Monday, July 07, 2008

Picking My Battles

Roasting Marshmallows in AlaskaYou're going to think this blog has descended to new lows when I tell you what happened the other day. Any illusion of classy parenting will disappear when you hear the story of the Battle of the Hot Dog (though it has a point I promise, stick with me here).

We had been invited to my sister's place for dessert a couple weeks ago--s'mores in fact, to be roasted over the gas fireplace on her back deck. We had sat down with our marshmallow sticks around the fake fire when Melissa said that things had been rather rushed at their place and they hadn't had dinner yet, did we mind if they roasted some hot dogs for themselves as well?

This may seem odd but hey, we're all family and I was perfectly fine with them getting dinner since they were so nice as to have invited us into their home. However (and please tell me my kids aren't the only ones who do this) at the mention of "hot dogs" Grace's ears perked up and while Melissa was getting the dogs Grace signaled to me that she wanted a hot dog.

I shook my head and Grace--though slightly disappointed--shrugged it off. But that wasn't enough for Spencer.

Melissa came back with the hot dogs and Spencer said loudly to Melissa, "Can I have a hot dog?"

Now my sister wouldn't say no to my kids even if she wanted to--she's just too nice--and like the perfect hostess she said, "Sure, you can have one" but I knew what would happen. I knew.

Spencer would want one, then Grace, David and Lillian and they would descend like locust on a field of grain to wipe out any and all food for a three mile perimeter, guaranteed. As soon as they started into the hot dogs they would eat and eat and eat until they exploded in a fiery hot dog ball of nitrites which, oddly enough, was quite unappealing to me right then.

There weren't enough hot dogs to feed a crowd of 10 and even if there were my kids had already had dinner--a large dinner in fact--with just enough room left for dessert, which was why we were there. I'd already told Grace no and Spencer had heard my answer but he'd waited to ask in front of Melissa because he knew she'd say yes which would make me give in.

So I said no. Just like that. But did that satisfy my boy? Nope, that just released the hounds and he asked in a higher voice with a tinge of whine to it "Why not?"

He should have known better than to mess with me at that time of the evening when I'm at my crabbiest added to the fact that I'd been without Andrew for some time while he'd been out of town on business and when I play single mom I get mean. I told him no again but still that didn't stop him.

After he'd asked the third time my sister, trying to be nice and to please Spencer said, "Really, it's okay--he can have one" but by that time it wasn't okay. At that point we were no longer talking about a stupid hot dog we had a full-blown issue on our hands and I had to decide how I was going to deal with it.

It wasn't just a matter of him having or not having a dumb dog suddenly it was a matter of him trying to manipulate me. How? Well he knew he'd get a better chance if he asked loudly and in front of his aunt. He knew I'd already said no to Grace but decided to batter me into submission by asking over and over. He knew he'd already had dinner and didn't need or want a hot dog but it sounded good. He knew he was being rude in someone else's home (he has been taught better) but wanted his hot dog more than he cared about courtesy.

Now don't get me wrong, the kid's only 11 1/2 so I don't necessarily expect Miss Manners from him but those are the moments when I just hate having to be "the Bad Guy." Andrew wasn't there to back me up and the other adults in the room were trying to be nice by encouraging leniency and it was me against my son to see who was going to win this little battle.

I have to admit that if I'd been in public among strangers I might have given in (nothing like feeling the whole supermarket is staring at you as you battle a screaming toddler is there?) just for the sake of peace but he forgot one huge point: that I didn't particularly care what my sisters thought of my parenting practices. If they thought I was the meanest mom in the world I'd still be able to sleep at night and this major tactical error cost him the day.

After he'd whined loudly for the hot dog the fourth time I finally said nicely and with a touch of scary-quiet to my voice: "Okay Spencer. You want to drag this out here? We'll take care of it here. You can't have the hot dog. You've already heard me say no two times more than I should have had to, you've already had dinner, you're not going to eat theirs and if I hear another word I'm going to prove how absolutely horrid I can be by grounding your little hiney into next week." Or something like that.

That shut him up and quietly, quickly the war was over and I'd won. My pre-teen boy had learned that extortion wasn't going to work--that I don't negotiate with terrorists and that's that.

Now I'm going to finish by contrasting that with another story from my early motherhood days when Grace was only 2. She was at the dinner table (why do all our traumas seem to revolve around food?) and we were finished with our meal but she didn't want to drink her small glass of milk.

I was ready to do dishes and didn't want to wait around so I tried to get her to hurry up and drink her glass. I tried coaxing and ordering but still she wouldn't drink it and suddenly in my mind I visualized myself at war against this toddler who was challenging my authority. Embarrassing to admit I know but deep down that's how I probably viewed it because I dug in and got serious. She was going to drink that milk and learn that there were rules at the dinner table, darn it!

