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Military Brat Parenting: Five Things I Tell My Kids in Hopes They’ll Be Better Humans

My dad was an Air Force colonel, a fighter pilot and a Vietnam veteran. In addition to being a proud (and dutiful) daughter, my upbringing in a military household shaped the way I look at the world and completely impacts my parenting. Even though I get accused of being strict – especially by my daughter — I still hope that some of the no-nonsense messages I got are filtering down to my children to help them thrive in life.

Take personal responsibility.

I feel like being accountable for one’s self is the single most important thing you can do. What is the well-known quote by Charles R. Swindoll? “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% of how you react to it.” With all of the blame going around these days, I feel not enough folks are taking responsibility for themselves. And we need to set better examples for our children. The world would be a better place if we all could just own up to our own sh*t, and move on. Don’t you agree?

If you asked my kids, what is the one thing mom always says? They’d mimic my stern tone, and say “Take personal responsibility!” Owning our own actions ultimately means owning our own happiness. Because we control how we respond to things and own what we put out in the world.

Look at it from the other person’s perspective.

I lived in several different countries growing up. I was also privileged to attend a high school that had over 40 different nationalities represented. Spending every day with my peers from different religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds opened my eyes to how differently others can view the exact same situation. I had the benefit of real tangible examples of diversity; however, my children do not. As a result, I try to find examples and explain scenarios to help them appreciate that another point of view may be completely different from theirs. It’s harder to conceptualize, but I keep at it!

Love your country.

In this day and age, it’s easy to get disenchanted with what’s going on around us. However, I feel that no matter how cool the scenery or how amazing the culture is in other countries, I find that ‘The Land of the Free’ beats any place else. Unlike many places I’ve traveled, we ALL have the right to vote. We can start our own businesses (fairly easily). We have clean running water. And we can travel from state to beautiful state freely and on a whim. Among MANY other cool things.

Part of teaching my kids respect for others, includes teaching them respect for the country that affords so many freedoms to us all.  

Vary your route!

I lived in Europe as a military child during the Cold War where there was terrorist activity taking place even back then. As a teenager, I had more freedom: We got to take taxis home from volleyball practice and were allowed to go downtown without chaperones, as examples. To avoid being trapped in a bad situation, the rule we were taught was to always “vary your route.” Don’t take the same way home each day because being predictable made you an easy target (that sounds scarier than it really was).

Now, this may seem a bit weird, but I think there is a moral to this story. It sounds like a Robert Frost poem: “Take the road less traveled by” in every situation and I think life will be more interesting, less predictable and lead to getting caught in far less traps – if any at all!

Buck up!

This one needs no explanation. Most parents in the world tell their kids to suck it up at one time or another. I’m a proponent of toughening up my kids and not always providing the “Easy Button” for them to sail through childhood without any adversity. The ups are so much better if there are a few downs along the journey.

In general, I am so much more soft on my kids than I feel my parents were on me. I think most of my peers feel this way, too, about their own upbringing – military or otherwise. That said, I hope this means we can foster more open communication with our children in our own parenting. I believe this leads to stronger relationships. Even so, I feel some of my strict “military brat training” provided excellent preparation for life, and I hope to pass some of the good stuff onto my own kids.

Kristen Beatty

Kristen is an entrepreneur at heart. She helped start two companies, a marketing consulting agency in Denver and a technology services company in Atlanta. Kristen continues her corporate work in the high tech industry, and has worked as a sales and marketing executive for over 15 years honing her expertise in partner marketing, lead generation and account management. While working full time, she has ventured into various side hustles including event management and network marketing as a creative outlet. Kristen grew up as a nomadic child of an Air Force fighter pilot and an amazing officer’s wife. She gets her wanderlust from having moved eight times, and lived in four countries before the age of 18. She is the mother of two, and loves residing in south Denver near her treasured mommy tribe and college besties. Kristen’s true passion is giving back and spends many volunteer hours supporting the Alzheimer’s Association as a board member, policy advocate and event volunteer.