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This One Morning Routine Could Change the World

Ok, perhaps not THE world, but your kid’s world. . . this Navy Admiral says, "Make your bed!"

Primerrily isn’t here to reinvent the wheel of civic-minded parenting. We’re thrilled to report that there are tons of wonderful America-loving, values-based ideas and resources already out there. So our patriotic passion is to curate the best of the best (and most fun of the fun) to make them seamless and approachable in your everyday life as a parent, aunt, uncle, grandparent, etc. On that note. . .

On this Veterans Day, we are reminded of one veteran in particular -- US Navy four-star Admiral William H. McRaven -- who put forth a Primerrily-worthy idea back in 2014, which we filed away in our mental archives. Admiral McRaven’s commencement address (watch here at 4:45 to 6:15, though the full twenty minutes is highly recommended!) to the graduating class at University of Texas-Austin went viral. You may remember his speech, or at least its opening SEAL training lesson: Make Your Bed. We loved it when we first heard it, and now that we have kids of age who are (sort of) capable of making their beds, we ask ourselves, “Why wait for college?!” Here is the excerpt:

Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Vietnam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed. If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack — that's Navy talk for bed.

It was a simple task — mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that we were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle-hardened SEALs, but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.

If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can't do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.

And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made — and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.

If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

Right now, we are our kids’ worlds. It is “primerrily” on us to shape, brighten, and strengthen their worlds, all to prepare them for the real world ahead. We’ll do this, bit-by-bit, fall-by-fall, praise-by-praise, with trial and error for sure. So the way we see it, when Admiral McRaven says, “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed,” let’s tell our kids!

When my kids make their beds, somewhere in their subconscious, they know they own that responsibility and, as a result, that accomplishment. The morning has started on a productive and positive note. In their small worlds, that’s a huge feat. And whether they’re aware of it or not (we tend to think “not”), they are learning by doing. Doing this responsibility teaches about order (this is a task to start my day), process (place the pillow, then pull the sheet), ownership (a playful take on “you’ve made your bed, now lie in it”), and pitching in (oh no, better not make Mama do it for you. . .).

This tip was offered by a military veteran; however to be clear, this is far from a militant suggestion! No, we are not asking our kids to “square the corners” or center the pillow (well, ok ya, center it!). We are simply asking them to learn about taking a little responsibility for themselves, having some pride in their work, and contributing to the family community.

Some other virtue-building “habits” to incorporate into your kids’ character repertoire:

  • Give them the opportunity to plan the next day’s outfit t before bedtime to practice planning ahead, as well as (some*) sense of agency and decision-making. *To avoid headache, we suggest whittling down the clothing options prior to their choosing. ;)

  • Request their help in the kitchen. If you’re thinking that’s way more trouble and messiness than it’s worth, we got you! We’re talking tasks like plucking cilantro or rosemary leaves, breaking the ends off green beans, tossing a salad. You can talk about how they are part of the long and intertwined chain of events (how’s that for farm-to-table!) that ends with a delicious meal in their tummies.

  • Ask them to help set the table. This task could mean as little as clearing the randomness off the dinner table or placing the napkins at each seat. Playing a role in the family’s bigger picture gives them an opportunity to puff up with pride as they hear you say, “Hey honey, those napkins and forks look great! What a good helper you are.”

  • Have them help in laundry duty with a task as simple as "find the matchy-matchy!" They'll actually have a blast finding the matching socks to pair together. Bonus: watching them try to bundle them by folding one sock into another is almost like a Rubik's cube challenge -- hilariously adorable. We'll give an A+ for effort here!

So, tonight, give your kids a heads up that they’ll be making their beds tomorrow. Help them out the first few times. Explain why they’re being asked of this (for instance, “a new privilege and responsibility because they are getting bigger). Then see how the task (hopefully!) sticks. Bonus: it’s pretty darn cute to see the result of their best effort -- like placing their “stuffies” just so.


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