This Will Make Your Life (And Kids) Better

You’d think it’d be easy to raise a kid. After all, billions of people before you have done it through history, and the survival of our genes literally depends on it. Yet, here we are struggling – it’s certainly not as easy as we thought.

Most times, we’re in need of all the help we can get. We read parenting books, or watch parenting videos, trying to find those keys to make our lives just a little bit easier. That’s why we created the Daily Dad email, after all. Seneca said that we ought to acquire one thing per day – whether that’s a quote, a story, a relationship that makes us better, it doesn’t matter. We try to deliver that one thing in each email.

But of course, we couldn’t do it alone. When trying to deliver that one thing to you each day, we often need one thing ourselves to inspire us, to help us become the best people and parents that we can be. Some of these things are books. Some are items to carry with you, or to keep on your desk. Some make for great holiday gifts. Some you might want to share with new or expecting parents.

In any form, check them out… and pass them along if they work.

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The Daily Dad: 366 Meditations on Love, Parenting, and Raising Great Kids by Ryan Holiday

In each of ​his letters to his friend Lucilius​, Seneca would include a quote, something to chew on, a thought to guide the day. “Each day,” he told Lucilius, you should “acquire something that will fortify you against poverty, against death, indeed against other misfortunes, as well.” Just one thing. One nugget. And that’s what most of Seneca’s letters to his friend are about. Just one thing. He didn’t say this one thing makes us perfect, but rather makes us just a little bit better. And, with websites, Instagram posts, inspirational posters, tattoos and the like, it has arguably reached its apogee here in the 21st century. It’s why we include at least one quote on every page of The Daily Dad, and its why we format most of our content here in the one-email-per-day format. It’s also so much more doable for busy parents. Instead of reading chapters upon chapters per day, all you need is to read one page when you wake up or after you drop them off at school, whenever it may be. Just one little thing to make you calmer, wiser, more patient. This is the way to improvement, to becoming the parent you want to be: incremental, consistent, humble, persistent work.

Good Inside: A Guide to Becoming the Parent You Want to Be by Dr. Becky Kennedy

When we talk about parenting books that completely change your perspective about raising your kids, we’re probably talking about this one. We’ve talked about it plenty of times before (like ​here​, ​here​, and ​here​), and will inevitably keep returning to it, not only because it’s a book about becoming a better parent, but it’s also about simply becoming a better person. It’s about building empathy. It’s about open communication. It’s about building lasting character in those we interact with. These are things that we all need to learn, not just to pass down to our kids, but to help us make sense of this chaotic world which we live in. An eye-opening read for all, this book will surely change your perspective not just on parenting, but on who you should be as a whole.

How to Raise Kids Who Aren’t Assholes by Melinda Wenner Moyer

At some point, we’ve all been scared that our kids will be bad people, that they won’t be the respectful and hard-working person we thought we raised them to be. But we’re too afraid to talk about it, to talk about them in that way. Melinda Wenner Moyer wasn’t. Knowing about her background in science journalism, Moyer was asked all the classic parenting questions. What kind of sleep training is best? Formula or breastfeeding? Screen time, good or bad? Then Moyer had her own kids and got interested in a much more important question: what can we do to make sure our kids don’t grow up to be assholes? You know, kids who aren’t spoiled, who are kind, who work hard, who are respectful, who are empathetic. We’ve cited her work before in ​this Daily Dad email​ and ​this one​ , but this wonderful book is worth reading in its entirety for any parent.

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The Boy Who Would Be King and The Girl Who Would Be Free by Ryan Holiday

Over at ​Daily Stoic​, one of the most frequently asked questions we get is: How can I teach my child about Stoicism? But first, before you can teach them, you have to understand Stoicism so well that you can teach it to a child. That’s why we first created The Boy Who Would Be King​ – an illustrated and timeless fable about the journey of a young Marcus Aurelius and how he became one of the wisest and most virtuous leaders in history – to explain the story behind Stoicism’s most decorated character. But more than understanding it, you have to speak it, write it, act it – you have to live it. After all, that’s what parenting is all about—living the traits and beliefs we want our kids to embody. So we followed up with The Girl Who Would Be Free – an all-ages fable about the upbringing that helped Epictetus survive slavery and go on to become one of the great philosophers of all time – to show that anybody can live the ideas of Stoicism. By telling the story of Epictetus through the lens of a female character, we hope not only to make the fable more accessible, but to make Stoicism as a whole more approachable for young girls and women, whose perspective is far too often ignored.

