Family Boot Camp

"A family doesn't have to be perfect, just united."

Raising a large tribe is a blessing...most of the time. I'll admit, although we have had our Hallmark moments, we also have those moments that I feel like a military leader in the middle of the battlefield...surrounded by the enemy and running low on supplies. Yeah, this parenting thing takes courage, along with a good strategic plan!

Have you ever wondered how a military drill sergeant can take a group of people, from all walks of life, and turn them into a team that works towards the same goals and even willing to sacrifice for one another? (me too!) So I decided, in one of my desperate parenting moments, to do a little military training research.

When one signs up to join our Armed Forces that must attend Basic Training. The purpose of the many weeks together is to prepare the recruit for all elements of service: physical, mental and emotional. It gives the service members the basic tools necessary to perform the roles that will be assigned to them for the duration of their tour. Wow! Does that not sound like parenting? We are to train our children for life. Yes, me and the drill sergeant have much in common.

In the Marine Times, a drill sergeant states that the Marine Boot Camp is not just to prepare the soldier for battle, but rather to turn civilians into Marines. This requires a specific process that occurs over a 13 week period.

"These are kids who came up in areas that have no values, and to them, stealing or taking what didn't belong to them was acceptable...others come here with those values instilled, but we still have to find that baseline to bring them together."

Team allegiance is heavily enforced in the oaths soldiers take when they sign their service to their country.

Navy Seals pledge that their "loyalty to Country and Team is beyond reproach."

The US Army Rangers vow "Never shall I fail my comrades."

Airborne Troopers promise to "cherish the sacred trust and the lives of men with whom I serve."

The obvious reason: In a military combat situation, teamwork can literally mean the difference between life and death.

Parenting can be much like leading a small army. God expects us to train our children up in the ways of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)

With a new year approaching, and some new battles to face, God has given Walter and I a strategic plan for our "soldiers."

Have the Tough Conversations

When you are looking out for your child's best interest, you have to talk about things they don't want to hear and hold each other accountable. If a child is always running late, or never completes their chores, or has become rude to their siblings it hurts the entire family. Just talk to them, one on one.

"This is something that I noticed, and I just wanted to talk to you about it."

Share the Load

One of the first exercises they do in the Green Beret training is that they put you into teams, give you a huge log, and tell you to hold it over your head for hours! I'm sure in the beginning they are focused on themselves...the pain, the exhaustion, and complete frustration. But what makes or breaks the situation is when the team members begin encouraging each other. When the pressure is on, and you're on a team, it's not about you.

The reality is that nothing changed...the log is still heavy...but the attitudes change. This is why we enforce our Buddy System, each month our children are each given a buddy. That person and you are to spend time together, prayer with and for each other, send encouraging text messages to each other and simply build your relationship. For some of our children this is easy...but not for all of them. It's not easy to open up your heart to others. Relationships take time to build, but we are stronger together!

Communicate the Mission

Good commanders in the military share elements of the mission with the troops..."We need to take the bridge" or "We need to take the hill".

Good soldiers learn to follow orders and complete the mission.

With our large tribe, we hold Tribal Meetings on Sunday nights (usually). This is where, with my calendar open, we discuss the game plan for the week and discuss how we will accomplish our goals. For instance, I may have to work on Thursday evening while dad has a meeting at the church. I will have to pull in my resources (older siblings) to drive Victoria to archery practice. We talk about work schedules, who will help with dinner and review our monthly chore list. We clearly communicate the weekly mission....survival!

Recognize the Children Who Deliver!

The Marine Corps has three core values - honor, courage, and commitment-that define how a marine behaves. As a family, we have our core values...those things that we believe and want to pass on to the next generation. It's the character traits that we want to instill in the hearts and minds of our children. As a mom, I can be task-oriented. I tend to praise the child who accomplished a task. God has really placed in our hearts to openly praise our children for demonstrating our core values.

"Hey, I'd like to give a shout out to Caleb who gave up his free time to sit and listen to Peyton read."


"Vlad, thank you so much for asking Victoria if she needed help carrying the laundry downstairs."

We need to notice those things that our children do.

Value Your Child's Opinion

As parents, we want to think that we are capable of solving all of our family issues. I mean, if the kids "would only listen" life might be a tad easier. Right? Maybe. But we have learned a lot from our kids by simply asking, "What do you think about this problem? What is your solution?" Listen to your children.

God designed the family unit in Genesis chapter one. A Godly marriage and a family should reflect God's love. A family is a safe haven for our children during life's storms, a place to learn to love other people, and a place to feel unconditional love. But this will take hard, intentional WORK!

As we are ending another year, we decided to take our children on a winter vacation to the Poconos. We planned to ski, snow tube, and enjoy the indoor water park. But more than anything, we decided that we would reconnect, work on communication, and build stronger relationships. Yes, we were having our own Tribal Boot Camp!

Boot Camp Day One:

On our first night in the Poconos, we went to Kalahari Indoor Waterpark. This was a fantastic place to have fun, yet learn to work in teams. Some of the rides required a certain amount of people and we encouraged all the kids not to leave anyone feeling left out. Walter and I had to be with the little ones, but thankfully our older children spent time with each of them on a few water rides. Taking a large family to ANY theme park and maintaining your sobriety and sanity is a totally different level of parenting...but we did it!

Boot Camp Day Two:

Camelback Ski Resort to snowboard and ski. Just getting us all in gear, without any harm to anyone, was rewarding all in itself. Then came the hill....some of the kids are natural snowboarders while others spent the majority of their time on their backsides. This was a great family learning time. Since we are a large group...mixed in with a crowd, this mama was a little stressed. So we insisted on the buddy system, allowing the kids to change buddies throughout the day. It worked great without complaints.

My heart was full as I watched the older boys helping the girls. Lots of laughter...and sore muscles...were had by all. After a very long day on the slopes, we went back to our place for a family game night. I had prepared ahead of time some fun team building games and even brought prizes. We learned so much about each other as we laughed at confessions, our goals, and so much more.

During one of the games, Elizabeth pulled out the card that required her to tell the family something that we might not know about her. Well, out came the confession...she was the one who put the dent in the back of the van! And what made this entire story special to me is that Caleb, Vlad, and Artur knew but kept their sister's secret. I know it sounds crazy, but I loved that! I want my kids to share funny moments together.

Boot Camp Day Three:

We decided to sleep in as we were exhausted. Then we all needed to rise and shine...pack and get the entire house cleaned. This required major teamwork. And the troops rocked it out! Then we headed out for the day for a little team building. First, we competed-boys and girls-in an Escape Room. Apparently, none of us were smart enough to get out! Then, we divided into two teams and played laser tag. The kids had a blast...not even realizing that my plan to work on teamwork was a success!

As we are embarking on a new year I challenge you to make family goals. Intentional parenting is hard work. Your children must see themselves as a team. They need to learn how to work together, build one another up, and pray for each other. This will require them to put away their cell phones, turn off the video games, and simply spend time with each other.

When we have each other we have everything.

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About Me

Welcome to our home, my name is Michele. My husband, Walter, and I have been happily married (most of the time) for 28 years. My husband is the Pastor of Strong Tower Church while I work as a Critical Care Nurse. Together, we have been blessed with 10 beautiful children.

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