Choosing your battles with your child

Why Blue Hair in our house isn’t a fight

Hello everyone! I am again waiting for Rowan to finish Volleyball practice and as usual, this is my time to get some blogging done! One of the things I was thinking about recently, was that even though Rowan is in her pre-teens, we don’t seem to fight a lot. I asked many of my friends and it runs the spectrum from not really to every single day. The one thing in common with the not really group, was that they tried to pick their battles. This meant that when there was a reason to stick to their guns, it actually made the kids take notice and listen to the reason.

Do you seem to fight with your children over every little thing. Even when it may not be a big deal? I know that when Liam was little (you know the first child, he was my attempt at perfection), we tried to get him to do everything exactly the way we wanted it. Initially, we were very rigid in what he could and couldn’t do, eat etc. We were hovering over him. But after thinking about it, we decided that we couldn’t sustain that parenting process. It wasn’t a good way to spend our time parenting, and no way for him to just be a kid.

So we decided to pick our battles. We came up with a list of 5 Non-Negotiable rules that we enforced 100% of the time. If a situation was related to the list, we discussed it or made a judgement call (is this situation different due to the location or who we are with?)

The 5 Non-Negotiable Rules

  • Manners
    • Please, Thank you, and excuse me had to be used. If not he was corrected.
  • Kindness to others
    • No hitting, biting, stealing toys or being generally rude to others
  • Kindness to self- no negative self-talk even in jest.
    • If he said anything negative, we would talk about why he was feeling that way and try and turn it around.
  • Stay away from anything that would cause injury to you or someone else.
    • We wanted to make sure that he had the opportunity to try things. But we wanted to make sure that we were helping him to learn how to think it through. For instance, riding a bike without a helmet, nope. 
  • Respect your possessions and those of others.
    • Don’t break toys just because it seems like fun, or damage your home or room.

By focusing on those key things, we raised a very thoughtful son, one who still tried new things, but thinks about the consequences before and makes sure that everyone is safe. He takes care of his belongings and is respectful others’ property. 

He never challenged the status quo and all in all, is a great kid.

Raising the younger child

I always thought that I would treat them the same, and raising them would be similar. But just like the rest of us, no two are alike. With the gender difference, that was obviously a change (no more legos, but instead lots of princess dresses and dolls). For me the age difference (5 years) was the bigest hurdle. By the time Liam was a pre-teen, Rowan was watching the same shows he was. As a child, Liam’s favorite shows were The Wiggles and JoJo’s Circus. Rowan’s were Ben Ten and Danny Phantom. Her viewing habits were aligned to what Liam was watching. All of those basic differences and in addition their personalities made us realize that our parenting styles had to change.

But our list of non-negotiable rules didn’t.

We implemented that same core list with Rowan and used it to guide our parenting. She went along with it for the most part, but she is our boundary pusher. She believes that on either side of that line that she walks, there is a little bit of a fuzzy zone, where she won’t fall off the path, but where she might stumble. But we continued to stay firm.

Changes in the perception of hair color

When I was growing up, I distinctly remember my dad seeing a person walking down the street with green hair, said: “if you ever come home with hair that color, I won’t let you in”. Being the oldest child in the family, I didn’t try to press the subject. To be honest, I never really wanted to color my hair any other color than natural hair color. 

However, now bright and vibrant hair colors are more mainstream, especially in areas close to larger cities. When Rowan was nine, she asked if she could dye her hair. I thought maybe she meant, lighten it up, but no, she wanted mermaid hair, except just teal on her ends. Tom and I talked about it and agreed that it would wash out over-time so no harm.

What color will she pick this year?

Every year she picks a new color, and once a year we go in and have her hair done. I don’t do it at home because I want to make sure that it is done correctly with as little damage to her hair as possible. It does cost a bit of money since we have a professional do it, but it lasts longer and her hair isn’t damaged as much. (Thank you Tammy P. at @Parlour 9 Salon, Lakeville, MN)

I have been asked, why I let her color her hair? There have also been some not so secret looks by other parents, where you can totally read their mind. My question back is, is she hurting anyone? Does getting her hair colored break one of the non-negotiable rules? My answer is no.

I get that although it is becoming more accepted, it isn’t accepted by everyone. I know that as a parent she is my responsibility, but if hair-color (which washes out over time) is where she wants to rebel, I’m all for it. It isn’t permanent and we try to do it just after school pictures. It would be ok to do it before, however, we want it to last through Volleyball season!

What a process! 3 hours at the salon to get to the final product. But she is happy she did. I am glad that I chose the right battle. Choosing your battles with your child
Here it is, here 12 year-old Version!

Not fighting the small stuff

For us, the coloring of the hair is the small stuff. For you it might not be. But I don’t want to be putting restrictions on her hair color. She could be out doing so many other things that are on the list. She could be wearing inappropriate clothes, drinking behind the school or vaping. (Yep, 12 years olds do those things). We can put our weight behind the main list and that way we can enforce that much easier. It is simple.

In addition, we have been able to stay consistent with our rules and the kids like that. They know what to expect have guidance around what is right and wrong, beyond just don’t do this or that. Those non-negotiable items can be used in many different situations including parenting.

Using the list as a parent

I would like to think that I have made it past the age where I bite people, but the same core rules apply to me, and I do my best to follow them daily.

  • Manners
    • I always remember to say please and thank-you whenever I ask my kids to do something for me. I use my manners with others, so why not with my children or my husband. It isn’t ok for me to be demanding without at least saying Please. 🙂
  • Kindness to others
    • I don’t know what kind of day they are having, and a little kindness might make their day brighter!
  • Kindness to self
    • I have implemented this in my day to day. I was comparing myself to other moms, and other women, and found myself lacking. But I had to make that change. How do I expect my children to be positive about themselves, if I can’t be?
  • Stay away from anything that would cause injury to you or someone else.
    • I have never been a big rule breaker, but when you start driving around or going places with pre-teens/teenagers, they are really good at pointing out things that we can do better. Like, not checking my phone while driving, making sure my seat-belt is on before we back-up, or buying healthier foods.  
  • Respect your possessions and those of others. I thought I respected my possessions.
    • I didn’t treat my items poorly, but when I looked around the house, really looked, I saw the mess and realized that I WAS being disrespectful. Otherwise, I would have put away my clothing, the dishes and kept the house picked up. I have a lot to work on in this area. Now, respecting other people’s items, no brainer.

I think that focusing on this list from a parental viewpoint is important, not only from a “Monkey see, Monkey do”, but showing them just how important it is to keep focused on the core rules. Trying to simplify our life, we will be looking at this list from a slightly different viewpoint to make life easier.

One last thought

I like her hair. I like the color she chose, that we did it together as a mother and daughter. She chose her color and worked with the stylist to come to a choice that made her happy! When it was all over, the most important thing was that she loves it and she feels good. It lets her standout without being unruly in class, or being the most popular, and I like her attitude. She currently is calling herself “Blueberry”. 🙂

My husband on the other hand, wished she only did the tips and not her whole head. But again, not the battle to choose.

The final product! That smile is worth choosing the appropriate battles. Choosing your battles with your child
See how happy she is?!

How Rowan’s Leukemia forced us to choose our battles

One thing that you learn when your child goes through any life threatening disease or illness, you have to pick and choose where you spend your time and effort. For us this also factored into choosing our battles. When you aren’t sure what the outcome will be, you learn that the small stuff isn’t as important. Click here to learn about her story.

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