Parenting

Choose Your Battles

One of the best pieces of parenting advice I’ve ever gotten came from my oldest son’s 2-year well-child visit. Our pediatrician at the time very wisely told us that soon we would start having some battles with our son as he began to strive for independence. Her exact words were, “You have to choose your battles. Don’t fight them all. But the ones you choose, you HAVE to win.” This has stuck with me through all of my years of being a parent.

It sounds simple enough, and really the idea of it IS very simple. In reality though, what it means is that you have to pre-think every situation through. When they ask for something or for permission to do something, you have to think it through completely before you give your answer. If you say “no” to playing outside before dinner, are you prepared to stand your ground? Is it important enough for you to go to battle for? If the answer is yes, then carry on. If the answer is no, then don’t say that “no” in the first place.

In that case, you aren’t actually committed to that no. It really doesn’t matter to you, it’s just more convenient if they play inside. But if they start to beg and whine, you don’t care enough to fight the battle. You will most likely give in and then reinforce the fact that fits, whining and begging will get you to change your mind. But the funny thing is, they didn’t! You just never made your mind up in the first place!

I’ve had my fair share of weak moments where I’ve given in or changed my mind, and I can tell you that it makes the next battle even harder. Don’t do it! Save your energy and patience for the battles you care enough to fight for. I’m not saying you should let your kids do whatever they want. I’m not crazy!! I still have stipulations before I say “yes” to things! Whatever reason would tempt you to say “no” in the first place becomes part of the stipulation for getting the “yes”. You want to play outside? Sure, but when I say it’s time to come in for dinner, no complaining and you pick everything up immediately. If they don’t follow those stipulations, there’s a consequence. I’m not letting them walk all over me, but they’re seeing that there’s some give-and-take, even in the yes moments.

Parenting is HARD. There are no perfect days, perfect answers, or perfect situations, no matter how hard you try. As you navigate through though, think your answers through before you give them. Be thoughtful and intentional in your parenting and mean what you say. Your kids will hear “no” less often, but it will mean more and become non-negotiable.

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Save Your Marriage!

It’s been almost 16 years of marriage for us and I can honestly say that I love my husband more now than I ever have before. I look forward to our getaways and our time together. He’s not a huge romantic-and-big-gestures kind of guy, but he’s kind, thoughtful, hard-working and SO patient. I see marriages around me struggling or falling apart, and it makes me sad. Sad that they don’t have what I have. Everyone deserves to love and be loved unconditionally and treated well. I will tell you that there’s nothing spectacular about our marriage. We make mistakes, we drive each other nuts sometimes, there are a million things that each of us would handle differently with the kids, I’m sure. But at the end of the day, we are truly each other’s best friend and we would do anything to keep from hurting the other. How did we get lucky enough to find this? We didn’t. We CHOSE it.

See, sometimes I hear people wondering if they ended up with the right person. I hear people thinking about how their life might be different or better if they were with somebody else. In my mind, those marriages are doomed. If you even have a tiny bit of wonder in your mind, it tells me you didn’t actually make up your mind in the first place. I don’t believe in love at first sight. I don’t believe in a soul mate. I believe you choose the person you’re going to marry and you decide to make it work…or you don’t.

There’s no perfect person. There’s no perfect relationship. However, there IS mutual respect, love, compassion, teamwork, trust and fun. I think these are the keys to marriage.
If you’re doubting your marriage, figure out which one of those keys is the problem. Focus on it together and strengthen it. Just like you would do at the gym. If your arms are weak, you focus on them. If your endurance isn’t where it should be, you work on it. You know darn well sitting on the couch and waiting for it to improve won’t do a thing.

So how do you target each of those things? Some are easier than others. If respect is the problem, it’s probably time for a serious discussion. If you don’t have respect, it’s going to be awfully hard to work on the other things. Some outside help might be your best bet. I think trust might be part of the outside help, too. Usually something big has happened to damage that. It’s best to go to somebody who has experience. The rest, I totally think can be worked on together.

If you find yourself not feeling in love, you need to make a conscious effort and decision to fall back in love. Go on a trip or simply take a weekend and leave the kids with a trusted friend. Stay in a hotel so all distractions are gone. Find a new experience to do together. It might be awkward and feel forced, but keep doing it. Soon enough it will start to get easier and feel more natural. This would help if the fun factor is missing, too. If you’re not feeling compassion toward your spouse, I encourage you to make a list of all of the things both of you do in a day. Really try to think about what their day must be like. It might help you realize that they have a lot on their plate. This also a great thing to do if the teamwork piece is missing. Once you see it all in black and white, it’s hard to deny that one person isn’t doing their part. Don’t do it to rub it in their face or show them you’re right and they’re wrong. Do it so you can decide together what might be able to switch from one person’s list to another.

Do what you have to do to strengthen the part of your marriage that is showing weakness. Don’t ignore it and assume it will get better. It probably won’t. Love isn’t a magic thing. It is a choice that you have to continually choose as long as you want the relationship to last.