Military children have a unique lifestyle that often requires innovative parenting. This offers opportunities to get creative, while also reflecting on what is most important. Most parents can admit there is not a cookie cutter method to raising children. All parents have stellar moments as well as pitfalls, and parents learn and grow through it all.
Here are 10 of the best moves military parents felt they have made with their own families:
1. Hold them accountable to their own actions.
Vanessa Badger is a military spouse and mother of two with one more on the way. She said if her son “does something he’s not supposed to do, I hold him responsible for it instead of ‘so and so made me do it.’ I also teach him to hold others, including me, accountable for our actions as well.”
2. Don’t make going away a big deal.
Marla Bautista, military spouse and mom of three treats deployments like a regular working day with her family. Her husband has been to Iraq and has had several duty tours to Korea.
“My family does well when my husband just leaves, versus watching him pack and doing the going away ceremony,” she said.
3. Pay children for chores.
Tonya Echols-Willis, a mother and Army veteran, realizes that some people would disagree with the method of paying children for doing chores.
“You should give them an allowance and a budget,” she said.
Echols-Willis and her husband give their children, “their age each week in dollars.” So an 8 year old would receive $8 for the week.
Through this, they taught them to budget and learn how to use their allowance to purchase gifts for others.
“We also gave bonuses for good grades, because we get bonuses at work for going above average work,” Echols-Willis said.
4. Make a “me” binder.
If you’re looking for a way to keep memories for your children that is unique to the military lifestyle, Jacquelyn Criner, military spouse and mom of three has found a way.
“We make a ‘me’ binder every time our children change schools,” Criner said.
She includes items like a picture of her children with a best friend and current report cards.
Criner said, “My dad did it with me and my siblings … he still has mine.”
5. Think for yourself.
Linda Myrtil, military spouse and mother of two, uses her 6-year-old daughter’s personal experiences to teach an important lesson at a young age. Her daughter has friends who are, “daring her to do silly things.”
Myrtil said, “I don’t want that to turn into something big and unimaginable.”
Therefore, she is teaching her daughter to have a mind of her own and make the right choice when confronted by others who would try to influence her differently.
6. Teach the importance of family.
Although adapting to being away from family is a common trait of our military lifestyle, Cindy Damas wants to teach her son the value of being with family. He’s currently 7 months old, but she wants him to learn to spend as much time as possible visiting friends and family, whether they are local or afar.
7. Apologize to your children.
Parents mess up, too! Echols-Willis has had it happen a few times.
She said, “It’s humbling to apologize, but it reminds my children that I’m human and I can have a bad day too.”
8. Focus on the positive of any long separation.
Katrina Alexander, mom and military spouse, has not chosen to focus on the many difficulties of deployment. She, instead, has her daughter make a list of all the positive things she can enjoy while her dad is away.
Some of the positives Alexander shared included her daughter being able to participate in after school activities, see her grandparents more, and not having to change schools.
9. Kiss them as often as they’ll let you.
Philip Walker is an Air Force veteran, husband and father of three. He says he puts high value on showing his children affection, especially as a man.
“I want them to know that I love them and always be comfortable expressing love through words and actions,” he said, then added, “We also never know when it’s the last time we’ll see each other.”
10. Never settle.
“See the world, study abroad, and leave home when you’re ready,” Damas said. She wants her son to know what the world has to offer him.
“Because of the sacrifices my husband and I made as teenagers to serve this country, I do not want him to think that joining the military is the only option for him, unless he truly wants to,” Damas said.