Save Your Battles
By Sarah E. Ludwig
One thing I've learned from being a parent is that picking your battles is immeasurably important – otherwise you'll be fighting them 24/7.
When my daughters were younger, I spent way too much time saying, “No, don't do that” and not nearly enough time enjoying my girls. Now before I get upset about something, I think about whether or not it's really worth the battle.
I want to raise responsible, kind, reliable, honest, hard-working kids, so of course there has to be discipline in our house. But I'm talking about not battling over the little things that just aren't worth a fight.
For example when Rachel, my tween, wears an outfit that doesn't really match, I let her know it doesn't match. But since it doesn't bother her, I let her wear it. Or when Logan mixes all the PlayDoh colors together, I wouldn’t do that, but I let him mix them together all he wants. And when Cody insists on wearing his Spiderman costume to bed, even though it's ridiculously tight and coming apart, I let him wear it.
My rule of thumb is that as long as their actions aren't hurting or endangering anyone, and as long as there are no moral issues involved, I will let them do it. Since I’ve stopped getting on them for every little thing, my kids listen to me much better now because they know the things I do fight for are important.
The battles worth fighting at our house are
- what TV shows my kids watch
- how much time they spend watching TV and playing on the computer versus how much time they spend in creative play
- how they treat each other – nicely rather than hitting or name-calling
- if they’re learning to be responsible and dependable
- if they’re cleaning up after themselves.
These issues are worth battling over for me because they have an impact on the formation of my children’s character.
So if I’m not a big fan of the shoes my daughter is wearing today, or if my son is making a huge mess in his room but having a great time, I ask myself: Is this issue really worth fighting about? Will my son have to pick up his mess? Of course. Should I instruct my daughter about choosing appropriate shoes so she knows how to dress herself when she actually cares about how she looks? Sure. But giving my children choices and letting them make their own decisions is a big part of growing up. If they can't make their own choices in the small things, how will they be able to make decisions when it counts?
Guidance and consequences are necessary, but I save my battles for the big issues.
Sarah E. Ludwig is the mom of four kids, 11-year-old fraternal twin girls and two boys 7 and 5. Check out her blog at ParentingByTrialandError.com