As a former SEAL, I don’t think twice about tying my kids’ hands behind their backs and binding their feet together before I toss them into the pool, an exercise called “Drown Proofing” that I learned in training. I completely understand that some parents find this type of activity to be shocking or extreme, but I prefer to think of it as exceptional. And don’t we want to raise exceptional kids?
My book Raising Men: Lessons Navy SEALs Learned from Their Training and Taught to Their Sons, I talk about the difference between Useless Movement and True Action. Useless Movement is effort. True Action is effort, but with a meaningful objective.
Drown Proofing has a meaningful objective—to develop high levels of confidence. Most of the parenting activities that my wife, Belisa, and I spent a bulk of our time doing– shuttle our kids to and from—soccer, swim, piano lessons, youth group, Girl Scouts, play dates, you name it—fell into the former category: Useless Movement. Sure, the girls were having fun and learning a thing or two about sportsmanship and being a team player, but they weren’t developing the traits that we, as their parents, wanted to instill in them:
- Ability to kick butt
- Real life skill sets
Stop Running Around - Do Something Meaningful:
Because my wife and I are both in our forties, we were beginning to get that feeling that we only had so much time to help our girls “be” whoever it was they were going to ultimately be. And we were looking for something that would allow us to pop in and out, rather than killing three-day weekends and holiday breaks that we wanted to use for travel and adventure.
We were looking for activities that had more purpose and meaning than just “getting away” or putting a couple of points on some arbitrary scoreboard. We wanted the girls to play with a purpose.
At the tail end of 2015, Belisa made the call: She went to her Facebook page and announced that neither she nor the girls would continue to run the rat race and participate in the traditional activities that sucked the life out of…well, life. (And you know the deal with Facebook, you better be prepared to back up what you declare there, so we went for it.) SEAL Pups was born.
What is SEAL Pups? The mission is simple: To build confidence using SEAL-esque missions and training that translate into real-life survival skills, both in the field and out. SEAL Pups take the best of Special Forces, firefighting, rescue, and law enforcement to inspire high levels of confidence and functionality in our kids. We want to teach leadership while developing the practical skills of surviving and thriving.
What makes a SEAL a SEAL is confidence, and that comes from learning to do things that most others cannot do, such as build a sniper hide or surf or shoot like a sniper. For example, our “Water Confidence” curriculum aims to teach our children to be safe in and around the water, to love the water, and to be awesome watermen. We’re progressing until our kids learn to conduct a full-on beach reconnaissance at night—they sneak up on a beach, conduct surveillance, and sneak back into the ocean undetected. Kind of like a video game but real.
The Ability to Kick Butt
Because one in four girls will have a chance of being sexually assaulted, Belisa and I wanted to do all we could on the front end to arm our girls in case they find themselves face to face with some predator. Part of their curriculum is to attend Jiu Jitsu classes that mix boys and girls, which provides a highly effective base for fighting and incorporates many of the tactics I learned as a SEAL. This way, if someone attempts to force himself on one of my girls someday, it will not be the first time they’ll have fought a boy.
The Ability to Develop Real-Life Skill Sets
A “jack of all trades” mindset best describes a SEAL, and, similarly, we want our kids to become an expert at becoming an expert, so that they can see everything from a position of strength, which makes their vantage point uncommon and valuable.
We want them to have a love of the outdoors, to explore the uncharted parts of our earth. We want them to practice land navigation skills, how to properly pack a backpack for a multi day backpacking trip, learn the importance of letting someone know where they are going before they take off, having proper gear, food, water, shelter, what to do if they get lost, how to build a shelter if they need to, and first aid (not all accidents are going to happen when 911 is an option).
Experts at Becoming Experts
Don’t get me wrong: piano lessons and soccer are great, but they’re not crucial. Or practical. We tell our children that they can be anything when they grow up, but we need to teach them how to be everything they want to be when they grow up. How do they break barriers that are there to hold them back? How do we give them the confidence to even attempt to break those barriers? There are still plenty of glass ceilings out there.
Tying my daughters’ hands and feet together may not make them trailblazers that upend the world as they know it, but it’s just one of the ways I can help them learn to tackle real-life problem solving and critical thinking—skills that any child needs to survive, or adult for that matter, no matter what life may hand them.
- How do you define confidence?
- In what ways do you teach confidence to your kids?
- What questions do you have for me?