Mark Owen’s book “No Easy Day” is more than a story about the Navy Seal operation that resulted in the death of Osama Bin Laden. It is a testimony to the passion of a group of soldiers who placed country above all, including family, friends, and their own personal safety.
I was most intrigued by the training that prepared these warriors for their life-threatening missions. “One of the key lessons learned early on in the SEAL’s career was the ability to be comfortable being uncomfortable,” remarked Owen, who was referring not only to the physical challenges but also to the mental pressures of their training.
The importance of getting accustomed to being uncomfortable goes against most every child rearing precept, with parents going to extraordinary lengths to raise children in a stress-free environment. Can the Navy Seals teach us anything about effective ways to raise our children?
1. Kids learn a lot from experiencing stressful situations. When the SEALs were pushed to their physical and emotional limits, they realized that their potential exceeded their perceived boundaries. The fact that they were uncomfortable was never an excuse for giving up.
Parents seem preoccupied with making certain their children are never placed in a situation of physical or emotional discomfort. When a difficult situation arises, parents quickly get involved to make things better.
Try this. Let your fourth grader speak directly with her teacher about problems in school. Let your junior high student navigate the drama of peer interactions without you calling other parents. Coach your kids to push their limits and accept stress as a natural and sometimes healthy part of life.
2. Success comes from working hard, not wishing for what you want. Navy Seal training is all about hard work and sacrifice. Many youngsters are more concerned with what they want rather than the self-control and difficult work it takes to accomplish their goals. Parents can be too nice, encouraging their kids’ dreams rather than confronting them with the reality that wishing and wanting, after you leave the cocoon of your parent’s home, accomplish nothing.
3. Failure is a learning experience. Navy Seals do an extraordinary amount of training in preparation for missions, followed by feedback about how to improve. Failure is viewed as a learning opportunity.
When told today about some project that was assigned a week ago, how many parents would tell their kids to figure this out on their own, rather than rush to Wal-Mart to get all the necessary supplies? Allowing your child to fail sends a strong message about values such as planning and personal responsibility.
I’m not suggesting you enroll your kids in Navy Seal boot camp, but the values around stress, hard work and failure might just result in more competent and successful parents.
Dr. Ramey, who is a child psychologist and Vice President at Dayton Children’s Medical Center, can be reached at Rameyg@childrensdayton.org