Stoic Parenting: Stay Calm and Maybe Even Thrive?

Some things parents control and others they do not. In brief, parents only control what they think and what they do. Parents do not control events, other people, or what their children think and do.

The things parents control are by nature free, unrestrained, unhindered; but those not in our control belong to others. Remember, then, that if you act like the things that actually belong to others are your own, you will be frustrated. You will bitch, you will moan, and you will find fault both with the world and your children. But if you direct your energy towards your own thoughts and actions, and accept everything else as outside your control, you will be free to be the best parent you can be. Furthermore, you won't find fault with the world or your kids. Nothing will stop you from doing your best. Parenting will not hurt you. You will not stress out. Instead, you will flourish.

I bastardized the Enciridion's first lines for you, my fellow parents. It's a reminder that what we truly control is oh so little, but also oh so important to focus on. Life distracts us from what actually matters. Traffic is bad and we're going to be late to school AND work. Everyone on this plane is looking at my screaming baby. Freyja just bit someone, I'm a bad parent!  Parenting is not what my daughter does, it's what I do in relationship to what my daughter does. It's way too easy to expend energy on things that we can't control, but real parenting happens in our own thoughts and actions.

My first child is only a little over three months old, however, I have nearly a decade of experience as a professional in child care. I've worked in before-and-after school programs, spent years working with infants full time, and have even been a nanny (man-ny?). I've found that Stoicism offers tools that help make parenting fulfilling, no matter the circumstances.

Now, all Stoic lessons can be applied to parenting, since Stoicism is a philosophy for living. However, I've found that it's all too easy to develop blind spots where we simply don't think to apply our Stoic principles. We've developed habits of thought, or internalized ways of behaving that are so deeply ingrained that we don't question them. I think parenting often falls into that category. So many things are thrown at us as parents that it's easy to simply react. I think taking time to reflect on the philosophy within the particular framework of parenting will be helpful to me, and hopefully to others.

Stoicism won't tell us what method of potty training is best, or how to get our kids to fall asleep. Stoicism will, however, teach us to be our best selves, show us how to be fully present for our children, and help us weigh what is important versus what is a distraction. I'm hoping that while reviewing the Stoic literature for the parent perspective I'll learn new things about myself and the philosophy. If I do, I'll share it here. And if you have any parenting wisdom to share with me, please comment below. I could use it!