Philosophy of Toddlers

I’m trying to apply what I’ve learned already of Stoicsim to the task of raising my kids. More specifically, right now I just want to make life easier for my wife and myself—dealing with irrational and emotional toddlers. I think I’ve got some of it, but I expect this topic is in a constant state of flux.

In Accordance with Nature

Toddlers have their role in the whole—they must exist as we must and I shouldn’t oppose their role or feel anger.

So to work in opposition to one another is against nature: and anger or rejection is opposition.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 2.1

Toddlers are on the cusp of understanding reason fully, which for me makes it frustrating when their behaviour is irrational. This is still part of their nature, so I shouldn’t oppose it. I can and should gently guide it and when it’s time, developmentally, I can begin to expect that from them. There are definitely still times where you need to assert yourself and be stern for the benefit if the lesson, just don’t abuse this power or use it to harm your child.


I don’t have complete control over my children’s behaviour; but I have the duty to shape it appropriately for the future.


Learn to accept that toddlers will have tantrums and to not let crying disturb you and cause anger. I’ve heard that during a tantrum a child isn’t able to learn, so the priority should be on calming them down first, then try to teach them for the future.


This is certainly a natural development; the difficulty it seems is in our value of time. We get impatient waiting for our kids to take their boots off, or climb into the car seat; especially when we’re trying to get to work on time. I suppose we need to let go of the elements we can’t control. My wife has come up with a promising strategy of making a request in person with eye contact (as opposed to yelling from across the room). After the initial request we will give one more request with a physical prompt; such as “ok, let me help you put your boots on” to which I expect to get a “no, I do it” response from the boys.

As long as they are learning to follow through with their actions then I’m happy. I look forward to and anticipate the time when I can more actively teach my children some Stoic principals. I’ve seen over the last two and a half years elements of my temper in them and I’m anxious to teach them things I’ve learned about control, anger and annoyances. For now I simply need to remember they are only toddlers still and I should let them be who are they are with gentle guidance.

1 Comment

  1. Alanna Lowe

    November 28, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    It is so important to allow children to develop at their own pace. Aren’t we always in such a hurry to grow them up!!! I love your reflections on guiding them and allowing them to follow through with tasks. This seems to me to be very much in tune with Montessori teaching as well. How can they not be successful human beings with such great parents!

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