The Battle to Choose
I was helping to paint in a friend’s house last weekend when her two boys came in. They started asking repeatedly if they could help paint (we were doing a technical, faux-finish) and she said, repeatedly, no. One of the boys proceeded to pick up a brush and start dabbing at the walls. I said, “Tommy, I don’t think you’re hearing your mom. She said no.” Tommy just kept dabbing at the wall. Cheryl, the mom, just looked at me and sighed and said, “I have to pick my battles!”
It’s true that every parent has to pick which battles to engage in or else we’d be nagging and reminding and reprimanding all day long. But there is one battleground that you must engage in every single time. When you do this, you will minimize the skirmishes about other things.
What is this mystery battle? It’s the quest for respect. When you loose your child’s respect, you loose the ability to parent him. Most parents loose their child’s respect by inches. Letting her get away with disrespecting you by not listening to you is the quickest way to loose her respect and your authority.
When I say “authority”, I’m not talking about total control. We can never totally control another human being and it’s a mistake to try. I’m talking about basic respect and the ability to enforce your household rules.
Your kids have to listen to you. It’s your job to keep them safe and to help them learn how to be productive, healthy people. If they don’t listen, you loose your ability to be effective. Also, beyond your own relationship with your children is their ability to respect and listen to the other adults in their lives. Your children simply cannot bowl through life thinking they know it all and not listening to anyone around them.
It’s up to you to be a loving authority in your home. When you choose to make this a priority when picking your battles, you ease the pressure on many other areas. Suddenly, you’re not battling over sweets or chores or play-dates any more. Instead you’re having real conversations about how and why you choose to make the rules you do. You will still run up against your child’s difference of opinion and an occasional attitude; but when your child respects you these battles come up less often.
Choose this battle. Command your child’s loving respect as you set and enforce appropriate rules. Your whole family wins the war when this particular battle is over.
Parenting Help by Shelly Walker