Choose Your Battles

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Although I don’t like the word “battles”,  this has been somewhat of mantra of mine for a while now. Way before I had kids, when I was teaching kids with special needs, I would hear this phrase ringing in my mind. 

Many of my students had significant physical, sensory, emotional, psychological and health related needs. It was pretty vital to choose which things mattered and which things did not. No child, teacher or parent wants issues constantly causing angst, confrontation or a disruption to a sense of harmony.

One year I had a super busy, energetic and impulsive boy in my class. As lovable as he was, he could create chaos and distress in mere seconds. It was essential to pick my battles. The things I couldn’t ignore were violence towards others and absconding. The other things I’d pretty much let slide. I could easily entice or distract him away from them. The winning result was twofold.
1) He was more likely to listen when it came to the issues that really mattered.
2) Our overall relationship was more positive. I wasn’t having a go at him and constantly addressing a hundred minor issues. 

Same with our children. In order to nurture a positive relationship and preserve overall harmony within our home I do this. Again I choose the things that I cannot ignore. Things related to safety.

Behaviours I don’t ignore…
* Aggression towards somebody.
* Unsafe behaviour.
* Taking something somebody is already using.

These things are more than enough! They alone occur pretty frequently as we all know.

I ignore a host of other things if possible. I’m not saying I don’t have days where I’m not as patient or tolerant as I would like of course. There are so many things that little people do that don’t really matter in the scheme of things…
…tipping toys out of their baskets
…standing on couches
…sitting on a table
…playing with their food
…combining their yoghurt with their crackers and dip
… cutting paper into trillions of teeny tiny pieces.
It’s not like they’ll be ten or fifteen and still doing them.

In order to do this I try to create an environment within our home where there are minimal things I need to say “no” about. Essentially we’ve tried to create a “yes” environment.
* We keep unsafe or breakable things out of reach.
* Sharp knives are kept somewhere other than the cutlery drawer.
* The accessible cupboards contain things that they can explore.
* We block power points and cords where we can.

I find the result is the same as it was with my students.
Increased harmony and mutual respect.
I know it’s tempting to think that if you aren’t creating certain boundaries and teaching things like self control, manners, tidiness and so on that they’ll never learn. That by letting them tip their toys out will cause chaos and disrespect. I can assure you it won’t. It’s a normal developmental phase. Most things are. They will learn from your modelling about how to take care of their belongings and how to tidy up. 
Life is so much simpler and more harmonious when you can let go of the things that don’t really matter.
Choose the issues that are important to you – most likely related to safety – and try to let go of the others. Most likely they are developmentally age appropriate, experimental and just a phase.
Choose your “battles” and enjoy an increased amount of peace, respect and fun in your days.

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