Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Sometimes You Have to Choose Your Battles

When you have children, there are times you have to decide which battles are worth fighting.

A while back, my three year-old daughter (we'll call her "Thing 3") wanted macaroni and cheese for breakfast. (With toast.) I considered this for a moment, then decided, "Sure, why not?" If it was something she would actually eat--which she did--it was not worth fighting her about it.

Yesterday, Thing 3 wanted an English muffin for breakfast. I made the decision that she didn't need an English muffin. And that's when the battle lines were drawn. She started screaming. (Yes, literally screaming.) But, since I had told her "no," I had to stand my ground. If I were to give in because she started to scream, then I would be opening the door to more and more screaming. Hey, if it works, she's going to keep doing it, right? She kept up the screaming for a full 30 minutes. Oh, there were some skirmishes in that time: I talked to her, reasoned with her, argued with her, yelled at her, and put her in time out, but the screaming continued. Eventually, though, she gave in. No English muffin. She went on with her breakfast, and we had a (moderately) pleasant day.

But, believe me, if I had known how long she was going to scream, I would have given her the darn English muffin at the start!

Was it worth the fight?

In war movies they're always saying things like, "we've got to take that hill," or "we've got to keep that hill." One of the toughest things about being a parent is knowing which of those "hills" are worth fighting for.

I quickly assessed the "macaroni and cheese for breakfast hill" and deemed it unworthy of a fight. (So, she eats mac for breakfast? Hey, at least she's eating something.) Had I known the casualties I would incur (my sanity, my eardrums), I wouldn't have fought on "English muffin hill." But, because I started the fight, I had to hold my ground or risk losing other battles which are more important.

You see, some hills must be fought for every single time! The "wiping your bum after going potty hill" is something you must go to battle for every time. That hill is worth it. As my kids get older and approach their teenage years, more battles are looming that must be waged: the "drinking hill," the "smoking hill," the "drug hill," the "sex hill," and the "no texting while driving hill" are just some of the hills that must be fought for.

Thinking of some of those upcoming battles makes things like the "wear clothes that match hill" and the "do your hair before you go out hill" seem pretty trivial. I think it makes a difference if your kids can see that the things you are fighting for are for their benefit in the long term. It will certainly help make the battles easier if they understand that you're battling for them instead of just against them.

But, the battles will always rage--there are battle lines being drawn all the time. It's up to us as parents to choose which battles are worth fighting. (And sometimes that might mean macaroni and cheese for breakfast.)

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