Catch a Crayfish, Count the Stars: Fun Projects, Skills, and Adventures for Outdoor Kids and Outdoor Kids in an Inside World by Steven Rinella

We see them everywhere these days – kids who can’t step away from their screens, who say ew when they see dirt, who simply don’t know the beauty of the world around us. Nobody wants an indoors kid. It’s a perennial struggle for parents fighting against screens and comfort, but these books are an excellent resource for parents in our modern day. “One of the beauties of hunting and fishing,” Rinella writes in Outdoor Kids in an Inside World, “is that they force kids to reckon with failure and to struggle against their own impatience.” Being cold and wet. Being bored. Being tired. Being quiet. Screwing up (​as the Jimmy Carter story we told a little while back illustrated​). It doesn’t necessarily need to be hunting or fishing, but these are things our kids need to experience. They don’t need to be inside looking at screens all day – they need to be outdoors, and learning the skills life will demand from them on a daily basis.

The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control over Their Lives by William Stixrud and Ned Johnson

There’s ​a tricky balance​ to being a parent, to this job we have. We want them to make their own choices and do what they want, but we also don’t want them to make mistakes. We want to keep them safe from trouble, from stress, from the horrors of the outside world. Stixrud and Johnson clearly understood this struggle, and told us that it’s ok to have these worries. It’s ok to be stressed about their future. But we have to help them learn how to tackle these challenges, how to make these decisions in the bigger world. It’s an excellent read, and a necessary one for any parent of middle-aged children or teenagers who may be taking their first big steps in life soon. And, to reaffirm, it’s entirely normal to be nervous about their future – but read this book before they take those steps.


The Itty-Bitty Kitty Corn by Shannon Hale (​with stuffed animal​)

A kitty and a unicorn, both searching for friendship and their own identities in the ever-confusing world of growing up. What could be more relevant than that? A few frustrated parents have been upset with this book, but don’t let that deter you from its ultimate message – to let your kids be who they want to be (​which we’ve talked about previously​). It’s about letting them have their childhoods, letting them experiment, letting them find out who they want to be. And it reminds us as parents that our job is to let them become who they are, and to encourage their spirit, not to silence it.

Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin (​with stuffed animal​)

This is a perfect book to read with your kids after a long day. After all, it’s a book about dragons eating tacos and staying away from spicy salsa – it’s almost guaranteed to make them laugh. We assure you of that. Of course, there are always going to be hard days. Days when you get into a fight, days when they’re upset with you for some reason, or days where you simply can’t get on the same page. But this book is guaranteed to make them smile, to make you guys smile together. That’s the best gift a parent could ask for.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

Sometimes you read a book and it just hits you in a place you didn’t even know was a place. You read something that’s just magical and whimsical and beautiful and moving. Whatever it is, it does what art is supposed to do, which is that it touches that something that makes us deeply human. And ​The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse​ is such a book. It doesn’t matter how old you are, it doesn’t matter how old your kids are, it’s a beautiful book. It’s simple and straightforward but at the same time, it’s deep and profound. The drawings are great. It’s just an awesome book.

​Glux​, ​Speks​ Fidget Toys

Fidget toys have become popular to give to kids. It’s a teacher’s worst nightmare – but it keeps their hands busy and pacifies them. But maybe on those tough days when the kids are melting down in the drive-through, it’s you who need pacifying. ​Behavior is the language of children​. They can feel the tension you bring into the room. They know what your angry face looks like, even if you never say a word. Working that tension out on a piece of plastic is always better than on the ones you love.

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​Luctor et Emergo​ and ​Tempus Fugit​ Medallions

When we read these emails, or like those social media posts about parenting, we think that we’ve done all the work. We think that we’ve learned what they’re preaching, that we’ve somehow internalized the message in a matter of mere minutes. But then the day begins, and you’re rushing to get them to school, or to get to their recital, and suddenly you’ve forgotten everything you just read. It doesn’t mean you didn’t understand it – it just means you may need a reminder. That’s why we made these medallions, to remind you of everything we’ve been teaching over here at Daily Dad, to remind you to be the best parent you can be. Keep these with you at all times as a reminder that ​it may not always be easy​, but ​there’ll always be quality time​ – that there’s always time to be the parent you want to be.

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​The Daily Dad Podcast​

Parents are busy. We know it’s hard to manage your time. And as helpful as they may be, we know that finding time to read these emails every day can be challenging. That’s why Ryan records every email we send out for ​the Daily Dad Podcast​. Listening to these short meditations while on the way to pick up the kids is a great hack for those time-crunched days. And on the weekends we release extended episodes where Ryan dives into the personal lessons he’s learning with his two young sons. It provides great insight into how he practically applies the lessons he’s writing about every day.

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