There is so much we want to teach our kids—so much that fathers are expected to teach their kids. How to ride a bike. How to swim. How to throw a punch. How to tie a tie. How to read. How to get up the guts to talk to someone.
All of this is important, of course. All of this must be done.
But there is a lesson underneath all these lessons that matters more. It is a heady one…and yet also a very simple one. It might seem pretentious to say that a father must teach philosophy to their kids, but that’s only because philosophy itself has become so perverted and impractical. The lesson you have to teach happens to be the core of the philosophy known as Stoicism and also the key to success in life.
It is simply this: We don’t control what happens in life. We control how we respond. Circumstances are not up to us, but our choices of reactions and actions are.
They think a teacher is unfair and doesn’t like them? Okay, that very well might be true. Well, what are they going to do about it? The coach says they’re too short to play basketball? Same thing. They screwed up and failed a math test? There is a bully on the playground? They only got into their safety school?
Your job is to teach them not to wallow in this, but to focus on what is next. To get them to put their energy towards their response. Because that’s what’s up to them. That is the superpower they have. Nobody, not even adults, controls life’s circumstances. The best of us learn to come to terms with this and thrive by making good choices, by never giving up, and by always looking to get better.
Teach them that.