Former Navy SEAL offers parenting tips, new book to help kids overcome fear

It’s something they don’t always teach boys and girls in the classroom: How can a child learn to conquer their deepest fears?

John Willink, better known as “Jocko” by those who follow his highly ranked podcast and New York Times bestselling leadership book series, is now tackling such a question with his new book, “Mikey and the Dragons,” applying lessons he learned as longtime Navy SEAL and combat veteran.

“As we get older, we look back at our childhoods and everything feels so insignificant. But the fear that kids have is real, it is their world,” he told Fox News. “In my life, when I got older, I had to overcome fear as well. So overcoming fear is a big deal, and that’s what this book is about. I wanted kids to realize you can overcome your fears.”

Book cover: "Mikey and the Dragons" by Jocko Willink

Book cover: "Mikey and the Dragons" by Jocko Willink (Jocko Willink/Di Angelo Publications)

In his latest effot, a young boy named Mikey comes upon a book about a young prince who must face his fears, and battle dragons that threaten his home village. And from that fictitious world, Mikey also begins to comprehend how he, too, can confront his personal demons.

“Number one, you have to face your fears. If you try to avoid them, they are never going to go away. And the other major point is that most of what you are afraid of is actually in your head, it is not the thing itself,” Willink explained, detailing the lessons parents can reiterate from the book. “Hesitate in the moment, waiting for that thing to happen, the anticipation – waiting for that thing is much worse. You have got to stand up straight. Face your fears and they are not going to be as bad as you thought they were going to be.”

Willink retired from the Navy in 2010, after 20 years of service, having received both the Silver and Bronze Star for duties undertaken in the Iraq War. “Mikey and the Dragons” marks his third children’s book, following a recently published a series of children’s novels entitled “Way of the Warrior Kid.”

“I have four kids of my own, and I found that there wasn’t a lot of books that I found taught the same kind of things I wanted my own kids to learn,” the father of three daughters and one son, whose ages span from nine to 19, explained. “Because there was this gap, I decided I could either complain about it, or I could actually do something about it.”

While it is a far cry from a career characterized by bullets and battlefields, a profession in children’s writing seemingly flowed naturally.

“When I sit down, I just start writing, and it comes out. It’s pretty easy for me to tap into my immature brain and relate to kids,” Willink noted. “I was a good babysitter when I was younger, and loved being with my kids when they were younger. And now, I have a great time with my kids as they are growing up, I have a good relationship with all of them.”



Drawing from his years spent leading a battalion in some of Iraq’s bloodiest battles, followed by civilian life training top CEOs and corporations to better their success through enhanced leadership, Willink has some words of wisdom for the millions of other American parents tasked with raising the next generation.

“The first thing I tell people is your kids aren’t going to be who you want them to be. They are going to be who they are. The more you try to force them to be what you want them to be the harder you are going to force them to push back against that and that can have some devastating results,” he said. “And you have got to keep the guard rails up – don’t let them do anything that is going to ruin the rest of their life, but if they bump into the guard rails and get a little bit dinged up, that’s okay.”

Retired Navy SEAL and children's book author, John "Jocko" Willink

Retired Navy SEAL and children's book author, John "Jocko" Willink (Jocko Willink (St. Martin's Press))

And lastly, Willink pointed out, “if you are helping them too much, you are hurting them.”

“If you keep tying shoes for them, then you are robbing them of the opportunity to develop their fine motor skills. It could take longer, but they are going to learn to be responsible for themselves," he said. "From a very young age, most human beings don’t want to take responsibility for what happens in their world. They want to blame other people and blame other things.”

“When you walk into the kitchen and there is milk on the floor – it is not ‘I spilled the milk, the milk spilled.’ As if the milk had a life of its own. Teaching your kids at a young age that they are responsible for their actions and they need to take ownership of their actions is the one thing I have always tried to let fly in my house.”

“Mikey and the Dragons” is published through Jocko Publishing in conjunction with Di Angelo Publications. It becomes available November 15, 2018.