What are you supposed to teach your kids? Are you preparing them for the real world? These are the questions that keep dads up at night. It’s of little consolation to think that dads have always worried about those questions, but it’s true. Do you prepare them for a certain job or industry? Should you take them to church so they can learn right from wrong? Should you shield them from certain kinds of influences?
Thankfully, the Stoics help us cut through the confusion. Just four things matter, they say. There are just four virtues or character traits to teach your kids: Courage. Justice. Temperance. Wisdom. That’s it. As Marcus Aurelius said, “If, at some point in your life, you should come across anything better than justice, truth, self-control, courage—it must be an extraordinary thing indeed.”
The truth is that there is nothing better than those four things—that’s why they appear repeatedly not just in Stoicism but across all the schools of the Western tradition. They contain within them all that is necessary for a good life in any time or place in history. Which is why we need to be taught them and to keep teaching them.
A kid raised to stand up for what’s right…and equipped with the fortitude to do it? That’s a great kid. A kid smart enough to learn and to learn what the right amount of the right things are? That’s a kid who is going to be successful. Self-control, bravery, moderation, and knowledge? These are the keys to the good life. And the earlier we teach that to our children, the better they will turn out.