Stoicism, Leadership, and Parenting

Stoicism, Leadership, and Parenting

Stoicism, Leadership, and Parenting

Stoicism—and how it pertains to family dynamics. Plus 5 practical applications (as seen through a parenting lens) to help kids grow creatively, cognitively, and happily.


“A stoic is someone who transforms fear into prudence, pain into transformation, mistakes into initiation, and desire into undertaking.”

~ Author Nassim Nicholas Taleb

In a nutshell, stoicism refers to being able to endure adversity calmly, and without showing emotion. (Digging deeper, the philosophical underpinnings of stoicism connect with virtue, and include a focus on wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation. But we won’t go into all the intricacies here.)

Understandings of stoicism can be meaningfully to applied to family life and to children’s creative and cognitive development, especially during difficult times. When stoicism informs leadership within family circles, there are elements of optimism and enlightenment, and strategic ways forward.

However, stoicism is not one of those words that trips off parents’ tongues like patience, effort, or problem-solving. Those are great words—and strong and popular approaches for dealing with daily issues within families. Nevertheless, and perhaps surprisingly, stoicism also presents a very interesting avenue for thought and action.



Regardless of age, it can be extremely difficult to conceal emotion in day-to-day life. In fact, many professionals in the field of mental health say that’s unhealthy. Indeed, it can be cathartic to release feelings, and sharing emotions is often an important step on the road to healing if someone is, for example, overwhelmed, upset, hurting, or disappointed. However, regulating emotions has considerable merit. Being calm and composed can serve as a kind of frontline defence when circumstances are difficult, and parents can take the lead by reinforcing this.

So, is stoicism good? It can be! Ryan Holiday is a best-selling author, public-relations strategist, and host of the podcast The Daily Stoic. He writes about the actions and the attributes of stoic leaders and, based on their life experiences, he offers some practical suggestions. Here are 5:

  • Focus on what you can control.
  • Never act rashly.
  • Always look for teachable moments.
  • Have range.
  • Read to lead.


Let’s look briefly at each of those five stoic-related suggestions through a parenting lens to see how they might pertain to helping young children flourish.

  1. Focus on what you can control – Many aspects of life are not within our control (weather, and the passage of time come immediately to mind). Stewing about those can be counterproductive. Pare down concerns. Concentrate on what you can control, such as making good choices; being resilient in times of unpredictability and adversity; and finding and tapping opportunities for creative expression and joyful learning—and demonstrate to children these actions pertaining to choices, resilience, and opportunities.
  2. Never act rashly – Try to pace yourself, and to be measured in your responses. It’s usually best to be purposeful rather than impulsive or hasty. There’s certainly a time and place for spontaneity (so the word “never” may be somewhat extreme), but it’s sensible for parents to exemplify thoughtful consideration. That kind of approach usually pays off, and it’s prudent. Listen. Think. Take a deep breath—or two or three—before proceeding.
  3. Always look for teachable moments – Any time, situation, environment, or experience has the potential to offer children new perspectives and insights; windows for sparking and exercising creativity; or a chance to make a difference in their own lives, or the lives of others. Parents can become aware of and use those teachable moments as they arise—even the complex, difficult, or surprising ones—by building upon them, sharing them, and conveying why they matter.
  4. Have range – There are limitless ways to acquire inspiration and knowledge, and to forge connections. The broader one’s reach, the greater the potential for personal growth. Children learn from what they see, and from what their parents do. Having range means making a concerted effort to be expansive by respecting diversity, stretching horizons, and staying openminded.
  5. Read to lead – Reading provides portals and pathways to enrich the intellect, imagination, and spirit. This includes learning from history, controversy, communication, and people’s creativity, discoveries, and expertise. When parents read, they indicate that they value reading—that it can be a conduit for fulfilment, and for positive outcomes across subject areas, experiences, creative endeavors, and generations.


Parents are often the “assumed” leaders within a family. However, each member within that dynamic can develop leadership skills, perhaps infused with aspects of stoicism, too. John F. Kennedy, said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” We provide children with valuable lessons and help to support their development when we model effective leadership and pay attention to suggestions and understandings of stoicism, such as those five attributes (focus, action, teaching, range, and reading), and the corresponding practical approaches noted above.


Joanne Foster, Ed.D. is a multiple award-winning author of seven books. Her most recent is Being Smart about Gifted Learning: Empowering Parents and Kids Through Challenge and Change (co-authored with Dona Matthews). For information on Dr. Foster’s publications and presentations, and for resources on supporting children’s well-being, go to

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