When I was a new mom I remember having people tell me, “Choose your battles.” Now, I won’t claim to know exactly what the hearts of those various people were in giving that advice; but to me it meant, “Choose to let some things go so that you don’t have to fight with your child.”
I realize that to some people, “choosing your battles” may not mean that at all. In fact, I myself have had to learn to “choose my battles” in the manner of using the word “No” with good reason rather than with mere selfishness or laziness. For other parents, “choosing your battles” may mean something more along the lines of choosing not to care when it legitimately doesn’t matter–like when Amariah asks if she can sleep in the dress that she wore all day.
However, what I suspect is that for many parents “choosing your battles” means choosing not to make an issue out of something that is perhaps a true issue. In this case, what I believe lies at the heart of that decision is a type of parental fear–fear of how the child will respond to correction. Let me say, first of all, that I am not totally guilt-free when it comes to this parental fear thing. From the time Amariah was born, she has always had the loudest, shrillest cry of any child I’ve ever known. And, there are certain times and certain settings that I feel held hostage to the fear that if I make Amariah cry, she will make me regret it. Therefore, I must shamefully admit that there have probably been times that I haven’t dealt with an issue as I should have. Despite that, I do not support the idea of bowing to parental fear when it comes to training and disciplining your children. Why? Because its obvious result is a lack of proper training and discipline and a child who remains in charge.
The tough thing about child training is that the more you don’t do it, the more you need to. However, that is also the beautiful thing about child training. The sooner you do it, the less you need to. The sooner you train your child to obey and respect you, the less need you will have to discipline them. The particular action of your toddler may not seem like that big of a deal (for instance, hesitating or failing to come when told); but the heart attitude behind it is a big deal. If a toddler learns that he won’t be made to obey a simple command like “Come,” the seeds of his thinking that he is in charge (and isn’t he really?) have already been sown. And with each additional instance of allowed disobedience, a little water falls on those seeds until before you even know what happened, you have a full grown plant of disobedience throwing a tantrum on the floor in the middle of the grocery store. What about that battle? Will you choose it, or will you fearfully offer an ice cream cone if he’ll get up and be quiet?… Wouldn’t it have been much easier to have chosen a few battles prior to now, your victory in which would have probably warded this one off in the first place?
I am not Super Mom, and I do not write this post in an attempt to boast about the parenting skills that I may or may not have or the “perfect” behavior that my kids may or may not display; but I do think that God has given Travis and me the wisdom to do our parts in fostering hearts of obedience and respect in our children. A heart that obeys and respects an earthly mother and father will certainly have a stronger propensity for one day obeying and respecting the Heavenly Father.
No one ever said parenting is easy. It’s not. One sinful-by-nature person trying to teach another sinful-by-nature person to not be naughty isn’t easy. But, it doesn’t have to be so hard, either. See the bigger picture; take heart; and choose to, in the most loving of ways, do battle against the sin that rears its ugly head in even the youngest of children.
For some additional teaching on how to train your children before the need to discipline arises, check out To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl.