Fab Fridays 95: The Stoic Framework
How to help kids develop character with the Stoic framework
For hundreds of years, educators used Stoicism to teach kids character development.
Stoicism is a philosophy of life from ancient Greece that taught true happiness comes from self-mastery, perseverance, and moral virtue.
For thousands of years, the world's greatest leaders studied Stoicism, from the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius to George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and many more.
You can read more about Stoicism here.
Educators back then used the Stoic framework to train responsible citizens equipped to do the right thing, even when times got hard.
But what does “the right thing” mean? Let’s unpack the 4 Stoic virtues:
Courage is the bravery to face adversity.
It doesn’t mean we’re never scared, but that when we’re scared, we decide to take action instead of run away. It’s the will to press forward, put our 🍑 on the line and our skin in the game.
Courage is wonderful but we go too far when we take unnecessary risks.
It's a spectrum: cowardice on the far left, recklessness on the far right, courage in the middle. We should be brave, not fearful, but we should also avoid foolishness—that’s temperance.
For the Stoics, justice is the highest virtue.
It means that we exist for the sake of others, not ourselves. Everything we do should contribute to the good of society. We must treat others the way we want to be treated and act with honesty, respect, and fairness.
Wisdom means making our philosophy work in the real world.
What’s the right amount courage? How do I act with justice in this situation? Wisdom helps us answer these questions, turn our ideas about virtue into action, and make choices with long-term benefits.
Courage, temperance, justice, and wisdom—four powerful principles for guiding our decisions.
But how can we make the leap from knowing them in our heads to using them in our lives?
Here are 4 tactics for you and your kids:
1. Read stories of heroes
It’s hard to grasp the benefits of virtue without concrete examples. That’s what makes stories so powerful, especially classic ones from history.
Greek mythology was designed for this specific purpose. You tell them of Hercules, who chose a life of courage over pleasure and ease. Or Odysseus, who used wisdom to escape dangerous enemies like a cyclops.
With clear examples in mind, it’s easier for kids to understand virtue, see its benefits, and integrate it into their lives.
2. Focus on what we control
Talk with kids about how they can’t always control what happens, but they can control how they respond.
Sometimes, friends decide to be mean—but that doesn’t mean we have to be mean back.
For example, instead of lashing out in anger, kids can practice calming down by reciting each letter of the alphabet silently to themselves. They can take a pause and practice temperance and justice.
3. Use a virtue journal
Journaling is an important part of Stoicism, but the Stoics didn’t keep ordinary journals. They didn’t just write down the events of their day and their emotions. Instead, they kept track of their principles and focused on growing their character.
Ordinary journals help kids develop self-awareness, but a virtue journal adds an extra benefit: healthy self-criticism.
It provides kids with an open space for reflection on areas of growth and improvement as they work to become better people.
4. Look at virtue like a muscle
Sometimes, kids might feel discouraged by the big gap between who they are and who they want to become. That’s why it’s so important to talk about how virtue is like a muscle.
When we first go to the gym, we want instant results, but to make progress, we have to show up consistently and put in the effort. It’s the same with virtue. It’s hard at first, but with enough time, effort, and reflection, our character grows stronger and stronger.
I’ve enjoyed learning about Stoicism from Ryan Holiday.
Here are some of his resources that inspired me:
His article on teaching Stoicism to kids: How To Teach Your Children About Stoicism
His conversation with Shane Parrish: A Stoic Life
Until next week,
Ana Lorena Fabrega