Choosing the Mountains to Die On
We all love our kids. We all want them to grow up to be upstanding members of society that make a difference in the world. I hope we spend more days than not feeling like we are doing things well, but we would be wise to admit that sometimes we get into parenting habits that aren’t in the long term best interests for our children.
One parenting trap I try and avoid is fighting the fights we can win, and giving up on the fights that need fighting.
Perhaps we fight the fights we can win because even though the fights might be loud, draining, and ugly, we can check off a decided victory in the end. It feels better because it’s a short term gain.
- We fight tooth and nail with a 3 year old that wants to wear her new bathing suit and winter parka to play outside.
- We have it out with our 12 year old in the shopping mall because they want to buy a pair of “useless” techno-gadget- deely-boppers with their hard earned babysitting money.
Often our reason for going toe-to-toe with the Mini-me in our life has more to do with our pride, than their best interests. We worry about what others will think of our kids or our parenting, and before you know it, the gloves are off. We forget that many of the weird things our kids want to do (and buy!) have natural consequences attached to them:
- Kids in bathing suits eventually get cold (or at least hungry) and come inside.
- Kids that spend their money on useless gadgets quickly learn the value of a wise purchase when the money runs out.
On the other side of this coin are those things that aren’t as rewarding to “fight” about because we can’t see the immediate results. Often we throw out the long term goals we would claim to aspire to in favor of peace in the moment.
- We give up requiring our toddlers to use common courtesies because they “have a fit every time I make them say please.”
- We let our 12 year olds start dating, because they’d just do it anyway if we said “no.”
It’s easy to let fear run the show.
We’re afraid of our kids not liking us, so we give in. The truth is, sometimes we need to love our kids enough to let them hate us once in a while. It’s not fun, but it’s not for forever either.
We’re afraid of what other parents will think when we draw a line in the sand in a place different than they do. But our primary goal must always be to do what’s in the best interest of our children.
We’re afraid they will do what’s wrong anyway, so we give up fighting the war to avoid potentially losing a battle. Peace at any price is seldom worth it. We shouldn’t be shocked that our kids want to do foolish things and things that are unwise. That’s why God gave them parents – we have the benefits of age and experience, so let’s use it!
I am so thankful my parents let me hate them in the moment, blame them for my misery and loved me more than their peer relationships. I’m holding on to the goodness in our relationship now as I navigate through the uncharted waters of parenting my own kids.
It’s true many of these issues require the Wisdom of Solomon and the Patience of Job to figure out exactly how to make it through, but they are fights worth fighting and problems worth figuring because they have potential to make a big difference to the way our children relate to the world as adults.
I’m guilty of turning mountains into molehills, and giving up when I should hunker down, but somewhere along the way I started using the “plus-20 principle,” and when I remember to use it, it’s really helpful in determining what my response should be.
The plus-20 principle works like this: I add 20 years to whatever the issue of the moment is, and ask “is this going to have a lasting impact on the spiritual, moral, or physical development of my child if I allow this behavior/attitude to continue?”
Using the plus-20 principle gives me freedom to say yes to a lot more things.
- Yes – you can have an apple half an hour before dinner
- Yes – you can have a Mohawk
- Yes – you can buy a belly button lint holder with your own money
The plus-20 principle also helps me hold fast, and hang on for those occasions when I really need to say no, because it will be harmful or detrimental to their physical, mental or spiritual health in the long run.
Being a loving parent is a commitment of my will to my kids’ needs and best interests regardless of the cost. The plus-20 principle helps me determine what things I should let go of and which things are “mountains to die on.”
Love is a battlefield. Let’s fight the good fight.