We made her sit there for nearly an hour (please don't call social services) but she never drank the milk. I finally gave up, exhausted and drained and wondering if I was doomed to raise future Hells Angels.

I guess the whole point I'm trying to make is that I think (and I'm saying "think" here, I don't know for sure) that parenthood is a lot about learning which battles to pick. My children are individuals with their own thoughts, motives, reasons and urges, I wouldn't want them to be little clones of me or little goose-steppers obeying out of fear or lack of thought. However children must learn what's right and wrong and where the boundaries are to function in society and become good and decent people. They must learn to obey rules.

I can't give up my role as mother by letting them do whatever they want, I have to set those boundaries but when they disobey when it is important to step in and correct the course? Knowing when it's appropriate to step in and say "This is what must be done" and knowing when a divergence of opinion is okay--it may even be healthy--can be tricky. And if that weren't tricky enough to figure out add to that that each child is unique and will need a new set of parenting techniques altogether. I could tell Grace that she wasn't to eat their hot dogs and she was fine but the same thing didn't work for Spencer and probably would be different for David and Lillian. It's like having to come up four separate strategies to handle the same problem but from different angles. I'm four moms wrapped into one!

Obviously with my story about Grace as a toddler I was way off in both my reasons for wanting her to obey and my methods. It didn't take me long to realize that not drinking a glass of milk wasn't a big deal--that toddlers do that kind of thing all the time and it isn't the end of the world and that there were better ways to handle it. I should never have picked that fight.

However, I stand by how I handled the Spencer issue with the hot dogs. Why? Well because there are critical battles that have to be fought and if they aren't fought they'll be won by by default--and it won't be by the parents. When I hand out a punishment or consequence I have to follow through because if my kids discover that I can be worn down into giving in they'll remember that lesson forever and the punishments they earn in the future will be fictional. If our family has boundaries and standards they're expected to live but I don't enforce them (including for myself) then the standards are meaningless.

Now the hot dog story is pretty ridiculous but it kind of symbolizes the constant testing that goes on with kids--they're always looking for a loop hole, for an edge and part of being a good parent is knowing when that's not a big deal, to let them test things out because they're just learning and growing, and when it's critical to their characters to stand firm and not budge. I don't know that I've got it down yet but I figure I still have quite a few battles to go before I win the war.

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90 comments:

MoziEsmé said...

This is a challenging one. My 15-mo-old is much more strong-willed than I am! So far I've been picking my battles as to whether there is danger to health and safety or unkindness to someone else. But there are SO MANY battles!

Robin said...

((hug))

As my next door neighbor (whose got three grown children of her own) said to me after hearing me stand firm on a set of serious no more screwing around consequences to Maya the other night - this parenting thing is a lot harder than they told you it would be, isn't it...

You did the right thing. It wasn't easy or pleasant but it had to be done, and you did it, and now that's one battle that you hopefully won't have to fight again with any of them for a good long time. Good job mom.

nik said...

I remember back when I was 7 and my mother made pot pies for dinner. I wouldn't eat them because I detested peas. My father made me sit at that dinner table till I ate the pie. Well, he may have made me sat there but I never ate the pie. I sat there till it was time to go to bed. I won in the end. From that point on, my mother started buying those little mac and cheese dinners....my father never made my sister or I sit at the table to eat something we didn't like and to this day....I still can't stand peas!

No kids here but I am 12 yrs older than my brother and was a teenager when he was born so I was more aware of parenting and how times were different and the difference between the way he was raised and how my sister and I were raised. It was a lot harder for my parents with him then it was for us girls

Tanya said...

So why is it when you give in once, they learn that lesson for life and when you don't give in it takes them thousands of times to get it? I saw my kid in that hot dog situation and it takes me to the scary quiet voice every single time. I agree with the way you handled it. But, my sister would have said, "You heard your mother!" LOL

DanaB said...

As the mom of two teens (13 and 15)I totally would have stood firm on the hot dog thing--you're right, it was all about manipulating mom.

Forcing kids to eat, not a good battle plan--as you said!

Bravo, Mama!

~~

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

The only odd thing about this post is that you are at all defensive about what you did. You said one thing, your 11-year-old son nagged and whined (and 11 is far different from a toddler) and you refused to give in to nagging and whining. There is nothing to defend. You are the mom. He isn't. Go, Mom!

Kacie said...

Way to go! You definitely did the right thing.

Kim Priestap said...

Your instincts on both situations are right. Spencer had to be shut down immediately because he began to whine and manipulate in front of others for the sole purpose of getting what he wanted. That can not be rewarded or he'll do it again and again.

