Friday, November 6, 2009

What Battles Do You Fight?

One of my best friends from high school is now the mom to three kids, one more on the way. She is a very good mother. I mean, stellar. Totally stellar. She made the very good point one day that even though some people may consider her to be too strict, she never ever has trouble finding a babysitter. Her kids are lovely to be around, even the stronger-willed ones. Her kids are simply very happy. She's doing something right.

I sometimes call her with parenting questions, and we end up talking for a couple of hours at a time. I love her, love her, love her. She is also a straight talker, sometimes pretty blunt. One of my favorite quotes of hers is something like this, "I don't get people who say that you have to choose your battles with your kids. Honey, I fight every single one with mine, always to win." As any good Southern woman, she speaks in hyperbole, so you know, she's exaggerating a little. Maybe.

Since becoming a parent, I've thought a lot about what battles are worth fighting with my child and which are okay to let go, if any. The pastor of the church I grew up in had an extremely strong willed daughter who fought them on everything. One of the battles they chose not to fight with her was the battle over what she would wear every day. So every day, she got to pick out her own clothes, even as a 3-year-old. It was entertaining to see what she'd show up to church wearing on Sundays, but her parents' allowing her this area of freedom stuck with me. I thought it was wonderful. Because really, as long as your kids aren't naked or cold, what does it matter what they're wearing?

We definitely have chosen a few battles to fight with Abe. But I want to hear from you: what battles do you fight with your kids? More accurately, which battles are you most determined to win? Why?

Ted made the very good point that talking about parenting styles is akin to discussing religion or politics. Potential touchy subject. It's partially why I didn't disclose which battles we fight with our child; too much chance of sounding pious or like I'm trying to make someone with differing styles feel guilty. So feel free to leave anonymous comments if you want your identity hidden.


coffeemom said...

Well, this is one of those that each parent has to sort out for themselves in a way. Because each of us has different values modes personalities etc. Ted is right, touchy potentially!

That said, I do think you have to pick your battles! If only to save yourself...from sheer exhaustion and burnout! So, we/I do. I long ago gave up fussing much about clothes. We get some wacky wacky outfits, especially w/ our Sbird, and right now little Gabey barely will wear any clothes at all! he's feeling very um, free spirited, of late. So be it. And as for if they are cold....well, if they don't wear enough clothes or shorts in the 30's...then I suggest warmer and if they disagree, then they are cold. Their choice, they learn. (sounds heartless, it's not, its' just that that one is experience based. period).

As for battles we do fight? Respect=kindness, saying "I'm sorry", no hitting, no lying....those are the sort of ones. And those are not so much 'battles' as they are long term training and takes much discussion and just, um, time. We expect chores to teach being helpful and so that might be considered a battle.....and maybe "battle" is the wrong word. The ones we call "battles" means that those we will carefully monitor, consequences if wrong (logical learn), etc.
A great subject. Loaded tho, yes.
But, for instance, one I don't - despite the guilty peer pressure and self doubt: potty training! Yup, Gabey still in diapers. NOT interested. Do I fret? yes. Do I pick to fight this as a battle? NO!

I have no worries about your parenting two approach it w/ love, are crazy about your kid...and have fantastic instincts. YOu're gonna do fine!!!!

Emma said...

Making a decision about which battles to fight is so connected to the parent's personality AND the personality of the kids.

My autistic son's nature requires that I pick my battles. Would I prefer that he not play obsessively with drinking straws? yes. But as he doesn't have the skills yet for an alternative, I settle for certain periods of the day when I try my best to make him do something appropriate. Can he go outside at 5 in the morning? no. He won't win that battle.

I have also chosen to fight the TV battle recently. We had some illness in the house recently and my kids got used to lots and lots of Wiggles. We are now breaking that habit and it is painful!

One thing I have found helpful is to try to think of discipline as less about fighting battles (although sometimes it has to be) and more about changing the scenario - You want to choose your clothes? You can choose between these options, it is up to you. It avoids the shorts in the middle of winter.

Very interesting post!

Gretchen Magruder said...

I think Respect is one of the battles we've chosen to fight every time...respect for your siblings and especially for your parents. I think that's been even more important for the daughter we adopted at age 6 - part of the attachment process has been understanding that we are the parents and she is not :)

That said, we may fight the battle differently depending on the instance....sometimes it's addressed immediately with correction and consequence...other times, in the heat of battle, we may choose to give her some time out (or give mommy a time out!) in her room and have a conversation about it later.

graceling said...

Things that are temporary and matters of opinion (ie, clothing, hair styles, etc) are not issues we choose to fight. We don't fight over what you eat or how much you eat (you get what you are served, eat it or don't eat it, just don't whine about it!) We don't fight about activities, or make Abigial stay in one activity/sport (although we only do one activity or sport at a time!)

Things we do fight over:
-How we treat other people- from our family to strangers. We always treat people with respect, and parents or other authority figures receive more respect. Respectful discussions about boundaries are allowed and sometimes do lead to changes. Lack of respect is not tolerated.
-School/education. It is not acceptable to do anything less than your best. We will take away other privledges if you can handle the responsibility of homework.
-Attitude. If you have a bad attitude, you are not allowed to "infect" the rest of the family. I don't care what your attitude is, but realize that if it is a bad/unpleasent attitude, you will be enjoying your bad attitude all by yourself... and not doing fun things with the rest of the family.

We don't fight battles we cannot win- for instance, people who fight over food- you can't win that battle. You can't actually make your child chew and swallow, so why fight that battle? All it does is reinforce to your child that they are going to win some of the battles.

