Will you think I’m strange if I tell you I just spent a four-day weekend reading a book written by Navy SEALS? And maybe even more surprised that the theme is perfect for moms? It’s called Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead And Win, by Willink and Babin.
(NOTE: The book has a few cuss words in it, in keeping with military culture, so I’m not endorsing it. Normally I would shun a book at the first bad word, but in this case I felt the value of the material warranted overlooking a small amount of rough talk.)
The point of the book is that a leader must take full ownership of any failure that happens under his command. He must assess his own leadership and figure out where he has failed to communicate or to hold his people to a standard, etc. The leader has to make the changes that create mission success.
I think this message is also for moms with small children. If our children are poorly behaved, we can help them by taking ownership of the problem.
First, we have to clearly define the mission: What manners do we want our children to have?
Then, we have to act as leaders and take actions that will help our children successfully behave in the manner we have defined.
Five Manners I’m Glad I Taught My Kids
1. Screaming across the house was unacceptable. If my children hollered “Mom” from upstairs, I would ignore them (unless I suspected someone was bleeding.) When they finally got frustrated and came to me, wondering why I had ignored them, I would explain that yelling across the house was unacceptable. If they wanted to talk to me, they had to come to where I was and not the other way around.
2. When I wanted to talk to my child, I would call his name and expect him to say, “Coming!” followed by immediate action. I would not yell a conversation across the house from my direction either. When he came and was standing in front of me, I would then tell him what I needed to say. (Note: As you can see, I think the younger should always come to the elder and not the other way around.)
3. Requests had to begin with “May I please.” If my child wanted a drink, he had to say, “May I please have a drink of water? If he demanded water I would make him repeat the request politely before I would get him a drink. Every time.
4. Responses had to be followed by a clear “No, thank you” or “Yes, please.” About 367,000 times I found myself saying, in a stern voice, “Yes, please” and asking my child to respond correctly.
5. Interrupting me when I was speaking with another adult was unacceptable. I taught my kids to put a hand on my arm if they needed to talk to me. I would continue conversing with the other adult, while gently placing my hand over my child’s. This way they knew I saw them and would respond to them as soon as I could make a polite break in conversation.
The overarching goal of these manners? To teach our children to value and respect adults and to think of other people instead of just thinking about their own needs. As humans, we don’t naturally think of others first, so as moms we have to lead our children into this way of thinking.
One chapter in Extreme Ownership is called “Simple.” What encouraging advice for moms! We can’t change all of our child’s behaviors in one day, but we can focus on one simple mission to accomplish. You could focus really hard on one of the above manners, until your “team” experiences success, and then move on to conquering another one.
May God help you to lead your children well,