In my opinion, ‘pick your battles’ is one of the better pieces of ‘standard’ advice given to new parents. It discourages the idea that children ought to respond promptly and cheerfully to every parental whim. It allows us to take developmental considerations into account. It recognises that things like safety locks and oven guards can be parental sanity-savers, not unnecessary crutches.
But (you could see the ‘but’ coming, couldn’t you? ) – it has one major flaw – in assuming that battles are necessary and/or appropriate.
Don’t get me wrong, I know they happen. I have a stubborn 3 year old and we find ourselves caught in battles every day. Some of them even seem unavoidable . Perhaps they are. But as I read the Bible and reflect on God’s character (he’s called the ‘God (or Lord) of Peace’ 6 times in the New Testament) and on the type of person he wants me to be: a peacemaker who will be called a son of God (Mat 5:9); a peace-lover (Jm 3:17); exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit (see Barefoot Betsy’s post); someone who seeks ‘as far as it depends on’ me to live ‘at peace with everyone’ (Rom 12:18) – it seems strange to be approaching my relationships with anyone, let alone my children, as a series of battles.
So, what do I think is even better advice for new parents? How about:
“Know your boundaries” (and maintain them with kindness and gentleness)?
You can use all sorts of tools to help your children respect everyone’s boundaries – like playfulness, distraction, redirection, repetition and explanation, safety locks, cuddles, special time together, mediation, change of scenery or scripting (to model appropriate or respectful responses).
Again, battles are a trap I fall into all the time. But I am trying to learn to see myself as on the same team as my children: here to kindly help them to comply with my instructions when necessary.
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. 2 Thes 3:16