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Is choosing your battles really just giving up?


After running the experiment myself now for about six years (since my eldest was 2), and more recently having the great good fortune of working closely with some of the top child psychologists & behavioural specialists in their field, I’ve come to the conclusion that successful discipline really comes right down to basics.

In the over stimulated world we live in, and with most parents being over worked and under rested, we have less of our own resources i.e. energy, to deal with the day to day job of setting boundaries for our kids. A great teacher & mentor of mine once told me, “They’re only ever looking for direction” – how very true this is!

For most parents “choosing your battles” really means that they’ve come against an issue that has been an ongoing one, and at that moment, they don’t have the energy to deal with it. What the child is saying in their behaviour though, is that they really need to be reminded of where the line is, and most of the time when behaviour is at fever pitch, we are very close to a great result. It often has to get a little on the worse side before it gets any better. This is the case when we are doing a “re-set” with any behaviours. When we “choose our battle” at this point by slackening off or momentarily giving up, we may give ourselves a quick taste of respite, however we in-turn undo all of the great work we have done to get to this point.

Now we’ve all been in the haze of sleeplessness from newer babies, and we’ve all had work & relationship pressures wear us down, leaving us wanting to run & hide when we’re faced with morning or nighttime routine in getting our kids to assist the family wagon to keep rolling as smoothly as possible. (“It doesn’t matter if your socks don’t sit perfectly on your toes, I’m leaving now!” sound familiar? And it’s probably the fifth request too.)

Believe me I know this first hand as I have four children, and two of them are aged six and twenty two months old. We’re currently trying to get them to sleep in the same room and it’s testing to say the least. The most current challenge is the arrival of some jealousy from my 22 month old daughter with her little six month old brother.

She has been screaming the house down all though the night. Only a couple of night’s ago she had us up all night until 5am. This is purely attention seeking behaviour because she feels her position is threatedned. The strategy here is to give her attention (trying to keep the anxiety she’s feeling at an all time low), but only when she’s not screaming. “Darling I will stay with you if you are quiet – If you choose to yell, I will have to leave the room.”

Now I know this is tough. Especially with our eyes hanging out of our heads in the middle of the night, however what I do know is that if we stick to it, our problem will be pretty short lived & the lesson learned. If we give in or fail to be consistent, then we’ll have a sleepless household for a lot longer!

In my experience it’s one of (if not the most) difficult challenge in parenting. I do however, also know the breakthroughs that are possible when we are consistent, and how that can really have a great effect on the whole family’s spirit & functionality.

I remember speaking to my friend who has used the famous “Sleep Nanny”, and asked him about the results. He stated that she has a 100% success rate, and that in asking her if her approach ever failed she simply replied, “Only when parents don’t stick to the program, that’s when it can quickly unravel before your eyes”. This is the theme for success here, & in all areas of parenting and in-turn life.

I’ll finish with one of my all-time favourite quotes…

“The price of liberty is eternal vigilance” – Thomas Jefferson.