Ilya Vasilenko
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Little fellow

In 1939 a friend sent John Wooden a picture with a poem on it to celebrate the birth of Wooden’s first child. The picture is a man on a beach whose son is running behind him, playing in his footsteps in the sand. Wooden hung the picture in his home so he might see it every day.

A careful man I want to be—
a little fellow follows me.
I do not dare to go astray,
for fear he’ll go the self-same way.
I cannot once escape his eyes.
Whatever he sees me do he tries.
Like me he says he’s going to be— that little chap who follows me...

"The Daily Dad" by Ryan Holiday, page for January 1


If you were coaching your child’s soccer team and she was having trouble kicking the ball straight, you wouldn’t give her consequences for every time she shanked it. Instead, you’d give her more practice, so that she gets better and better at kicking it where she wants it to go. You’d want her to have a clear, familiar feeling of what it’s like to hit the ball square and watch it sail into the goal.

In the same way, when our kids behave in ways that don’t meet the expectations we’ve set up, sometimes the best thing we can do is to have them practice behaving in ways that do meet our expectations. For that you might try a “do-over”. Instead of immediately offering a punishment for speaking disrespectfully, you can say something like:

“I bet if you tried again, you could come up with a more respectful way to say that.”

Do-overs allow a child a second chance to handle a situation well. It gives them practice doing the right thing. You’re still consistently maintaining your expectations, but you’re doing so in a way that’s often much more beneficial than a rigidly imposed, unrelated consequence.

"No-Drama Discipline" by Daniel J. Siegel, Chapter 5

Protect the childhood

The author, educator, and cultural critic Neil Postman points out in The Disappearance of Childhood that childhood is a social construct. Genetic expression makes no distinction between who is a child and who isn’t. Children, as we understand them, have existed for less than four hundred years. “The idea of childhood is one of the great inventions of the Renaissance,” he writes, because it allowed children to develop, to learn, to have a safe space to play and explore and discover themselves.

Like any invention, childhood can disappear. How? With the disappearance of adulthood. Childhood, as both a social structure and a psychological condition, works when things like maturity, responsibility, literacy, and critical thinking mark an adult. But when things like long-form writing and reading decline, the gap between child and adult shrinks; the line between them blurs and thendissolves.

As parents, we have to protect this great invention. We have to inrease the gap between childhood and adulthood. Let them be kids ... but also make sure that you are being an adult. Be a leader. Be responsible. Be an example, a model they have to strive toward. Let them see you with a book they can’t yet comprehend. Let them be around adult conversations they can’t quite understand. Let them see you working and sweating and providing.

Let them see an adult—so they have something not just to look up to but to look forward to as well.

"The Daily Dad" by Ryan Holiday, page for January 9


Discipline is all about teaching. If discipline becomes about punishment, for example, we can miss the opportunity to teach.

"No Drama Discipline" by Daniel J. Siegel, Chapter 5.

However we conduct ourselves in front of our children — particularly at home, in private — they will come to see as normal. If we are rude or unkind to our spouse, they will assume that is an appropriate way to treat people they love. If we are anxious and overly worried, they will come to think that the world is a scary place that must be feared. If we behave unethically or cynically, they too will begin to cheat and lie.

"The Daily Dad" by Ryan Holiday, page for January 2

Don’t put pictures of heroes on our wall. Instead, hang up pictures of your children and strive to make them proud.

"The Daily Dad" by Ryan Holiday, page for January 6

Your Living Is the Teaching. Socrates’s students Plato and Aristotle derived more benefit from his character than his words. You tell your kids to be good. To be honest. To follow the law. To care about other people. That safety comes first. You say these things, but what do you do? If you want to teach your kids, it’s not going to be with words. It’s not going to be with lectures. It’s going to be through showing them that you live according to the rules you set. You set the standard, so be the standard.

"The Daily Dad" by Ryan Holiday, page for January 7 and 10

Ilya Vasilenko