Sharon, a weary mom, shared that she had been told to “Choose her battles” so she had not confronted her daughter about her lying, stealing and disrespect! It had now escalated to neighbors, shops and even the church. She shared that she was told to only pick the battles she could win. Her daughter had RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) so she was losing EVERY battle! She had quit! With this break in the connection between parent and child we watch the child drown in the vortex of emotional quicksand they create unless we have the right tool box!
How Do We Know Which Battles to Pick?
I used to base the choice, to engage or disregard, based on whether it bugged me or not. Over the years of working with thousands of behaviors from children, I have seen it ALL. Nothing bugs me anymore! Coming up with new and better criteria to help my children became my quest. The best solution is to look at the behavior and picture it being done when they are an adult in an office or on a date. If it did not work to help them succeed as an adult I needed to help them change the behavior now. I chose to step onto the battlefield for those things. Not to fight against my child but to fight for them. So I look at what they are doing and decide if it would work on a date or on the job. That makes it very clear which battle to choose.
Your son or daughter (now grown) is on a date. The date says, I don’t want to go out with you anymore.” Your child whines back,” Please, please, I’ll be good! I promise! Pleeeease go out with me again!” Do you think they will get another date? I doubt it! How about in the office as an employee… “Please, pleeeease boss, let me do that project! I”ll do a good job, I promise! PLEEEEEESE!?” I doubt they will stay in the position very long. Thus we have to stop the whining now. How about lying or stealing from the date or the employer!? YIKES! We better tackle those immediately and not stop the fight until the war over those is won.
What Is Our Job As Parents?
When we avoid rocking the boat because the child might not be happy we are on the path to sinking the ship. Putting an end to inappropriate behaviors will definately rock the boat. I say, Rock it! Lets’ do it today and invest the energy in the battle. Do not wait until they are older and bigger. Our job as parents is to prepare our children to succeed in the world with healthy relationships and a way to make a living. Not by doing everything for them but by teaching them how to do it. That means we have to teach them to be Respectful, Responsible and Fun to be with according to Foster Cline MD. I believe he is 100% correct! I based my parenting decisions on that as the foundation for many years and have stayed out of the quicksand and succeeded with my children.
But Shouldn’t Children Have Choices?
Absolutely, Children learn from the choices they make whether or not they are good choices. HOWEVER; children should not make choices that involve the parent following the child’s decision. A good example of that is: What do you want to eat? The child, not trained in nutrition, will chose an inappropriate choice for their body with expensive consequences. The parent is now following the child by serving them the chosen food. It is our job as parents to know about healthy nutrition and make wise choices for our family. They have a choice to eat it or not. I do not argue with or lecture them on their choice to be content or go hungry. I am empathetic when they complain later that they are hungry and assure them I will make extra food at the next meal.
They should choose whether they want to eat or drink what you give them and how much, what they are going to build, or create with the Legos or art material you give them during play time, Whether they are going to look at pictures or read the book you select, if they are going to sleep or just lay in their bed and rest silently at bedtime, whether they are going to do their school work or not, how long they will take doing their family chores, etc. If it only impacts them the choice is theirs and they learn from the consequences. NO lectures, no anger and they will use their own brain and figure it out. When adults lecture or get angry and it rips the learning opportunity from the child.
I was in the breakfast room at a hotel one morning when a mom entered following her 3 to 4 year-old daughter. I overheard the Mom ask, “Where do you want to sit?” Her royal highness selected where the family of 4 was to be seated. Mom then bowed to her majesty and asked what she would like to be served. The little queen rudely announced her sugar-soaked selection. The mother quickly rushed away and returned with a different cereal and shared that the desired one was not available. The mouth of the little one opened and a very impressive wail echoed through the hotel as the queen expressed her dismay. Who is leading here? The message the child is getting is that mom is a slave to make her daughter happy and give her everything that she wants. She is raising a future Napoleon! We cannot follow their lead and give them everything they want without horrible consequences later. Children need healthy limits and a leader who is setting a good example to follow. We do not ask a child where they want to go or sit or what they want to do if it involves others joining them! Do you want more help on this? Read, RAD: Hold the Line, HERE.
Who Makes The Choices?
In the beginning of the healing process a loving parent should make the choices for what they need. As parents we must provide healthy food, an appropriate bedtime, and also activities to learn how to work and play. I make their world small until they are respectful and honest at home and then we expand their world to the store, then, restaurants, then neighbors and friends. Then, very slowly, I expand the challenge of being respectful and honest in other environments over a period of months depending on the child’s progress. The choice making is also expanded.
Which Battles Can We Win?
EVERY battle for what’s right can be won with two exceptions. If it involves eating or drinking and you step into a battle over it everyone will lose. If it involves eliminating urine or feces and you get into a battle everyone will lose. (No one can force someone to swallow or hold it or “go”.) Don’t step into those battles. You can’t win. You can win where they eat and eventually even where they go to the bathroom. Dive into the battles involving Respect, responsibility and being fun to be with. That includes, honesty and good manners! You can succeed with those and then your child will be a winner as well.
Be Prepared To Win With The right Tools
We have to win it! Use Brain Based Behavior (3BI) interventions to connect while you correct. We do not punish, lecture, argue, remind, or get angry. If you are not familiar with 3BI learn about it Here in this great webinar (on special for my readers. Use code: Battles to save $10) It is one of the most powerful tools in our unique parenting tool box! Sometimes the battle goes on for a while. If they have spent years lying or stealing it will not stop overnight. Tighten your cinch and stay on it until they are honest! They can get over it and have a successful life. Use the 3BI!
We can make a difference, Nancy Thomas
(PS, I do ask them what they want to eat on their birthday so I can make their favorite meal.)