Can the Army Help You Be a Better Parent? Yes and No
Being a parent while in the Army requires loyalty and balance. (Photo Credit: (U.S. Army photo by Pvt. Elsi Delgado, 50th Public Affairs Detachment)) VIEW ORIGINAL

Do the same beliefs that define what is expected of a Soldier translate to being a good parent? Staff Sgt. Zachery Rojas, a drill sergeant at Fort Benning, Georgia, and father of a one-year-old daughter, said his career as a Soldier has prepared him for parenthood.

“From the start of your career from basic training to where I'm at now, you're always taught it's just not about you ... you're taught to care about more than yourself,” said Rojas.

Soldiers are trained to support one another, especially under challenging circumstances. The loyalty you have towards your fellow Soldiers to make a unit strong is the same loyalty you can use to strengthen your Family.

If a child is having a tough time, a comforting parent is there to help them work through their emotions. Supportive parents also have the responsibility of teaching their children to share the feelings of others.

“Helping kids to be able to have empathy and feel what other people feel is essential for building healthy relationships,” said Dr. Jim Taylor, a parenting and child development expert and author of five parenting books.

Do all teachings of Army life translate well into parenting? Not quite.

The Army instills Soldiers with lessons that prepare them for life, and perhaps for one of the most difficult missions of all, being a parent. There are many things you learn as a Soldier that can help make you a better parent, however there are some things that can be left on post.

“After working a long day of training and pushing yourself mentally and physically with your unit, there’s a time when the Soldier ends and the parent begins,” Rojas said.

“I am the party person when I get home ... let's play with the stuffed animals, let's walk to the park, let's go on the slide a million times,” Rojas said.

“You have to understand like ‘this is work, that's home,’” he said.

Army Values That Are Great for Parenting

Loyalty – One of the most basic foundations for children's development is feeling loved, valued, and supported.

Respect – Every child is different, they have different needs, personalities, and capabilities. It is important to respect who they are as individuals. Mutual respect between child and parent builds stronger relationships.

Integrity – If kids sense that you have integrity, you have their best interests at heart, and you're being honest with them, then they learn to follow your lead.

Beliefs That Don't Translate Well for Parenting

Rank Hierarchy – In combat, following orders can be a matter of life or death. At home, children are naturally rebellious, and as they become teens, they need the freedom to grow as independent adults. Being overly strict may hinder them from dealing with circumstances in the real world or learning to problem solve on their own.

Being Unemotional – Traditionally, Soldiers learn to “suck it up and drive on,” however, it is important for children (and adults) to feel their feelings, as emotions can help people take action to fix a problem. Parents should not invalidate their kid’s emotions or ask their kids to repress their feelings. Instead, they should help their children recognize, understand, and manage their emotions.

Yelling – New Soldiers coming from all walks of life need to be molded into Army life. Drill sergeants may yell to get a recruit's attention or enforce discipline to turn civilians into Soldiers ready for combat. However, children aren’t Soldiers. One of the most important factors for children to grow into emotionally healthy adults is having a sense of security and safety at home.