The Fort Bragg Rule For Military Parenting

The Fort Bragg Rule For Military Parenting
A small child looks in the mirror to see camouflage face paint at an event on Ellsworth Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force/Hannah Malone)

When you are the Must-Have Parent raising your military kids solo while your Must Do partner is away on the job, you get a lot of parenting advice like:

  • You must breastfeed.
  • You must involve grandparents.
  • Don’t let them share your bed.
  • Don’t let them watch military news.
  • Teach them to appreciate the military.
  • Get a babysitter!

At an event at Fort Bragg (home to so many Must-Have Parents), a group of parents married from three to seven years came up with a Golden Rule of Parenting Military Kids that could make all those other rules superfluous.

We didn’t ask for a Golden Rule of military parenting.

We didn’t think to ask for a Golden Rule of Military Parenting. Instead, we asked them to assemble a list of the best advice they ever got about raising kids in the military.

Their first list was filled with tips like Don’t fear germs. Don’t take it personally. Don’t make excuses. Expect to be embarrassed.

They weren’t crazy about their own list. “It sounds so negative,” one mom told me. So they went back and tried again. What did they really know for sure about parenting military kids on their own? It boiled down to this:

Here is the Fort Bragg Rule of Military Parenting

Create consistency in all things parenting. And remember, please, that kids are kids, and unto kids, they shall return.

The minute I read it I knew exactly what they meant, didn't you? As the Must-Have Parent, your sanity is saved by consistency in all things parenting. Structure, rules, expectations, calendars and traditions tend to make for a happy house -- especially when the presence or absence of the service member is so inconsistent.

Setting up a consistent structure gives kids a sense of safety. Keeping that structure consistent whether or not the service member is present gives the Must-Have Parent a little control. Best of all, that consistency can allow the service member to come in and out of the family and know what is expected.

Often, that’s the only part of the parenting rule we hear. At the same time, we are enforcing that consistency, we also need to remember that kids are going to be kids. Kids + deployment = chaos.

Military kids are going to do kid things and make kid mistakes. Never is this more true than during a deployment or a move. They are going to cry. They are going to miss their Must Do parent. They are going to act ,out and need to be a little crazy. They will snort things from their noses.

This is why raising kids with an absent partner is so hard. We do it anyway.

So do you live by this Fort Bragg Golden Rule of Military Parenting? Do you have another you think would work better?

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