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Tuesday Tip: Pick your battles

February 25th, 2014 | Posted by Kerry Lyons in parenting | Tips and Quips

You may recall that one of my goals for the year is to yell less.  I’ve realized over the past month that if I’m going to achieve that goal, I really need to choose my battles.  This, like most things, is much easier said than done.  I’d like to think of myself as a lover, not a fighter but the reality is, with my Type A personality, I find it hard to resist a good challenge and I’m wired to want to win — even if that “challenge” comes in the form of a five year old who doesn’t want to wear his mittens.

This is not something to be proud of, this innate sense of wanting to control another person simply because “I said so.” Granted, as it relates to the mittens, it is cold outside but the reality is, after explaining the frigid weather to my wide-eyed tyke, it really boils down to “I want you to wear those mittens because I TOLD YOU TO!!!”  And there you have it.  I’m yelling again.

We made a pact a few weeks ago.  All five kids and me.  We agreed that we wouldn’t argue about wearing coats/hats/mittens/boots/etc. until March.  We agreed that it was cold outside and that it was in their best interest to stay warm.  We made a deal. No more arguing, no more yelling, no more being late to the bus due to quibbling about outerwear.  And that was that.

But of course, that wasn’t that at all.  Because life isn’t that simple and children aren’t that agreeable.  And frankly, the majority of mine don’t know what month it is even if they do know it’s noble to honor a promise.  Just a few days later, I found myself asking my oldest, a fourth-grader with a beaming grin and good intentions, “do you know what month it is?”  “Um, February?”  “Yep.  And do you remember what that means?!”  “I’m supposed to wear a coat?”  “Yep!”  “But Mom, I’m not cold!”

He’s not cold?  It’s freezing out.  Literally.  Icicles hang from every roof and mountains of snow surround us.  But apparently, it’s not cold to him.  I felt the yell start, deep inside.  An insatiable urge to show him the thermometer, to PROVE to him that it is indeed cold.  He is wrong; I am right.  So there.  And then I caught my husband’s eye.  “Give the kid a break”, he said without saying a word.  And so I did.  And I’ve been trying to ever since.

Last weekend. four out of five weren’t wearing underwear, but they were wearing pants.  As the temperature hovered near fifty and the snow began to melt, they took off those pants and put on shorts.  And short sleeved shirts.  And went OUTSIDE!  It was freezing, though no longer literally.  I wanted to yell. To win. To force them to put on pants, sweatshirts, heck, even some underwear!  But I didn’t.  Because you have to choose your battles and you can’t win them all,  I figure I might as well save the good fight for the ones that really matter.

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