Here’s the thing about parenting: it’s hard. You have this person/persons that you are responsible for, and you have no idea what to do.  When they’re little they mainly listen to you and do what you ask…but as they get older…

Here’s the other thing: they are supposed to become more independent as they get older.  They are supposed to start thinking for themselves.  Which often comes at odds with what our rules and expectations are as parents.  And yesterday I clearly stated that we are parents, not friends and we have to respect the parent/child relationship as such.

But..

You have to be logical.

Which means that while you have and should have rules (kids need boundaries) you also have to figure out what to push and what to pull back from.  You must choose which battles are the ones you really want to fight.

Example: the hills I will die on are drinking, smoking and drugs. I will not tolerate any of these while she is a teenager living in my house and I am financially supporting her. End of discussion.  My family has issues with addictive behavior, and if there is a genetic component to addiction (which I firmly believe there is) I want her to be aware of it, and I want to go to whatever length possible to make sure she doesn’t go down this road. These are the battles I will fight and I don’t care what anyone else thinks about it.

Since I really hold the line on these things, I loosen up on others.  My daughter doesn’t eat beef, pork or poultry, and hasn’t since fifth grade.  I have had people tell me I’m crazy to “allow” this.  My feeling is as long as she’s healthy and makes healthy food choices and the Doctor says she’s OK, then I’m OK with that.  My daughter is often up till 2am studying- and then up at 6:30 (you do the math on how much sleep she isn’t getting) I have learned to lighten up on this.  (Of course- at her 9th grade physical I told the Doctor my concern at her lack of sleep and the Doctor said not to worry- high achievers don’t sleep much) I don’t blink when she leaves the house with midriff bearing shirts.  I wince at high heels but only because I fear she will break a leg because she is not always gazelle like. And I could go on.

I choose battles because I know that I can’t fight with her all the time.  This does not make me her friend.  This makes me someone who knows that she has to learn what choices to make. And to be fair, we don’t fight about clothing or curfews or any of these things because if there’s an issue I’m worried about we sit down and discuss it rationally. We’ve talked about how, like it or not, people will judge you by your clothes, and while wearing a belly shirt to Gov Ball is totally appropriate, is it the right thing to wear to school? Being up late studying is fine, assuming she has spent her other hours productively and hasn’t started her homework at 11pm.

Discuss the things that concern you, behaviors that you have problems with.  Discuss actions and their consequences, if/then statements. If you rationally present things, your kids might not listen, but they might learn.  They might learn how to think for themselves. And that’s the ultimate goal: to raise rational, logical adults who think about what they are doing.

Pick the things that are most important to you and hold to them. Lighten up on the ones that don’t matter as much. FYI- this works in partner relationships as well.

Which battles are most important to you?

16 thoughts on “Parenting 103: Pick your Battles

  1. My God! Amen x infininty!
    When my eldest daughter was in high school, she was alternative in a sea of “basic white girls”. Her hair was every color of the rainbow, every cut from long to literally shaved with a number 1 guard.
    She didn’t do drugs or drink or smoke. Her grades were in my acceptable range. She was expressing herself, her creativity, etc.
    I subbed at the high school, the kids would read my name and say, Oh! Are you L’s mom? What about her hair? Are you OK with that?
    I would smile and say, “I colored it for her.”
    I got flack from parents and other kids. I did not GAF. My kid was being herself in a place in which that was difficult. Let your freak flag fly!
    That said, there were other battles where I stood my ground. And now as my girls are grown, I hear them thank me for standing up for what was right. They understand now, and they know they’re better off for it.
    A parent once said I “rule my classroom with a velvet hammer” and it was one of the best things I ever heard about my teaching. I ran my family with that same velvet hammer. And my girls are aware of the mother/daughter aspect of our relationship as well as this new-found friend aspect.
    My eldest will be a mommy in May. My baby an auntie. Me a grandmother. Our dynamics will change again. But I know that we’re going to be just as strong as ever because we are honest with each other and willing to have discussions about all the topics.
    Brava you!
    Your girl is lucky that you’re her mom! And you’re lucky to have her. I absolutely adore reading about your relationship! ❤

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    1. Thank you! My daughter had a pink stripe in her hair in sixth grade. My husband was pissed that I allowed it (FYI I discussed it with him before…but…you know) and I explained to him that it made her feel confident and alive and in power if he4 own destiny. And seriously…it wasn’t permanent. There are roads that a kid needs to explore that really don’t matter in the end. Are those the hills you want to die on? So excited to hear about grandma adventures !!

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      1. Roads kids need to explore that feel rebellious as all get out, but are actually rather safe. To me, that’s hair all the colors of the rainbow. Makes them feel adventurous while remaining safe. ❤

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  2. Drugs and alcohol I agree with. There is a hereditary addictive issue there too on my husband’s side so I am fearful of that. Clothes and hair, not so much. They need to feel comfortable and confident and my clothes choices may not align with theirs but I’m not wearing them and I’m not going where they’re going. When the kids were in high school I showed them a picture of myself at about that age at a party with a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other, just to let them know that I knew what “partying” was all about lest they think I was some goodie two-shoes who wouldn’t know what the score is 🙂

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  3. Drugs, drinking and smoking were a no go while my kids lived here. I valued their honesty as well. I felt at least if they were honest we had a starting point. My kids were taught to be respectful of others at all times, bullying was not going to be allowed. Both my kids had curfews and quite a few of their friends use to make a big deal about it, but I didn’t really have one and I wanted my kids to know that I was awake and waiting up for them.

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  4. One of my non-battles is hair. I don’t care if its long, short, colored or non-existent as long as its combed or otherwise looks presentable.i can’t stand messy, unkempt hair. Take care of it or I’ll decide how it will look.
    My major battle is going to bed on time. Only because if he stays up late, he doesn’t get up on time in the morning and then we’re both grumpy all day.
    Everything else depends on what, how, who, why and when.

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