Practical Dad

“...Pick Your Battles”

Take to any parent and you hear that have to pick your battles.  Every child is a unique creation and they'll start developing their own tastes during the toddler years, which is good since the world can't take a clone of me.  But that also means that as they grow, they'll bump into what you find acceptable and will naturally push the envelope.  Which is why parents are big on picking battles.

What exactly does that mean though? 

  • You realize that as members of a new generation with its own tastes and subculture, they'll take an interest in what has little appeal to you.
  • You realize that there's going to be some bumping as these interests suddenly appear in your home.
  • You remember that you yourself went through a similar experience and in the interest of family harmony, you have to make peace with some of this.
  • You have to actually pay attention to what's out there and decide in advance whether you can accept it in the house.
  • You have to be willing to actually examine what they want and then explain why something is unacceptable.
  • You have to be willing to listen to their rationale for why something should be allowed and then willing to move if they actually make sense.

You're right if the last statement indicates that a particular issue might be revisited multiple times over weeks or months.  But if you do bend in that particular instance, then you need to explicitly acknowledge why you're doing so or the kid will start thinking that they can wear you down.

What doesn't it mean?

  • You have to just accept something - in the interest of family harmony - just because the kid is acting like an ass.  And yes, when they enter the teen years, they can do that.
  • You use it as an excuse because you're too tired after a day or week at work.  If you've taken a legitimate stand on a particular behavior or mode of dress, then be ready to stand the ground as the campaign grinds onwards.  It will be unpleasant for everyone, but there are legitimate reasons for certain expectations and the kid is just going to have to adjust.

A PracticalDad Example

Okay, here's my secret.  My mother sometimes dressed me funny and my own father wouldn't tell her to knock the hell off.  White patent leather shoes are especially snappy, but not when you're a seventh-grader required to wear them to school.  I'd done as well if I'd just worn a sign on my back reading go ahead, abuse me.  So I do have some sensitivity to the tween and teen need for fashion acceptance.  That said, my mate and I have had to develop some general parameters within which the kids can work with their clothing.

They know my history and I've explicitly told them that I'll never make them dress in such a manner as to attract ridicule.  But we do insist that:

  • pants must be kept at an appropriate level since low slung pants started as a means of copying prison dress;
  • shirts not have any foul language on them;
  • the kids dress better for certain occasions since dressing well is a sign of respect for the situation at hand;
  • they learn that there are a few kids who'll poke fun just because they're idiots and that's what idiots do, so suck it up;
  • common sense is used so that clothing is appropriate for the weather at hand.

In that last statement, I don't give a tinker's dam what the other kids are saying since a  high of 50 degrees isn't appropriate for flip-flops and shorts.

Whether the kids find you cool is irrelevant here.  But what is relevant to the ongoing tension and debate is that you might actually be turned onto something that is itself cool.

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