How to Pick Your Battles

battles My older daughter wanted to dye her hair with Kool-Aid the other day. It's apparently all the rage to use Kool-Aid to dye your hair funky colors. It washes out in a couple of weeks and doesn't hurt your hair. So, I said OK.

A few years ago, I probably would have cringed at the thought of letting one of my girls dye their hair an odd color. But I've learned a few things along the way in this parenting journey, and chief among those things is the idea that you have to pick your battles.

I learned that lesson best with my younger daughter. Strong-willed doesn't do my daughter justice. When that child digs in her heels, it takes a bulldozer to move her. I realized pretty early on that I could either fight with her about everything or choose carefully the things that are worth the battle.

So, now, especially as our girls get older, we try to choose wisely the issues that we make a stand on. There's a simple question we ask ourselves before doing battle with one of our girls: Is this about safety or respect? If the answer is yes, then it's an issue we're willing to stand our ground on. If the answer is no, then it's an issue we're more willing to negotiate on.

Safety is easy. If the activity will cause harm to our kids, then it's not something they can do. Respect is a little broader. If the issue is about behavior that isn't respectful to someone else, themselves, or someone's property, then it's a behavior that needs to be corrected.

The second category is based on Matthew 22:39 when Jesus is talking about the greatest commandments: "And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’" Our kids have to learn to love and respect themselves to be able to love and respect others.

We've found that these two broad categories serve us well as we decide what issues are important in dealing with our kids. They keep us from focusing on the little things that don't matter in the long run. And they keep us from having to list out a lot of rules for our girls.

As parents, it's sometimes really easy to get caught up in laying down rules for our kids to follow. Sometimes we set up rules because they're important for our kids' safety. Sometimes we set up rules because we want our kids to learn how to respect themselves and others. But sometimes we set up rules just because something bothers us. Or we set up rules because we don't want to spend the time discussing the issue with our kids. And that's when we find ourselves doing battle with our kids.

Our kids need rules. They need boundaries. They need to know we have a certain set of expectations for them. But they also need room to grow. They need room to be themselves. They need room to try new things. We simply have to make sure our rules aren't stifling those behaviors.

However you choose to set up boundaries in your home, make sure that the reasoning behind those boundaries is solid. Make sure it's biblical. Make sure you're leaving room for your kids to express who God made them to be. Make sure you're picking the right battles to fight.