By Michelle Mady
Raising children sometimes seems like you are constantly in an unwinnable war. You zig, they zag. You plan, they laugh directly in your face and go so far off the plan that you don’t even remember what the plan was. It can be so tiring to try and get your child to do the “right” thing.
And support their feelings.
And hold your boundaries.
And nurture independence.
And teach empathy.
And enforce rules.
And the list goes on.
As a parent of young children, basic behavior management can be daunting. There is so much pressure to do everything the “right” way. There’s gentle parenting, responsive parenting, attachment parenting…. There's even something called being a unicorn parent. There are so many facets to take into consideration, how can you parent without losing it?
As a parent of young children, basic behavior management can be daunting. There is so much pressure to do everything the “right” way.
One day, as I was on my kindergartener about playing with her food. It was driving me crazy, and I kept trying to redirect her in a positive way, feeling myself seconds from losing it. Then, my husband looked at me and said:
“Why is this bothering you so much?”
And I stopped in my tracks and could not come up with a good answer. Now, I do know that there are reasons that playing with your food is a behavior to redirect, but in that moment, I couldn’t come up with one good reason. It was bothering me so much because she just SHOULDN’T. I couldn’t come up with the why.
That’s when I decided on my plan of picking battles.
When I start to get worked up about something, I ask myself why it is bothering me.
Sometimes it is a safety issue, so I choose that battle and keep going strong.
Sometimes it is because I had a bad day at work and I’m not in the mood to deal with the mess that is imminent. Those battles I leave for a bit, and come back to later.
Sometimes the why is because it is a building block to later learning and growth. I will pick a few of those battles when I am in a patient mood.
And sometimes, I just can’t find a good reason other than that it is against the “rules.” Whose rules? If they are mine and my husband’s rules, I think those through and think about why those rules are important. If they are society’s rules, well, why start playing by those in the heat of a parenting battle?
I have found that there is no golden rule about which battles to pick. There are battles that you will pick that I won’t. There are battles that I pick that you may think are absurd. But at the end of the day, discovering WHY something is a battle to begin with helps to decide if it is worth taking on. I have also found that NOT picking a battle is a great growth opportunity for your child.
I have found that there is no golden rule about which battles to pick. There are battles that you will pick that I won’t.
Take teenagers for instance. Have you ever tried to make a teenaged boy wear his winter coat in 20-degree weather only for him to insist that his hoodie is plenty? Well my friends, I have. And it is NOT worth fighting. He will learn when his body is cold. He will start to listen to the cues his body is giving him. And, most importantly, he will learn that he can make choices and those choices have consequences.
Isn’t that what we are really trying to teach children? To become their own people, listen to their strengths and support their weaknesses? I feel that every time I pick (or don’t pick) a battle, I am getting them just a little closer to the person they are meant to be.
About the author: Michelle is a mom of 5 children ranging in age from 5 to 15. As a toddler and preschool teacher, she shares experiences, activities and guidance to other parents, as both a parent and as a professional early childhood educator, at any stage of their parenting journey.
Photo credit: iStock.com/fotostorm