Nov 9, 2010

Picking our battles

This week we celebrate Veteran's Day.   God bless our veterans and servicemen and women around the world; they carry the battle scars of conflicts fought to keep our freedom intact.  When I think of our veterans, I often think of Joshua's bravery.  And his carefully chosen words recorded in Joshua 24:15 contain so much wisdom and commitment to our purpose here on earth:
"Choose this day whom you will for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." 
When faced with a choice, Joshua picked his battle carefully and took a brave position, one that I'm sure he found was not always popular with the home crowd.  Not much has changed since his time in that regard.

Most parents today are very familiar with the concept embodied in that verse.  We use the shorthand expression, "pick your battles" to sum it up.  From the time our toddlers begin asserting themselves (a favorite first word is "no"), we are forced to learn diplomacy at lightning speed.  How to finesse a balky child into an outfit they don't want to wear, eat something they don't like, go somewhere peacefully when they really want a nap, or to be calmly held by someone they don't know.  They are learning the art of compromise - and so are mom and dad.

Soon we learn that stripes and plaids and camouflage prints really can be worn together and that the occasional cookie for breakfast won't kill them, especially if they wash it down with some milk.  In return, they learn they can still smile and keep going even when they're tired, and that their Bible class teacher is fun and friendly, not a frightening stranger.

I heard someone add this caveat:  "When you have picked a battle (with your child) , win at all costs."   I tend to agree, although I think that "all-or-nothing" should be tempered with some reasonableness.  If we pick a battle in error, it is okay to show our children that we can be humble and admit we were wrong - very different than simply giving up and giving in.

Unfortunately, I think our society has taken the "pick your battle" idea to the passive, permissive extreme, giving the child free rein because parents are afraid to pick ANY battle.  By sidestepping every conflict, we fail to teach our children that a peaceful and happy life is bound to require them to make some compromises along the way, too.

To all parents everywhere, please pick your battles wisely.  But do pick some battles, stand your ground, and be prepared to fight until you win.  Caving to your child's every whim and whimper is not compromise, it is captivity.  And we shouldn't be negotiating with terrorists - especially not our own kids.

Happy parenting,