You want to put them to sleep, so you read them the first book off the shelf. You’re on the couch with your daughter, so you watch whatever movie is on TV. You want the kids to relax in the car, so you put something on the iPad.
We tell our kids stories to entertain them. To connect with them. To fill the time. But also to teach them. This is what humans do. It’s what we’ve always done. That’s why the Odyssey and the Iliad exist. It’s the purpose of Aesop’s fables. It’s the purpose of theater and literature: To entertain… and to teach.
2000 years ago, Plutarch was concerned even then that lazy parents and teachers were focused too much on the former than the latter. We know what will get a laugh from our kids. We know what will excite a teenager. But our standards have to be higher than that. Parents and teachers, he writes, “even in telling stories to children are not to choose at random, lest haply their minds be filled at the outset with foolishness and corruption.”
The random books your family got as birthday gifts are not enough. Whatever they’re assigned in school is not enough. You can’t choose books at random. You have to curate. You have to decide what stories you’re filling their heads with, how you’re shaping their minds and the voice inside them.
Tell them the stories that matter. Tell them of Cincinnatus. Don’t baby them when it comes to books. Inspire them. Instruct them. Remind them of the timeless principles that will never change—remind yourself in the process.
For the last year, we’ve been hard at work on a way to tell the incredible story of Marcus Aurelius… a boy chosen to be emperor… who managed to rise to the occasion. It’s a story that all kids benefit from hearing, one that as leaders, we need to hear, too. The Boy Who Would Be King is out today and we’d love for you to grab a copy for yourself and for your kids. Ryan will throw in the audiobook for free—which has a bunch of great narrators, including versions of him reading it with his kids, and a long discussion about the lessons from Marcus Aurelius. You can get personalized, signed copies too!
P.S. This was originally sent on March 9, 2021. Sign up today for the Daily Dad’s email and get our popular 11 page eBook, “20 Things Great Dads Do Everyday.”