An Interview with Eric Davis on his book,
Raising Men: Lessons Navy SEALs Learned from Their Training and Taught to Their Sons
Stronger Families’ CEO, Noel Meador, talks with Eric Davis, former Navy SEAL, decorated veteran of the War on Terror, and author of Raising Men: Lessons Navy SEALs Learned from Their Training and Taught to Their Sons.
- How can a father “lead from the front”?
To lead from the front, you must first ask, “How can I teach my son to live a good, healthy, happy life if I can’t do it myself?” Parents today are the first generation parenting in this technology-driven, dynamic, hypercompetitive world, and many of us do not know how to slow down and take things in stride. Also, leading from the front means realizing that most of what your son learns from you is not based on what you say, but what you do. Does your son see you pursuing your dreams? Leading goes beyond simply acting right or eating right or being in a good mood; it is keeping in mind the end results of 10, 15, and 20 years of your son watching and learning from you.
- How can you be consistent in your parenting?
Fathers, do not sit idly on the sidelines and step into your parent role only when something big happens. Focus on the nitty-gritty parenting that happens day-to-day. Think of it like this: in the Navy, minor rudder corrections are imperative to keeping a ship on course. The same is true for parenting. Do not wait until your child is grown to begin parenting. When your son becomes an adult, his choices carry much heavier consequences, but by then it is too late to start influencing him. Ages 0 to 3 are the key years for discipline, 3 to 12 are the key years for training, and 12 to 18 are the key years for coaching.
- How does Navy SEALs training relate to parenting?
Navy SEALs training involves learning how to react immediately to a situation. Instead of reacting out of an instinctual fight-or-flight response, Navy SEALs are taught what to do for every scenario. The same can be applied to parenting. What do you do if your son is being bullied? What do you do when your son is asking for something all the time? What do you do when your son is disobedient in public? You can plan your reactions to these types of situations ahead of time rather than parenting off the cuff.
When you’re taken off-guard and don’t have a prepared response, nail down a plan of action for those times, too. For example, if something happens to your son that is unexpected, take a minute, stop, and consider the situation. If the situation warrants help from an outside source, find the help your child needs.
- How can a father use military principles to parent his son?
The military employs two types of discipline: control-centric and empowerment-centric. Control-centric is the heavy-handed discipline the military is known for, and this type works well in large groups of soldiers. During empowerment-centric discipline, the SEALs are taught how to solve problems that have not been solved before. Similarly, studies show that heavy-handed parenting is rarely effective, especially in situations that are new and challenging. Yelling at your son does not produce high performance or problem solving, two things for which every parent should strive.
You can possess all of the parenting knowledge in the world, but the most important thing to observe is the human part of your child. To help your son reach his potential, make a game plan together to help him toward the next step in his life. Gauge his actions and make tiny rudder corrections along the way as you help him reach his goals.
Boys especially crave validation from their fathers—validation that they are man enough to do/perform/accomplish/receive many different things. Many teenaged boys turn to promiscuity, drugs, and alcohol because the ultimate question—“Do I have what it takes?”—is not being answered by their fathers.
- How can you grow as a parent every day?
If you want your son to respect and value you as a parent, make sure you are worthy of respect and value by improving, growing, and learning. When your child sees you making strides in your own personal improvement, he’ll more likely seek out the same improvement in his own life. On the flip side, be sure to extend unconditional love to your son when he makes a mistake or struggles. Training your son in the way he should go and teaching him practical skills are most effective when coupled with unconditional love.
Audience question: “What would you consider to be the top five character traits that are important to instill in our sons?”
To produce mental toughness and the ability to get things done, your child needs to learn responsibility, communication, honor, perseverance, innovation, courage, and confidence. Also, teach them that the opposite of all of these things is fear.
Audience question: “I’m trying to teach my son skill sets that were important to me as a young man: outdoor survival skills and hunting, to name a few. But my two sons aren’t interested. One plays video games, and the other is always drawing or painting. Personal interests aside, what are the top skills I should be teaching my boys?”
The biggest thing to consider is perseverance: the ability to fail and keep going. Become interested in the things they love to do, figure out how those things produce perseverance, and encourage them in that.
Audience question: “My son is nearing 11, and I want to begin educating him about sex and relationships. I’m not sure how to set a good example of healthy relationships since my wife and I are divorced.”
Ask yourself if you would rather your son learn everything about sex and relationships from modern culture and the media, or if you would rather him learn those things from you. Draw from your faith or morals as sources of wisdom to combat many of the inconsistent or harmful cultural ideologies about sex and relationships.
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