A father of 3 says his Marine Corps drill sergeant taught him the skill that became the single most important thing he did as a parent

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Andrew WittmanAndrew WittmanWho are you and what do you aspire to?

  • Building an identity statement - "I am this who does that" - is key for parents.
  • That's according to mental toughness coach and former Marine Andrew Wittman, whose personal identity statement is, "I am a man of excellence who always keeps his word."
  • Wittman said you should model the traits you want your kids to emulate and guide them in crafting their own identity statements as well.


Before Andrew Wittman enlisted in the Marine Corps, he was, by his own admission, "fat and very unfit."

The behaviors that made him feel comfortable were "eating chips and lying on the couch."

But by the time he left the Marine Corps, Wittman writes in the forthcoming "Seven Secrets of Resilience for Parents," he was a "lean, green, fighting machine."

Wittman is a mental toughness coach who has also been a police officer and a federal agent. In the book, he writes that this shift began to happen when his drill instructor changed Wittman's beliefs about himself.

Wittman writes that each night before lights out, his drill instructor would prompt the platoon to recite the same phrase: "Devil Dog, Shock Troop, Blood-sucking War Machine, Ready to Fight, Ready to Kill, Ready to Die, but Never Will!"

That prompted Wittman to believe in himself as a capable person, which in turn changed the way he behaved. That is to say, by describing himself differently, Wittman began to act differently, a phenomenon that's been documented in scientific research.

Today, as the father of three kids between the ages of 14 and 20, Wittman has made sure to stick to his personal identity statement: "I am a man of excellence who always keeps his word."

In fact, he writes that building your own identity statement - which should read "I am this who does that" and encompass who you are and who you aspire to be - is the "single most important thing you can do as a parent." That's because it will remind you to be a role model for those values and qualities you want your kids to embody.

Wittman has also encouraged his kids to build identity statements. His 14-year-old daughter's identity statement is, "I am a hard-working young lady who dominates and is devoted."

You can guide your children toward their own identity statements, he writes, not only by "living your own identity and modeling those traits you want to pass on to them," but also by having explicit conversations about the strengths you hope they'll emulate.

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