will live; these kids follow our example, not our advice, so we must embody the lessons of Stoicism, and not just espouse them.
Stoic Principles - Fatherhood Edition
Virtue as the Ultimate Goal:
Stoicism places great emphasis on living a life of virtue. Fathers can embody virtues such as wisdom, justice, courage, and self-control, becoming role models for their children. By teaching through actions and precepts, fathers can instill these ethical values in their little ones and guide them towards a virtuous path.
We see a multitude of mediums jockeying for our attention day in and out, the only possible way for our children to be protected against these master marketers, who, if successful, will tell our children what their morals and values should be, is for us to strengthen our children’s minds within the homes, and show them what a strong and healthy adult looks like. We set the example from which they will model their thoughts and behaviors. There is no greater template for doing this than Stoicism, as it is in the Stoic teachings that we see how we can live lives free from external control.
How you use social media, what you watch on TV, how you respond to political news, and which responses you go with regarding work/local events will be replicated in the behaviors of your son(s) and/or daughter(s).
Fulfilling Our Duties:
Stoicism emphasizes fulfilling our responsibilities; fathers have an innate duty to care for and guide their children. By recognizing and embracing this duty, fathers can find purpose and derive joy from their role, understanding that their efforts contribute to their children's growth and well-being.
The “burden” of children is not an anchor meant to weigh you down; rather, this responsibility should be the one that propels you to your greatest heights of performance and self-awareness as a man. Your children are your perpetual fuel to continue pushing forward in the drive to actualize your greatest, most well-rounded, and complete self.
Our child’s life is a product of our decision, not their own, and thus they owe us nothing, while we owe them everything, including our conscious effort to let go of that which does not serve us and not to allow resentment or past traumas prevent us from facing ourselves and accepting that we are only to focus on the things which we can control and to let go of that which we cannot.
What is the duty of a Stoic Father?
The Stoic philosopher Seneca emphasized parents' significance in shaping their child’s character, which serves my message well when I say, there’s nothing wrong with the kids these days, as the issue is found at the feet of the parents these days…
Fathers, I encourage you to engage in the moral education of your kids actively each day. By setting good examples, offering guidance, and allowing children to learn from their experiences, you can cultivate virtue and prepare your children for life's challenges. Everything needed for a child to become their greatest, strongest, and most internally-integrated self can be done in a peaceful home free from corporal punishment or the frequent loss of patience and emotional control.
Life can be hard, children come with major time requirements, and the stress of modern living is not going to disappear because you had a baby; fortunately, Stoicism encourages embracing life's hardships and developing resilience. Fathers can teach their children the Stoic principle of accepting what is outside their control and focusing on their response to it. By fostering resilience, fathers equip their children to face adversity with grace and strength, preparing them for future endeavors.
As fathers, we naturally develop a deep emotional bond with our children. Contrary to popular myth, Stoicism does not advocate suppressing these emotions but suggests cultivating a balanced perspective. Fathers can love their children wholeheartedly while recognizing the impermanence and unpredictability of life, ensuring a sense of mental equanimity in the face of joys and challenges.
If you knew your child was going to die tomorrow, would you still get mad at them for wanting to read 5 minutes longer today?
Have you forgotten your children are mortal?
How do you know your child is going to live through all of tomorrow?
All Stoics value maintaining tranquility even amidst external turbulence. Fathers can apply this principle by practicing detachment from the outcomes of their efforts. By focusing on their actions and intentions instead of obsessing over the uncontrollable, fathers can find peace and inspire their children to approach life calmly and rationally. Stoic fathers are better equipped to raise healthy children and develop strong bonds with them because they know life is finite. In addition to accepting that “there will be a last day together”, fathers following Stoic teachings also know that it is in the process of raising the child to be free to think and form opinions of their own and not demand control over the life of another.
Stoicism reminds us that every person, including our children, has their own choices and paths in life. Stoic Fathers are encouraged to foster an atmosphere of acceptance and respect for their children's individuality. By nurturing their children's unique talents, interests, and aspirations, fathers can empower them to live authentically and reach their full potential.
Stoicism also heavily emphasizes gratitude and uses it as a powerful tool for contentment. Stoic fathers teach their children to appreciate the simple joys of life, helping them develop a positive outlook in every situation. By nurturing a grateful mindset, fathers cultivate a deeper connection with their children and encourage them to find happiness in the present moment.
As fathers, we strive to provide our children with the best possible foundation for a fulfilling and virtuous life. By integrating Stoic principles into our parenting approach, we can unlock the timeless wisdom of ancient philosophy and apply it to our modern-day experiences.
On this Father's Day, let us embrace Stoicism's teachings and embark on a remarkable journey of fatherhood guided by wisdom, virtue, and enduring love.
- Zachary Small
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