We all sit up at night and wonder if we’re doing a good job, if we’re failing our kids, if we’re raising them right. We kick ourselves for what we feed them, whether we’re meeting all their needs, whether we’re learning…whether they’re learning.
It can be hard to know what to measure, how to measure what kind of progress we’re making. Well, here’s a helpful idea from the Stoics. Epictetus said that “a beautiful and good person neither fights with anyone nor, as much as they are able, permits others to fight.” Of course, all kids fight–that’s the nature of siblings, but how much do parents and kids have to fight? How much of the fights in your house are actually necessary?
We’ve talked many times here about letting go of the things that don’t matter. Call it the philosophical approach to parenting–do you really need to argue about their taste in music, about their posture at the dinner table, about half the things you’ve chided or criticized them for? An educated person, Epictetus says, has learned what is their own affair and what is not. They also know what’s truly valuable–in this case, your relationship with your kids, their sense of being loved, of their home being safe and accepting. So what if they put a piece of tape on the wall that might pull off some paint? So what if they spilled food on their clothes? So what if they’re a little late getting into bed? So what if they got a B-?
These are not things that need to be argued about. These are not things that matter. A sign you’re making progress as a parent is your ability to avoid pointless arguments, to be positive instead of a nag. It’s also your ability to help teach this to your kids–to model but also to help them learn what the Stoics called the “art of acquiescence,” the ability to accept and tolerate other people as well as a world that is not in our control.