We all want our kids to be the best that they can be. But finding the balance between Major Dad and June Cleaver isn't easy. Since the Armed Forces is known for converting undisciplined individuals into disciplined soldiers, we borrowed some expertise from Major Scott Buhmann. Professor of Military Science of the U.S. Army and director of Wheaton College's ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corp) program, Buhmann is also the father of five young children. We asked him to tell us the secrets to fostering good discipline. We also asked a civilian, John Townsend, co-author of Boundaries with Kids (Zondervan), to comment on why the military's principles work so well.
1. Lead by example.
As a parent and a military leader, I try to develop character in both my kids and my students, but you can't develop character in others if you are not a person of character yourself. I can't expect honesty and selflessness from others if I am dishonest, lazy, and self-centered. There is a structure in the ROTC called the Seven Army Values that shape our character. It's an acronym that spells LEADERSHIP:
When you are a Major in the Army, your position alone can make you seem right even when you are wrong. That's why you need the character to step back and admit when you're wrong. At home I have to apologize to my kids when I mess up and admit that I didn't handle things well.
The parent needs to be what he or she is teaching. We can't develop in a child what we don't first possess. This is incentive for getting deeply involved in spiritual growth, for your own sake as well as your child's. Character is the main focal point of parenting. We define character as that set of abilities needed to meet the demands of life. It includes the ability to connect emotionally, take responsibility, and live in reality.
2. Expect discipline and obedience to be the norm.
In the Army, we take an oath that says the President has reposed special trust and confidence in us. Society holds us to a different standard. They don't want people who have access to weapons and privileged knowledge to not have discipline and obedience as the organizational norm. With my family, I don't command military discipline but self-discipline to do the right thing even when no one else is looking. I also ask my children to be obedient to the Lord by following biblical mandates such as honoring your mother and father.