Picking Your Battles

In today’s column I discuss the perpetual struggle of parenthood: choosing which battles to fight.

With four kids, we have no shortage of struggles to choose from. But I’m learning to sort out which are worth it, and which aren’t.

The big-deal battles are the ones to do with behaviour and boundaries. As our boys get older, their vocabularies become more “colourful,” let’s say, and an attitude often creeps into their tone. That’s something we’re working to nip in the bud. The seven-year-old landed in his room before breakfast this morning for sniping at his brother after I told him to knock it off.

The not-so-big-deal battles are the ones that involve personal expression. Kids are trying to figure out who they are (so are many adults, for that matter), and I think it’s OK to give them room to do that.

Our three-year-old is deep in the middle of a Mr. Independent, I-can-do-it-myself phase.  He wants to pick his own breakfast, his own bedtime routine, you name it. And that’s fine. Tonight he decided he wasn’t going to wear a shirt to bed. I tried to convince him that he would be cold, but in the end I left him alone and made sure he had enough blankets when he fell asleep.

I do make him live with his choices, though. Whatever he chooses for breakfast, that’s what he eats. Some mornings he wants cereal, and then as soon as it’s in front of him, he says he wants something else. No dice, kid – eat what you picked. Many tears usually follow, but in the end he eats that bowl of cereal or he eats nothing.

There are still lots of grey areas on the spectrum of parent-kid struggles. And I don’t always make the right choices. But chances are we’ll figure it out eventually… after all, we’ll probably have to fight the same battles tomorrow.

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