The milk and the 2 year old - that's a completely different situation. She was not conniving and manipulating in front of others to get her way.

Tanya mentioned her sister would have backed her up. I would have backed up my SIL's as well (I don't have real sisters).

Jeana said...

You are absolutely right, and I love the comparison you made to dealing with terrorists. It's just like asking if a friend can come over--right in front of the friend, so mom feels embarrassed if she says no. My mom had a rule that any time we did that the answer was automatically "NO". Once we figured out she meant it, we didn't do it any more!

Anonymous said...

I agree with your post--I don't lose when I've decided it's 'the battle'. It takes some work, though! Gen--IL Homesteader

Anonymous said...

I don't negotiate with terrorists! Ha! I love that line. I may use that in the future.

No kids yet, but like a previous commenter there is a huge age gap between me and my brothers. My youngest brother was born when I was 15, so i get a little misty eyed when I think about changing those little butts and now they are huge butts about to enter high school.

Erin said...

I completely agree and understand where you're coming from. With a 5 and a 3 year old, I feel like they are completely ganging up on me, and they aren't even in school yet! My question is: Did Grace decide she wanted her milk 10 minutes after she got out of her chair? Because that's what happens at our house!

Kristine said...

Amen, and Amen! Very well said!

Cagey said...

Great example of parenting and the challenges.

A friend of mine has a great parenting mantra -- "You can't force a kid to eat, poop or sleep." I try to remember that when picking my battles.

Mommy Cracked said...

Definitely one of those things that has to be done...yet so hard to do sometimes. And you're right...it's all about picking your battles and knowing when to pick them.

Heather said...

you are one smart mama. There is a vast difference between the toddler and the preteen...and their motivation for not listening.

I hope I recognize the difference too.

ewe are here said...

I'm 100% with you on this one.

In fact, I can envision my husband's extended family putting me/us in this position... rooting for leniency on our part so they can be the good guys, in spite of the manipulation and extortion and trying to make me look like the 'mean mom'.

Your boy was old enough to know better and should have conceded gracefully and quickly, and apologized to boot. Your family should have supported your decision instead of undermining your authority. And you should give yourself credit for trying to raise your kids properly.

Edi said...

I know just what you mean!

We had a sit at the table until you drink it deal once when my dd was about 4. She sat there for close to 2 hrs it seems like...even falling asleep in her chair. Nothing worked. We finally let her leave the table. She thought she had won. It seemed like she had won. BUT she never tried that long hold out again. When she was told to eat or drink something she did (usually!).

Amanda said...

Well done you. And three cheers for responsible parenting. As a primary school teacher I so often saw parents giving in to whining, and so wanted to march over there and tell them to stand firm now so they wouldn't have problems later on.

Annie said...

As the mother of an 18-yr-old and a nearly 16-year-old, my advice to you with younger children is to say what you mean and mean what you say.

You don't have to be a tyrant, but your little darlings need to know you can always be taken at your word. Yes, I would have given up with Gracie too, she's was just entering the game (so to speak).

If you do your job as a parent when they are young, your job as a parent when they are older is A LOT (and I cannot stress this enough) easier.

Blessed said...

Ahhh - true parenting.

I can already tell with my 10 month old that we have some battles coming up - the hard part is knowing which battle at which age is the right one to pick.

You did the right thing with your boy - they all try that trick - manipulating mom in front of others :) My next sister is 10 years younger than me and the baby is 14 years younger than me - I've seen the battles, now I just have to get ready to be a participant!

tjhirst said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Your insights about the careful balance of parenting are great with the two examples. In my case the one I missed was nasty battle between my 4-year old over peas. She ate them but then proceeded to throw them up all over the plate. I am learning over time. . . I especially love the line, "you've already had dinner, you're not going to eat theirs."

Daisy said...

We learned a good philosophy at an autism support meeting. It works for all kids, not just those with special needs. 1. Pick your battles (you've already learned this). 2. don't worry so much about having the last word; having the lasting word is much more important.
Sounds like this one is coming along strong in your family, too.

Barbara H. said...

Bravo for sticking to your guns and seeing the principles underneath the situation. Far too many parents would have let him have the hot dog because it was a little thing or because of the "peer pressure" of other adults watching, but then the child would have learned manipulation rather than obedience and a lesson in self-control. Parenting is tough! But these lessons will pay off in the long run.

Roo said...

GOOD JOB! I've watched kids around me and how their parents handle situations. It's not always the actual battle, but the point that needs to be made.

The other adults in the group really should have stayed out of it. Althought they didn't see a problem with it, they needed to step back and let you deal with your child.

Well, done!

Lara said...

I agree: Knowing which battles to pick has got to be one of the most difficult things I face as a mother. I think my eldest is a little traumatized still because I picked them all back then. :) I'm learning.

ames said...

