Choosing your battles. If you fought every battle with your child, you’d never stop fighting. If you didn’t engage in any negotiation, you’d miss valuable, ahem, teaching moments in which your child learns to get along, trust, and let others lead. So, what’s the right balance? Here a few tips for the exhausted momma (and daddy) on choosing your battles:
1. Safety – When it comes to safety, it’s a no-brainer. Engage in the battle. You’re the parent and you’re responsible for seeing to it that your child does not hurt him/herself or another child. This includes physical hurts as well as emotional hurts.
2. Say yes when you can – Children like to have control over their own lives and feel like they are making important decisions that affect them. Saying yes to everyday battles like what to wear to school outside staying outside 5 more minutes saves you the heartache of argument and allows your child to exercise independence. Say something like, “I can hear that you are really having a fun time with your friends outside and would like to finish up for a few more minutes. I’ll set the egg timer for 5 minutes and when it goes off, it will be time to come inside and hop in the bath.” Quick tip: think to yourself ‘Will it hurt my child? Will it greatly affect the rest of our day?” If the answer is no, challenge yourself to say ‘yes’.
3. Listen to your child’s opinions – Even if you know that the eventual answer will be ‘no,’ listen to your 7-year-old’s reasons for wanting to stay up past midnight on a school night or your 5-year-old’s argument for why it really would be a good idea to get 4 family puppies. Just like adults, when children feel heard, the let down is much easier. When appropriate, offer an alternative- say, staying up until 10pm on a Friday, or going to visit the SPCA one weekend.
4. When you negotiate, really negotiate – Children, even young ones, understand when their ideas are being considered versus when they’re being shut down.
- First, use phrases like “I hear that you want...” and “It sounds like what you’re asking for is...,” followed by “Is that right?” This way, you make sure you’ve got all your facts straight.
- Next, state your side (if different from your child’s) by saying something like “My issue is that if we...then....” or “Hmm, I’m concerned that...”
- See if your child has any solutions, or introduce a possible solution with a phrase like “Here’s an idea:”
Battles and power struggles with kids can be tricky, but don’t always have to be stressful. Knowing when to let go and knowing how to handle the ones you choose to take on can make all the difference!