Before taking on any battle, we come to agreement that this is something we believe is worth fight about, and what outcome we expect. Then we don't settle for anything less. Sometimes we really feel like it is "us against them," but the more consistent we are in our expectations, the less it becomes a battle and simply just a way of life for the kids. We never fight battles just to exert our dominance, but rather to help our children learn to become indepentent, competent, caring, thoughtful individuals capable of critical thinking and good decision-making. Every battle has a reason.

mama becca said...

oh. love all your commenters so far. awesome mamas! i really agree with all that they have said. some things, like respecting others and being kind, are non-negotiables. you will respect me as your mother, you will respect your siblings. you will respect your friends, you will listen, etc.
Our biggest thing is to just not compare our family to others. We have three unique little souls that we know best, because we are their parents. So we adjust for each child, and the adjustments are constant!!! but we try to listen well to them too, and respect where they are emotionally, and guide them to a better place if they need a little help on any given day. Extra TLC always seems to help in all negative situations.
One thing I haven't done with Leah or Pete, and will not do with Sam, is potty train. that's just a personal preference. I just didn't want to stress my kids out with that if they weren't ready. So, I'd ask occasionally if they'd want to try to potty... if they said "no" i'd drop it. Then, around age 3 with each, they just said "yes!" one day, and that was that. easy breezy! hoping for the same with Sammy :).
Great post!

Gretchen said...

Solomon will never be given any choices- it will all be up to me. Every. Single. Thing. Why? Because I'm the boss.

Hell ja.


PS- I am Courtney. And I approve of this blog post.

Gretchen said...

Take THAT Nicole!

Sweet! 2 comments from me- how lucky are you today?

Nicole said...


I love you guys.

Anyway...picking battles.

I have a tween. A tween girl. I was an angel child. I jumped when my mama said jump.


Lil' Bit is a bit more difficult at times. Right now, we are battling typical tween girl issues. Clothes, texting/internet usage and helping around the house. Sometimes, she will get a sassy mouth when I ask her to do something related to the 3 things above. I do not like sassy talk. Not at all. Especially when it comes from the mouth of my 11,almost 12 year old. I tell her often the sass stops here. I mean, I know sass probably comes with the whole tween territory and all, but no. Not when speaking to your mama.

She's even begun to use the phrase "But so and so's mom lets her do this or that" I reply back the same way my mama did, 'Well, I'm not so and so's mom, am I?"

It's so awesome.

I tell her she can find other words, more appropriate words to communicate her dislike. Doesn't mean I am going to change my mind. As Courtney said, I'm the boss, yo.

I cannot abide the SASSY, RUDE talk. That's a battle I am determined to win right now.

Ask me again next week what the battle du jour will be. Entering very scary territory here...the teen years.

Melissa said...

I do pick my battles and generally do all right. My kid's one of those nice kids. I get comments from a lot of people about how polite and friendly he is. But I'm careful to make most everything a choice for him. Clean up toys, or have them put away until you earn them back. Ask nicely or you don't get anything. Brush your teeth or no sugar (including juice, flavored yogurt, etc.). Eat that toothpaste, and I'll have to put it away. Same went for playdough, and crayons when he was younger. As for clothes? Whatever goes -- it doesn't matter to me as long as he won't be too hot or cold. It doesn't really matter if he dresses as a pirate for church, or wears a sarong to the babysitter's (I only wish I was kidding there). Lipstick an mascara? He used to like it when he was little, but he grew out of it. The only things I really limit him on are those that'll get him teased -- pink Dora runners for preschool and whatnot. Otherwise... it's all good. Afterall what's better than a well-mannered pirate?

Gretchen said...

Crap. Now that you told people to read the comments... I should clarify.

I am not the boss.

And I do plan on buying the Supernanny book to get through all the hard times.

Gretchen said...


I am the boss.


What's the right answer?

los cazadores said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
los cazadores said...

That post was removed by me. I posted it, then deleted it, and now I'm back to repost it.


Seriously though sometimes the blog world freaks me out. I should just give up the computer entirely, cold turks.

All the Mamas above seem pretty great.

So basically what I wrote was Olly Ash throws books in frustration. At 15 months old. I'm pretty sure I want to teach him this is not acceptable behavior to throw books in frustration in the house, so we sally forthwith battling this battle the way we know how...

There I said it. Un-Anonymously.


los cazadores said...

OMG, the Supernanny has a book. Will be buying it immeades.

graceling said...

Potty Training. Ugh. How I wish every child was as easy as Abigail: at 20 months she wanted me to buy her sparkly Nemo panties. I told her I would buy them, but if she peed/pooped in them, I would take them away. She never peed/pooped in them. That was that.

Anna is capable of being potty trained. Some days she wants to wear her panties. Some times she asks for a diaper or pull up. She loves her teacher (Mr. Ike) at day care, and will be dry/clean all day when she is with him.

Apparently, she does not love us as much and routinely asks for a diaper or pull up at home. When she is ready, she will leave behind the ways of the mess and stink. Until then, why fight about it? Can I actually make her pee or poop on the potty? No, so why fight about it? Potty training is not a battle we fight. Ever.

Bedtime. That one we fought. And won. And now, the hours of 8:30pm to 6am are blissfully quiet. And daytime hours are much better because my 2 year old is not nutty.

Sara said...

I'm working hard on the if-you cry/whine/tantrum-you're-not getting-what you want battle. Just today we had to listen to Turo cry/shriek at breakfast because he wanted to play in grandma's awesome playroom rather than eat. So, we just offered him his food and ignored his claim of being "all done." Eventually, he ate, and when he nicely said he was finished I let him down. I think we're starting to see a peak of the "terrible-twos" and it isn't looking pretty.

Lori said...

Yes! Supernanny! We have her two books, currently loaned out to a friend, need to get them back. We love Jo Frost in the Rooney house.