Book Review: “Raising Men” by Eric Davis

The last book review I did on “Discipline Equals Freedom” was a Christmas gift given to me early. I had been so excited to get it for Christmas that my wife let me open it early. Well, a week later, the book was read and the review was posted. Now I went into panic mode because I was unprepared and didn’t have my next book ready. Luckily, as she always does, my wife came through with early gift #2! She’s the best. This time, I opened a book I hadn’t placed on my Amazon wish list and this is always a good thing because my wife is very thoughtful on her gift giving. The book I got this time was titled “Raising Men” by Eric Davis. I knew, once I saw the title, that I was in for an emotional rollercoaster. I say emotional roller coaster because anyone who knows me personally and has been around my family enough knows that pouring everything I have learned from my stupid days as a teenager to an adult into my children is a top priority in my life. I knew that there would be things in this book that would convict me and challenge me. I knew that as soon as I started reading this book that I was going to be obsessed with fixing things that I have been lacking in as a father and would want to immediately start implementing the ideas suggested by Eric.

     Now, as coincidence would have it, Eric Davis is also a former Navy Seal as Jocko was in the last book I reviewed. I’m not even sure my wife made the connection so don’t go off thinking I have a “thing” for SEALs even though I respect the heck out of every single one of them. But, being military minded, I knew this SEAL’s technique parenting his kids, especially his son, would be right up my ally. I knew that we would connect on some things and I was interested to see if I was already doing some of the TTPs (Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures) that he suggests in the book.

     Eric’s background includes more than 16 years in the military and over a decade inside the SEAL teams. He was recognized as one of the premier sniper instructors in the military at his time of service. He talks about his time as an intelligence gatherer overseas and being a part of numerous operations seizing ships out in the ocean. He talks about these things and others in more detail, but that would be a post within itself. The things he described he had done in the military is quite impressive to read about and had my attention and respect immediately.

     He begins his book with an “Introduction” section. Here he outlines how the book is set up and pretty much sets the tone for what you are about to read. What I noticed immediately that I always like in books is within each chapter he has them broken down into sections. So, it makes it easy to find stopping points and allows time to be able to reflect on what you just read. Within each chapter, he also includes little blurbs of random thoughts, sayings, stories or examples of what the chapter is about. If you have a study Bible, imagine reading a chapter in Acts. As you read the story, the authors will sometimes put a section off to the side of a page explaining what’s going on or input some theological information to help wrap your head around what you are reading. This is similar to what Eric does. The main message and theme he presents in this introduction section is to “parent on purpose.” To make everything that you do about your kids and advancing them. I liked this frame of mind, because even though it took me many selfish years to understand this, the life I live isn’t for me anymore. It’s for Christ and my family. That’s it. Anything that I want personally I try and put on the back burner if there is something else I can do to further God’s kingdom or my family’s lives.

     Chapter 1 he titles “Building a Team.” Here he makes a comparison to what age a child is to what phase you are in for SEAL training. For example, he compares SEAL training weeks 1 through 7 to a newborn through age 2. He says just like the SEAL training for those weeks, parenting with a newborn through 2 years old is constantly being conditioned. Not knowing what’s coming next, late nights, early mornings, and just getting beat on physically and emotionally. It’s actually quite true as you read through it. At the end of each chapter, he provides a “Debrief” section. What he does here is basically ask those leading questions for you to honestly answer for yourself to improve. At the end of this chapter, for example, he asks the questions “What does quitting being a father look like to you? What are some examples of quitting you’ve seen in others and yourself? Do the dive buddies (he explains that term in the chapter) your kids choose help them with their mission (basically their growth and development) or hurt them? Do they produce confidence in your children? Is it something you monitor daily? What are the roles and responsibilities of each member of your team (family)? How do you and the members of your team pivot between roles and support one another?

     He calls chapter 2 “Lead from the Front.” Here he challenges the father to be the “point man” of his team. To select the routes his team will follow and to scan ahead for any enemy or obstacles that would hinder team movement. Another thing you start seeing in this chapter are stories from Eric’s wife and children corresponding to the subject discussed in the chapter. The son, Jason, who is now in his mid 20s, reflects on his dad’s teachings when he was younger and how they set him up for success as a young man. The same thing happens with his wife, Belisa. She describes as a wife how she helped support her husband’s fathering to her children for the best interest of the kids.

Chapter 3 is labeled “Don’t be Right. Be Effective.” Here he talks about owning up to your mistakes as a parent instead of trying to hide them or sugar coat them. He talks about teaching your son (and this applies to daughters as well) to own up to their mistakes. He has a section about fairness. This is something I really related to. Something I coach in correction to my children EVERY TIME I hear it is when they say “Well that isn’t fair!” It’s absolutely taboo in my home. And I say this with the risk of beginning a rant, but guess what kid? Life isn’t fair and life doesn’t care. Get that in your head now. It’s how you take that unfairness, process it, think of that 2-3 steps ahead (which should’ve already been happening) and keep moving forward. While everyone else is beat down by the so called “unfairness” you keep grinding and smash what isn’t fair in its mouth! Okay, not too bad of a rant there.

