Choose Your Battles – Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Psychologist James Dobson wrote a book entitled Parenting Isn’t for Cowards. In that book, he explains how it’s important, as a parent, to choose your battles wisely when dealing with your child’s behaviour or misbehaviour.
When a child is born into a family, the parents will want to discuss ideas about discipline and training their child. They’ll want to decide upon which behaviours are absolutely forbidden and which ones will simply be tolerated. Each family will choose for themselves, but the following are commonly considered battle offenses among many families:
* Lying is one thing not tolerated by many parents. In fact, parents want their children to learn to be honest in all areas of their lives. Honesty and trust go hand-in-hand; if your child can’t be honest with you, it will erode your trust in them which will adversely affect your relationship with them.
* Stealing is another no-no that most parents try to teach their children about. Not only does stealing, no matter how small the item, affect a child’s relationship with the person they’ve stolen from, it could begin a life-long bad habit with possible legal ramifications.
* Hitting is also often not tolerated by most parents. Some will teach their child to not hit another in any circumstance, but others will teach their children to stand up for themselves if they have been punched or hit first. You’ll want to decide which approach is best for your family.
* Talking back often strikes a nerve with many parents, no matter how old the child is the first time it happens. Parents want their children to be respectful when talking to them. Talking back is not tolerated well; many parents will deal harshly with this activity.
* Name calling is also not allowed in many families. Many children will call others names out of anger, so one way to confront the problem is to help the child deal with their feelings. If they can control their anger, the name calling may stop.
Once you’ve decided which behaviours are not going to be tolerated in your family, you’ll want to discuss appropriate discipline for those behaviours. In this respect, whatever discipline is chosen, be consistent. Your child will learn quicker that you’re serious about these behaviours if you consistently stop them, remind them that they’re not tolerated in your home, and that they will be dealt with accordingly. Consistency with the important issues will help your child learn what is acceptable and what is not.
You’ll also want to discuss behaviours which aren’t so important. Some of these might be dawdling, not cleaning their room, dying their hair outrageous colours, or getting their nose pierced. These may be actions which you’re not happy about, but they may simply be your child’s way of expressing themselves.
You don’t have to make every misstep or misbehaviour the starting point for a battle. Choose your battles wisely; save the battles for the things which will have the most impact on their future if allowed to continue. Remember, you can learn not to sweat the small stuff but let it pass and then you’ll be ready when a real battle must be fought and won.