Picking your battles as a parent isn’t always necessarily the easiest thing. After all, don’t these kids understand that you’re the boss of them? Still, it’s important to know when to stand your ground and when to let your kids learn their own lessons. Here are the eight parenting hills you should never choose to die on.
1. Clothing. Ever. Of any kind.
When children attempt to leave the house in rumpled board shorts, two different shoes and a too-small shirt of dubious cleanliness, it can seem as though they are trying to sully your good parenting name. Why else would they attempt to leave the house in the kind of clothing that would make them suitable extras in Oliver Twist?
It’s enough to make you wish they were little baby mushlumps again, incapable of protesting when you dressed them in something that matched or was — heavens forfend — clean.
Stressful, right? Which is why you should make like Arendelle’s HBIC and let it go. Who cares? They’ll either grow out of their awful fashion sense or they won’t, but nothing you can do will usher it along. Recuse yourself from your kid’s wardrobe. While you’re at it, see if you can nail down some pictures of your own childhood fashion disasters. Talk about perspective.
2. While we’re at it, hair
Your son wants a sweet rat-tail, maybe, or your daughter is desperate to chop her long lovely curls up to her ears. Then there are the accessories: the barrettes, the big bows, the scrunchies and the green temporary hairspray. By the time they leave for Grandma’s/preschool/the bus stop, you’re left rocking back and forth in a corner of your living room, whispering futilely, “Less is more. Less is more.”
This will look bad. You will cringe. But here’s the thing. That cringey feeling is nothing — nothing — compared to the cringey feeling your kids will get looking back on the poor decision they made when they heard “skullet” and thought, “awesome!”
Tired of cajoling your child for hours in a flood of tears and snot and eyerolls about where their homework is, its level of completion, if it’s accurate and whether or not it has their name and date printed neatly at the top?
Here’s a novel idea: Stop.
Make them figure it out for themselves, make them keep track of it and, for the love of all things holy and good in the world, don’t you dare drop it off for them when they forgot to make room in their backpack for it between Minecraft handbooks and extraneous pencil cases.
Maybe they’ll do it. Maybe they won’t. But eff that noise, you already went through middle school. Don’t do it again vicariously.
How dare your child be bored? How is such a thing even possible with the hundreds of dollars’ worth of toys they own, the books you religiously check out of the library, a craft drawer stuffed with artsy detritus and an entire outside world not yet sunken into a toxic dystopia unfit for exploration?
Their boredom is another one of those things that is not your problem. And no matter how many times you say “You’re not bored, you’re boring,” or attempt to argue the merits of all of the cool stuff they totally needed and acquired last Christmas, they’re never going to suddenly acquiesce in a moment of profound clarity and saunter off to draw.
They will saunter off to draw though if, instead of trying to temper their whining and sighs, you just crank up your “One Day They’ll Be in College” playlist on Spotify and ignore them into solving the problem themselves. Or maybe they won’t draw. But they will go away, which is always nice.
5. Vegetables and other weird food quirks
The great thing about kids reaching an age of autonomy is this: At a certain point, you no longer need to make meal after meal to ensure that they don’t starve. (Thanks, finger dexterity and higher-level thinking!) So if your kid hates peas or potatoes or white foods or rice or bananas or eggs or chicken or whatever, feel free to shrug it off.
No more stare-downs or drawn-out dinners. There are two options: hunger or getting up and making a sandwich.
Ugh, kids are such bad judges of character. They will undoubtedly pick the one kid to zero in on whose presence you cannot stand. They will learn bad words from them and get lice from them. You can tell yourself that that kid is a bad influence, but the truth is that even your kid is some other parent’s that kid.
Want to make sure that they promote that kid to best friend forever who will never ever leave and will teach your child how to make a sneak-a-toke out of a bell pepper and a cotton ball in grade nine? Tell your child they can’t be friends with them.
Whether or not the friendship runs its course is irrelevant: It’s counterproductive (not to mention just plain bad form) to try to dictate whom your kid can be friends with.
7. What they do with their money
It’s always the same story: Kid gets money from Grandma/allowance/selling their crap at a yard sale. Kid begs you to take them to Walmart/Justice/some other kid’s yard sale table. Kid wants to buy garbage. You try to intervene. Kid buys garbage anyway. Kid sells garbage at next year’s yard sale to make money for more garbage.
Rinse, repeat. But honestly, what difference does it make to you what they do with their money? Teach them to set some aside, sure. But when it comes time to go buy something, you are never going to convince them that a well-made pair of socks is a better investment than the latest round of Shopkins.
Here’s what a bedtime battle with a sleep-averse child looks like:
You tell them to get ready for bed 43,543,090 times. They ignore you 43,543,089 times. Then they brush their teeth for an hour. Then it’s another half hour for jammies. Then they have to say goodnight to the dog, get a glass of water, just tell you something really quick, get another glass of water and pee. Meanwhile, every time you tell them to stop effing around, they dream up another thing to do before they head for dreamland.
Finally, they get in bed. Then the real struggle begins.
Here’s what it looks like when you skip that battle:
You tell them to get ready for bed once. Then you pour yourself a glass of wine and introduce your butt cheeks to the couch. Hooray, you’re done!
It’ll probably take them the same amount of time to get PJ’d and get to sleep whether you have a glass of wine in your hands or not, so why would you ever pick the latter option?