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Instruction Manual for Kids: Choosing Your Battles (part 3)

Being a red-head I have the blessing, skill, talent,  curse of being opinionated.  I am fully aware of this “ability” I posses, and tread through life cautiously.  Wouldn’t life go much smoother if everyone would do what you were thinking?!?!!!!

Take this talent of mine and combine it with the dirty little secret of parenting (the fact that you are training yourself out of a job) and that leads to a colorful battle of wills… We want our kids to parent themselves the way we parented them…

Within each of us there is a sacred place in which we honor those whom have parented us… I am not talking about replacing that feeling; I am merely acknowledging the fact that day-to-day governance of action and attitude will eventually transition from parent to child.  This transition is natural and good and is what we want to embrace.  Being aware of this transition will be inexpressibly valuable.

To properly handle this “transfer of power” we must first recognize the difference between ‘means‘ and ‘ends‘ — in other words, “how we get there” and “where there is”…   We want the ‘ends‘ to align with our convictions and values, and ideally we want the ‘means‘ to be executed within tasteful boundaries.

So, all that being said, what are appropriate battles to ‘lose’ on the battle field of wills?

How to you lose a ‘battle’ without losing your authority as the parent?

How do you steer the ‘loss’ so that your child has made their decision (guided by you), learned the process of deducing outcomes and consequences, and exercised the ability to self govern [this is actually a parental win, I use the term ‘loss’ loosely]?

Dr. James Dobson, of Focus on the Family, notes that, “…children are teenage time bombs just waiting to explode.’…. I agree with him.  This job of ours, to teach our children to self govern, is critical to equipping our kids to be dynamic adults.

As we prepare our younger children for this teenage explosion, and we try to teach them to identify the difference between ‘means‘ and ‘ends‘ we, as parents, must be able to recognize the difference between ‘means‘ and ‘ends‘…  Too often we see parents who are loosing all battles  – both the ‘means battles’ and ‘ends battles’ and the result is that their child rules their life.  These parents, with great intentions, then gain a ‘win’ and think they are headed in the right direction — what they don’t realize, in a parent/child relationship where the kid rules the house, that is usually simply a ‘means win, but ends loss’….

The goal is to ultimately get a ‘means loss (the good loss) and ends win’ CONFUSED?  Translated into normal speak is: Your kids make their own decisions, their decisions are tastefully within your moral boundaries, the outcome and consequences of those decisions are also tastefully within your moral boundaries..

Let me expound…

My kids are ready to tackle the world (or so they think), as ballerina-crime-fighting-heros.  What they don’t realize is that ‘Papa’ is following behind them…parenting from a distance.  The opinionated red-head in me wants to trump their intellect and emotions, and give the appearance of full compliance to my will.  As parents we have been groomed to believe that compliant kids = successful parents…. Somewhere along the road of life we were trained to believe that our kids should automatically be perfect and any need to parent is evidence of a flaw.

So, with all of that in mind, I have trained myself to bite my tongue and wait to see how they handle life.  I don’t stop with a bitten tongue, I intentionally watch and listen and offer suggestions as they wrestle with their deductive reasoning.  If my kids can calmly and logically explain their reasoning to me, and their intentions and outcomes fall within my moral boundaries, then I will consider folding my will and rewarding their reasoning.  However, if out of exhaustion I surrender my boundaries for the sake of getting them out of my hair; then at best I have lost a ‘means battle’

Sound confusing and difficult?  It’s really not.  The key is consistency.  You MUST be consistent and never lose the ‘ends battles’ — we want to instill and strengthen our values within our kids and if we compromise those then we have trained our kids that those values aren’t that important, or that cutting corners is okay.

If this approach to winning and losing an argument with your child is new to you, and you are going to start to implement a firmer, more focused mode of parenting, then explain it to your child.  Explain where you misguided them, but what you have learned and why you are going to do things differently.  This can be a HUGE teachable moment.  Otherwise your child will be confused why the rules you trained them to live by have suddenly changed.

Be realistic.  You will fail, that is fine as long as you get right back up and keep at it.    Remember you are the instruction manual.  This whole arrangement of first-time parents parenting first-time kids is exactly how life is supposed to be arranged.  Don’t get discouraged, hang in there and watch your child’s reasoning grow!

Have a great weekend!


This post is linked to  Welcome Home Link up at Raising Arrows, Better Mom Monday’s Link Up at The Better Mom, Seasonal Celebrations at The Natural Mother’s Network,  Homesteader Blog Carnival at The Morristribe, Titus 2 Tuesdays at Cornerstone Confessions, WLWW at Women Living Well

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