     Chapter 4 is “It’s Easier to Keep Up Than Catch Up.” The principle here is to get out of lazy parenting and engage with your kids. He has a sectioned labeled “Always Say Yes!” And it’s not so much of saying yes to having candy for dinner. Saying yes to your teen who wants to stay out till 0100. This is more along the lines when parents use “no” as the easy way out. When we as parents say things like “it’s too dangerous.” Well guess what Dad. You want to be an idol in your son’s eyes? Go attack that dangerous thing with him. Figure it out Dad. Find the sense of adventure. What about “it’s too late?” Is it too late when it’s 7PM and the sun is almost down and you’ve been at it at a long day’s work and your son wants to go pass the ball? What else you doing that it’s too late? Got things to do? Well, have you been getting up earlier to knock that stuff out so you have free time with your kids? Are you exercising and eating right to have that extra energy? We say “I’m too busy or it’s too far away.” I’d argue, as Eric does, that all this is crap and it’s our excuse as fathers that our priorities are messed up. Our routines are messed up and that we aren’t parenting with a purpose. Say yes to these activities. 

     Chapter 5 is “Hesitation Kills.” The discussion here is how he handles discipline. And as you can suspect as the title says, don’t hesitate to what he says “coach the correction” as opposed to just simply “correct” the issue. He talks about allowing your children to fail and make mistakes. Not allowing yourself to save them from doing something wrong just because it will force you to fix the problem or actually have to parent and work through the problem with them.

     Chapter 6 is a quick chapter over working with your son developing a positive mindset. 

     Chapter 7 is labeled “It Pays to be a Winner.” He talks about how to reward your son in sports. He gives his opinion on “participation trophies.” He talks about failure always being an option.

    Chapter 8 is titled “The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday.” Chapter 9 is “Get off Your Butts.” Chapter 10 is “Respect a Fight.” Chapter 11, and the last chapter, is “Taking Back What’s Mine.”

     That’s an extremely abbreviated version of each chapter, Now, my assessment of the book. It was a very positive read. When I was a younger father, I was prideful and “didn’t need any other man to teach me how to raise my kids!” How dumb and immature. Isn’t this how all mentorship is conducted in life on any topic? We seek the wisdom and guidance of individuals who have lived through a particular experience. Who have succeeded and/or failed. We learn from those experiences of others. And what I realized many moons ago was it’s all about saving as many “tools” as you can for your “tool kit.” My oldest daughter will be 12 in less than a month. So, when I talk to a friend at work or wherever and they have a 15 year old daughter for example, guess what I’m doing, I’m asking every question under the sun that I can think of to gain insight. We all should be doing that, learning from each other. I think we fail our children when we pass up an opportunity to seek guidance and advice because we think we “know it all.”

     Now, I will say, a lot of how I parent my kids, and especially my son, aligns with a lot of what Eric says. Really, it’s because it’s a military leader’s way to form a team using military leadership strategies. A civilian reading this book will understand everything in here. Don’t think that just because you don’t know how to talk “military” doesn’t mean you won’t understand anything in this book. I will also say he is a very blunt writer and uses some military language every once and while. Words kids shouldn’t be reading. But it doesn’t take away from the book. 

      I’ve already started implementing a few principles from the book into my parenting style. I think that any father that has a son will benefit from reading this book. And if you don’t have a military background, there are some really cool and exciting SEAL stories Eric talks about to drive certain points home. I mentioned in the beginning that I knew I’d be in for an emotional rollercoaster due to the reasons mentioned earlier. And they were true. He does a good job of identifying why he chooses the way he does something, why it works, and how it could be ineffective if done incorrectly. He also discusses how he developed that parenting technique from situations he learned as a SEAL leader. I rate this book a 5/5 for it’s easy to read format. its chapters broken up into sections, and the styles and techniques are challenging but obtainable. Nothing in here gave me a bad feeling of what I was reading. My wife got the book off Amazon if you are interested. If you’re a father, whether it’s this book or not, find yourself a book that will challenge you as a parent. If you say you don’t want to, then assess why? And you can’t accept the excuse of “I don’t have the money.” You can’t put a price on being a better father to your children. “I don’t need to.” If that’s the case, then why aren’t you rich for writing the most perfect parenting book in the world? “I don’t like to read.” Oh, you don’t like to provide yourself the opportunity (those who follow my blog ,we talked about opportunity, right?) to improve and humble yourself to allow a new skill or outlook on being a parent?      We owe it to our children to “parent with a purpose.” This world is going to be enough to fill our kid’s minds with filth. And honestly, we allow it most of the time. Take away the electronics. Pack the car with camping and hiking gear and get out of the house. Go play ball with the kids. Get your butt on the basketball court or the trampoline and play with your kids. Oh, you’re too out of shape? That’s your fault, not your kids. Don’t punish them for that. Oh, bad back or knees? Join the club. Men, take back what is ours. Raise these boys to be men. It’s the old saying that states “Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. Weak men create bad times. Bad times create strong men.” We are in the weak man stage. And I’m open for you to change my mind. Start today raising men. Not tomorrow. Not when they turn X age. Not just on the weekends. But NOW! I’ll see you on the battlefield!

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