We talk a lot here about goals, about persevering and never giving up. Today I want to
touch on what that looks like in parenting and I’m going to do that by sharing a story
from an interaction I had with one of my kids.
For some time now, my younger son has been saying he’s scared at bedtime. He wants
me to lie down with him while he falls asleep, he wants to sleep with his light on, and he
wants to have music playing.
Thinking this was just a phase, I allowed it for a while. There came a point, though,
when I recognized this as a problem. I began putting my foot down about not having me
in his bed to go to sleep. I reminded him that none of the things he was afraid of were
real threats, that I was always around. I even gave him a flashlight so he could be in
control of checking things out for himself. Sometimes he managed to go to sleep on his
own, but he was still afraid and his light was still on all night. There was still a problem.
It was only a few weeks ago when I started taking the “extreme ownership” view, trying
to look at this from the perspective of what I could be doing to keep this issues from
being resolved, how I could be part of the problem. Something finally clicked and I
recognized that I was failing in two extremes. I was either coddling my son, giving in to
his fears and allowing him to remain afraid, or I was trying to push him out of the
proverbial nest on his own without helping him get to the point of being ready for that. I
decided that we needed a plan and that he should come up with it himself.
I sat my son down and explained to him that it was time to start working towards going
to sleep on his own with the lights out. He hesitated at first, but when I explained that he
would create the steps and that there would be a reward for reaching his goal, he ran off
to get a piece of paper and a pencil. So we sat down together and mapped out a
strategy to wean him off of the light. From the very first step, the light would be off at
bedtime, but for the first night I would be with him for 10 minutes, 5 minutes the second
night, then out of the room, until finally he was going to sleep completely on his own and
with no light. I’m proud to report that he achieved his goal and he’ll be getting a new pair
of basketball shoes as a reward.
So often in parenting we fail to guide our children towards success. We either do
everything for them or we expect them to start doing something on their own with no
discernible plan, no steps, and no guidance. Dads are meant to lead and leading means
empowering our kids for success. Let’s help our children set goals and then allow them
to reach them with a little bit of coaching and encouragement. Give praise for effort and
reassurance in failures. This is one of the greatest parts of being a dad.

Matt Cochran - USMC Veteran - The Tactical Dads