Raising Joyful Soldiers: Practical Methods for Teaching Children to be Responsible, Productive Leaders in a Survival Situation – Part 1, by Dr. W

The very first writing prize on this blog was awarded to an article titled “Preparing Your Children”, which explored the mindset and general principles of nurturing our children to become responsible adults who can survive and thrive in a post-collapse setting. This article will guide readers away from the general to the specific, exploring, in detail, easy-to-implement principles and activities that parents can begin to apply now, regardless of their children’s ages and stages, to the nitty-gritty details of raising our children day to day.

As a homeschooling family with several children, we aimed to raise our kids to love God and have fun enjoying the many blessings and privileges He’s given us but always with a sober eye to the possibility that they may one day be forced to raise their own children in a drastically different environment. As a result, all of our work, play, worship, study, and mealtime conversations were done with a subtle preparedness mindset, so that it naturally and easily became a part of who we were, both during the years we lived in a rural setting and now in our home in a big city (where they can attend college).

Through all the years of raising our family, we’ve lived “normal” lives. Our primary focus has been on preparing our children to seek first the Kingdom of God and be of service there. We have come to realize, however, that as a result of this, the principles, methods, and activities described below have, in fact, produced well-adjusted young adults who are becoming increasingly prepared to adapt to any scenario.

May these thoughts equally serve your family, or at least provide a wellspring of ideas to adapt to your particular situation. After all, the great work we have been given to make disciples of all nations is a shared work that involves all people through all of history. Therefore, our focus and hope naturally falls on the next generation to continue to build the Kingdom.

This article has two parts. Part One offers useful principles and methods– the ones we applied at every age and stage in raising our own children. Part Two chronicles practical activities and ideas we applied at specific stages, and these are divided into three categories– infants and toddlers, younger children, and older children.

Part One: Principles for All Ages

In a worst-case scenario, immediate obedience could be a matter of life and death, as one small act of disobedience could endanger the entire group. Self-control is of paramount importance not only for safety but also for harmonious living with others. Good stewardship of personal health likewise affects self and others, especially in tight living quarters. Responsible use of resources is vital, and, as the saying goes, attitude is everything. The following ideas, which are not age-specific, all bear these facts in mind:

  1. By far the most valuable “cache” we created was the Word of God, buried deep within the hearts of our children. A wise pastor once suggested we commit to memory not just verses but rather entire chapters and books. This turned out to be surprisingly easy with a simple routine implemented at an early age. We began our experiment by selecting one of the shorter books from the New Testament. We simply recited, out loud, one verse at a time before each meal. We started this before most of our children were old enough to read, as memorization is primarily auditory. (You recall those silly TV jingles you heard repeatedly as a child and can still bring to mind at the mention of just the first couple of words or notes.) As each verse was mastered, we tacked on another to our pre-meal ritual, until a chapter had been memorized almost effortlessly, at which time we all celebrated with a big treat and moved on to the next chapter. In less than a year, our two oldest children could jump on their beds and recite the entire book. (This resulted in almost 30 minutes of welcomed reprieve for Mama, who could get chores done knowing her kids were engaged in a safe activity that built character as well as mental and physical fitness.) This skill served our children well throughout their academic years and was also used to memorize other edifying writings—some of them extremely long—all with minimal effort.
  2. Equally important has been our commitment to daily devotions as a family, which we view as our duty and privilege but which also has innumerable practical benefits. Subjects like emergency medicine, food rationing, and defensive drills can be scary for children, but daily prayer to the One who provides wisdom and protection helps us keep things in perspective, building faith rather than fear. We constantly remind ourselves and one another that should our children ever find themselves separated from their family in a stressful situation, they are not truly alone.

    Our devotions include the singing of psalms, which over the years have created another cache of resources for times of stress. Once, while on an unexpectedly difficult hike out of the Grand Canyon with friends from church, our oldest daughter decided to sing the psalms to help keep her mind off the pain. We later learned from one of the elders in our church, a non-hiker who found himself in a world of hurt during the hike, that he would have given in to the pain and simply quit, had he not been able to listen to this “angel” singing the psalms the whole way out.

  3. From birth we tried to make our children a part of every activity, from chores to work to study. Infusing all our preparedness activities with a sense of fun and games created enthusiastic buy-in. My kids became adept at and now enjoy using the Food Saver, dehydrating foods, preparing healthy meals, reading articles on preparedness, practicing first aid, attending firearms safety courses, seeing who can use the smallest towel to dry off after a shower, et cetera.
  4. Training in self-control and sexual purity began in infancy during diaper changing times, when a gentle “No” from Mama taught our babies to lie still and keep curious fingers where they belong. As children grew, frank discussions about the devastating outcomes we witnessed from the poor choices made by other teens cultivated in our children their own desire for chastity. Knowing that our family’s retreat will likely include as many children as adults, we are trusting God that this lifelong training will minimize the chance that promiscuity will disrupt an already stressful living environment.
  5. We removed sugar from our diets once we started having children. This not only reduced medical bills and fostered healthy eating habits, but it also made it possible to use simple things like raisins or homemade fruit ice cream as treats. It’s amazing how far you can stretch the goodies when a lollipop is measured in terms of licks rather than bites. Since these types of treats were easy and plentiful, our kids grew up thinking we were the most generous parents in the world when it came to showering them in goodies, and they never felt deprived. This changed somewhat as they unavoidably spent more time in the world of candy bars and Doritos and learned of our ruse. However, an important appreciation for healthy food had already been well inculcated by then.
  6. Serving others has been another attitude and skill set we tried to develop through the years. As a family, we have made it a point to make things, like picking up litter, harvesting local fruit and delivering it to food banks, or playing Secret Santa year around for a single working mother fun outings that the kids enjoyed. (We even stealthily sneaked in during the day and left a clean house and a meal in the fridge, and then giggled the rest of the year every time we run into this person.) At birthday time, each family member gets to choose a service project we all participate in, helping keep the focus on other people rather than on self. We pray this will help them as young adults be prepared to wisely but joyfully share their food when they themselves might be hungry.
  7. Finally, getting rid of our television and making the outdoors their playground allowed our children to become accustomed to healthy play that challenged body and mind, at all ages. Whether we were in the mountains or in the city, they came to enjoy activities, like making homemade bows, arrows, and targets; engaging in Airsoft gun fights; constructing shelters, teepees, and miniature homesteads; playing Hide-and-Seek; growing larger and larger gardens; and exploring the neighborhood for edible plants and fruits. These all translated into practical skills that could be useful in a retreat setting. We also look for opportunities to pursue physical fitness as a family. We’ve recently begun to participate in Spartan Races, which are elaborate obstacle and endurance races that promote rigorous training of body and mind at age-appropriate levels. (See www.spartan.com)