Work was crazy busy and you finally get home. You are standing in front of the refrigerator, trying to figure out what to make for dinner and suffering from a pounding headache. Your seven year old son is in the living room playing video games still, even though you have asked him twice to cut them off and go do his homework. Then your teenage daughter comes home with a piercing that you just last week told her she couldn’t get, says she is dropping out of school and then calls you a bitch and slams the door to her room.
Parenting is not for the faint of heart.
Pick your battles. This piece of advice is thrown around quite a bit, but how do you know what battle to pick and when and how. How do you determine what is worth fighting over and what isn’t?
It boils down to four things:
Does the issue fly in the face of any value you definitely want to instill in your child?
If you don’t know what those would be, figure it out. Do you want your child to have empathy, always be honest, have ambition, model modest behavior, be free to express themselves, etc.? What values mean the most to you?
Don’t make a laundry list here, I’m talking top three. If you are having trouble weeding it down, you might want to take a look at yourself. Either you are expecting too much from them or maybe you just enjoy picking a fight.
These need to be shared with the rest of the family in order to set expectations for behavior.
For me, it is empathy, kindness, and self worth.
When my daughter was in the first grade, as I pulled up to pick her up after school, I witnessed a little boy throw a handful of dirt right in her face, and my daughter did absolutely nothing.
She didn’t yell, she didn’t tell anyone, she didn’t throw dirt back at him, just nothing.
Seems like a little thing, but just standing there and taking it was unacceptable to me.
We needed to have a conversation about what happened, what she was feeling, be it fear or that she deserved it and then come up with ideas on how she could handle a similar situation and stand up for herself.
Does the issue put your child, your family or other people in an unsafe situation? Drugs, violence, cutting, drinking and aggressive behavior all need to be addressed immediately.
There are always underlying issues why these come up. Respectful communication here is key and getting everyone the help that they need.
Right vs. Wrong
Is the issue a question of them doing something that is absolutely wrong? Are we talking something of a criminal nature or something they should absolutely know the difference between if they should be partaking in it or not. (Stealing, lying, etc.)
Finally, is it worth your sanity?
If you are teetering on the edge of a personal mental breakdown that is not the time to be taking on any battles with your child. We aren’t perfect, sometimes it doesn’t matter how badly it needs to be addressed, you need to get yourself in a better place first.
There were several things over the years that my daughter did that I wasn’t crazy about, but they didn’t fall under any of the above categories, so they weren’t worth fighting over.
Coloring her hair crazy colors, the clothes she liked to wear, some of the kids she hung out with, opening my mail or moving a piece of decor I had put up without asking. These were all minor things and I probably saved my sanity by not picking a fight over any of them.
When I say they aren’t a battle to be picked, I don’t mean not saying anything at all. If something bothers you or it is not what you would like, you can definitely express your take on it and allow them to express theirs in return.
A “battle” would be something you will not give any ground on. It’s an expected behavior that is very important to you that your child needs to exhibit or embrace.
Many “battles” could be avoided by just having a discussion with your child instead of acting like some all authoritarian dictator.
If your child doesn’t want to do their homework ask them why they don’t want to do it. Is it a matter of being lazy or do they really just not understand the principles of what they are learning?
And by the way, in that beginning scenario, the battle to be picked is dropping out of school, if it’s not obvious. Everything else is small potatoes compared with that one.
Your turn, what are your core values? Have you expressed them clearly to your child? Need to have a family meeting? Maybe you have a great story of picking the right battle, or a lesson for us when you picked the wrong one. Leave it in the comments below.
Now where the hell did she move that picture that was over the TV?