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Raise resilient kids with The Rolling Stones and Aquinas


Jacob Lund | Shutterstock

Daniel Esparza - published on 05/04/24

The Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want" somehow echoes Aquinas' wisdom. Patience and fortitude help kids learn delayed gratification and resilience.

The Rolling Stones might not be the first band that comes to mind when considering Catholic values. And still, their iconic lyric “You can’t always get what you want” resonates deeply with the Catholic tradition and, even more specifically, with some of the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Aquinas, a pillar of both medieval and contemporary Catholic theology, emphasizes the virtues of patience, longanimity, and fortitude — all essential in raising grateful and resilient children in a world brimming with instant gratification.


Patience, as Aquinas describes it, is the ability to endure hardship without succumbing to anger or resentment. Imagine (or just remember!) a child throwing a tantrum because they can’t have that new toy, or because she wanted pasta and not veggie cakes for supper. A patient parent will listen calmly, explain limitations, and offer alternatives (as in “Well, I guess we can add some parmigiano to your veggie cake, right?”).

This fosters an understanding that desires don’t always translate to instant fulfillment, which is a crucial lesson for navigating life’s inevitable disappointments.


Closely linked to patience is longanimity, which is the perseverance one needs for long-term goals. Many parents would love for their children to appreciate the value of hard work. One way to help them earn desired objects through chores or good grades is to teach them the power of delayed gratification: baking cookies together, keeping a garden, or just making plans together for the coming summer might be good ways to help them understand that they “can’t always get what they want” right here and now: some things take time.

Aquinas’ notion of longanimity suggests that true satisfaction comes from striving and achieving, not simply receiving.


Finally, fortitude allows us to face challenges with courage and determination. A child who never gets a “no” for an answer will find it challenging to cope with setbacks. Not letting your children always get what they want is indeed an act of love and care. Aquinas emphasizes the importance of fortitude in overcoming difficulties.

By allowing children to experience disappointment (always in small, manageable, charitable doses) we can help them develop the emotional strength to bounce back from future obstacles.

Putting virtues into practice

So, how can we incorporate these values into our parenting? Here are a few practical tips:

1. Try to embrace delayed gratification. It can be tempting to buy everything your child wants, but it’s important to resist the urge. Instead, encourage them to save up for special treats, teaching them the value of delayed gratification.

2. Instead of showering children with material possessions, consider prioritizing experiences such as family outings, sports, and other activities. This can foster a sense of gratitude for what they already have. If a child becomes upset when a request is denied, it might be helpful to have a plan in place for how to handle this. This can help them understand that their actions have consequences.

3. It’s important to remember that raising grateful and resilient children doesn’t mean depriving them of joy. It’s about helping them develop the inner strength to navigate life’s inevitable challenges. By incorporating the wisdom of Aquinas and embracing the core spirit of “You can’t always get what you want,” we can help children develop the skills they need to be content, capable, and ultimately, prepared to thrive in an ever-changing (and oftentimes hard) world.

ParentingPersonal GrowthSaints
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