“Pick your battles.”
“Take it easy.”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
“Give yourself some grace.”
These are sayings that are thrown around at parents. While, I do think that YES, we need to give ourselves grace and pick our battles, these sayings can be dangerous if we take them too seriously.
*This post originally appeared on Wiley Adventures.
Little Picture World
We live in, what I like to think of, a “little picture world.” Our society is so focused on the “now” and short-term happiness. In a little picture world, we too often let things go without realizing the full impact it can have on our children. Too often the phrase “pick your battles” is used when we’re exhausted and don’t want to follow through.
We recently made a cross-country move with our three small children. Theo, our then 3-year-old had some serious behavioral issues that started right after our move. He wasn’t listening to us, was defiant, whiny, etc. I knew he had just gone through a big life adjustment and I kept telling myself that I needed to give him a break. We had just uprooted his tiny little life for crying out loud, and being too harsh on his behavior didn’t seem fair.
Do you know what isn’t fair? To uproot a child’s life and then continue to uproot it by letting them get away with behavior that they know isn’t allowed. How incredibly confusing is that?
I realized that by letting him get away with not listening to me I was sending him the message “I don’t care enough to enforce good behavior.” Now, that doesn’t mean that every time he didn’t listen I should have taken all of his toys, revoked his T.V. privileges, and sent him to timeout for an hour; I could still respond with grace and help to ease him through our move; Simply responding with “the rule in our house is that you listen to mommy and I expect you to listen the first time. Next time you don’t listen, you are going to timeout” was enough of a reinforcement.
Remembering that my big picture was to not have defiant children helped me understand that these battles were indeed worth picking. It took a few weeks, but I stayed consistent, and Theo eventually went back to his normal self.
Big Picture Parent
Throughout my day as a stay at home mom, I am constantly asking myself if the battles are worth fighting. You know the deal, sometimes you ask your children to clean up, and they ignore you. It’s easier to clean up the toys yourself, however that is such a little picture view! The big picture is that when my children are older, I want them to be able to clean up after themselves independently. That won’t happen magically! I need to teach them to do it.
So before naptime, when I ask my children to clean up and my twin toddlers run away from me in opposite directions, I fight the urge to put them right to bed. I run after them, take them by the hands, and show them what it means to clean up; even if I have to put toys in their hands and hold out a basket for them to put them in.
Here’s my big picture: It’s easier to teach a small child to obey than a teenager, and there’s less at stake. When I think about giving in to my children when they whine because I said no, I remind myself that for their own safety, they need to learn that no means no.
Giving Yourself a Break
This whole big picture idea can sometimes leave me feeling as if I need to work on everything with my children, all at once. When I had newborn twins and a just-turned-two-year-old, you better believe that I let things go. There were many moments when my hands were literally too full to manage my two-year-old. If you are in this season, it’s important to realize it. If my hands were full with the twins and I asked Theo to come to me and he didn’t respond, I completely ignored it. When I was freed up, I would go get him. It’s important to me that my children don’t get used to me asking them to do the same thing over and over.
If I’m not feeling well and I want my children to clean up before naptime, but don’t have the energy to actually enforce it, I won’t ask them to do it. I’d rather do it the next day when I have the capacity than ask them to do it over and over.
How to Figure Out What Your Big Picture Is
I encourage you to sit down and prioritize your parenting duties! Perhaps having kind, polite children is your #1 priority, or maybe it’s children that obey on the first time or always clean up their own dishes. As you go through your day and you question whether or not the battle is worth picking, ask yourself how it fits into your big picture. If your toddler is refusing to put their shoes on independently and you know they can, maybe it’s best to let it go and focus on something else that fits into your big picture.
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