We’re all heard the expression “pick your battles” but as parents we’re often challenged with what battles are worth fighting and what are worth letting go. We can easily get caught up in the “do as I say because I said so” approach and dig in our heels until our kids comply. We can also get stuck in our thinking. For example, “No kid of mine is going to have green hair” or “I got by without an IPod so he can too”. When do we stick to our guns and when do we let go?
One of the first things we have to look at is the real reason we want our kids to do something or not do something. Is it a subconscious need to control? Will it ultimately teach an important life lesson? Does it reflect a value you hold close to your heart? Is there something you insist your child will accomplish that you weren’t able to? Are you afraid of something reflecting badly on you? What is it all about? Sometimes our reasons for holding our ground are misguided. In the long term, they really don’t teach anything valuable. There are battles worth fighting though because they teach valuable lessons we know will benefit our kids in life. They contribute to their emotional, physical and spiritual well-being.
What kind of relationship do you want with your child? Most of us, if not all of us will say we want a close, loving, mutually respectful relationship. We want our kids to feel they can come to us with anything and that home is always a safe and loving place to be. What happens to the relationship when home is always a battle ground? What happens when every issue turns into an argument? The relationship is tarnished and the closeness we so badly want and our kids need, is lost. Adolescents will seek out that closeness and open communication from peers. Is that what we want?
One battle I gave up early into my parenting career was insisting on a tidy bedroom. I realized it would probably mean constant nagging and there were other things that were far more important in my opinion. It was their personal space and the one room in the house they could control, with a few exceptions. I would though role model a tidy bedroom and a reasonably clean and ordered home. To me, insisting my kids keep their room clean really wasn’t teaching them anything important. I learned early on that nagging and lecturing was exhausting and I wanted to be careful how I expended my energy. What made more sense to me was insisting they clean up their own messes in the spaces we all shared. The lesson was: “When you live in a shared living space, everyone does their part to keep it tidy.”
When you really start to ask yourself: “Is this a battle worth fighting”, you’ll be able to let some go. It’s a very liberating feeling and you’ll have more energy for important things like loving.