Good for you! Negotiating with terrorists only teaches them that they can get what they want if they just grind you down enough. What they need to realize is that you are *diamond* at the core, there will be no grinding here!

Scribbit said...

Oh I hope it doesn't sound like the family was giving me trouble--they're just quite a bit younger and haven't got kids that age and didn't realize the whole point. My one sister has her little daughter who's 7 months and my other sister isn't married. They're supportive, they were just trying to be nice I guess--after it was over they said they agreed with what I did but that just didn't fit into the story as well. I suppose I should have said that so no one thinks they're unsupportive---

But I sure hear of lots of inlaws and family that can be really difficult when you want to parent your children. Not pleasant at all.

G's Cottage said...

Oh I have a very different take on this. Rule number one in my house is if a meal needs to be eaten while there are guests present it is offered to all or we suffer through and wait even if it means reversing the order (have dessert first with the guests). And I pull the hostess rules rule. I can't believe your own sister would put you into such an awkward position. A battle was created where none was necessary. The battle should never have become about the kids.

Better, but in my opinion not as good as offering to all, would have been at the mention of their dinner to have either announced "Kids Aunt and her kids haven't had their dinner but we have and we just came for dessert are we clear on this?" or to have asked to speak with her in the kitchen and the platform being negotiated privately without the lobbyist's input.

otherdeb said...

Sorry if this shows up twice - puter hiccoughed.


It's the same with me. I work in a high school, and I have to choose very carefully what battles I engage in, or it could end up getting me fired or giving me a stroke.

It's also the one skill I try to teach the kids I interact with, in the hopes that they will learn to walk away from about half the fights they are challenged to.

Cresanna said...

I applaud you for sticking it out on the hot-dog issue. I've seen so many parents give in in situations like this one, and then they wonder why their kids are whiny and don't listen.

I loved Cagey's comment ... "You can't force a kid to eat, poop or sleep." ... gonna remember that one!

Becky said...

Wow! Good for you! It wasn't a dumb story at all - it was a very meaningful one, and I was SO impressed by your firm mother-ness. Keep it up. The world needs more moms who actually mean what they say.

Thanks for sharing this story.

Melissa-Mc said...

I learned very quickly to choose those important battles (the hot dog was an important battle).

When my first was 2 and she wanted to wear polka dots, stripes and mickey mouse all together, I had to let go and let her dress herself. It just wan't important enough to fight over.

You're a great mom.

Janet said...

Yes indeed. My 4-year-old was born with manipulation as a skill. The 2-year-old is more easy-going, but he has a few OCD issues (my glass has to go HERE). And you're right - you have to be a different Mom with each of them. my hat is off to you for handling FOUR.

april said...

GOOD FOR YOU!

*Finally* a mother who isn't afraid to be a good parent. I applaud you!

Shannon said...

I would've handled the hot dog situation the same way! I try to look at the motivation behind a behavior in determining how to handle it. And I think you did the same thing in choosing not to cave to your son's attempts to usurp your authority! With your daughter, I always try to remember a quote from James Dobson who says that parents will hardly ever win the table battle against toddlers. I found that to be very true. My kids outlasted me nearly every time until I figured that one out!

Sandy said...

I have so been there! It's nice to know ahead of time that that behavior doesn't improve too much with age.

Maddy said...

Yes it's so hard not to fall into the doormat school of parenting - you know, when you just lie down and let them trample all over you. But I don't want to be too much of a little wiener.
Cheers

detroit dog said...

Just had to chime in on this one.

I'm 50 and do not have children. However, I'm the eldest of 5 and started babysitting at age 11 and gave it up at 16 (burn out). So, take this how you will....

1) We wouldn't have "gotten away" with this past the age of 8 in our household; if a whine started, you were guaranteed that you wouldn't get what you wanted, and that if you persisted you would be publicly humiliated in the process of being told "no" one more time. This was a known fact.

2) As the Aunt of 7, I can tell you that I'm more closely related to my sibs than to their children. Therefore, my first words are always "Your mom (dad) said No." That usually takes care of it.

And still, I'm told that I'm the favorite Aunt in the family. :-)

You did the right thing, and at the right time.

Sheri said...

You absolutely did the right thing. Once you said no the first time, to Grace, the decision had been made and was final. I deal with this all the time, and it's definitely tougher as they get older. But that's when it's most important. Yes, toddlers need to learn the rules too, but let a pre teen win even a small battle and they'll try to steamroll you every time. (Can you tell what age my kids are,lol)
You did great, mom.

Cynthia said...

This is an excellent post! Thanks for sharing that story.

laughingatchaos said...

Yup. I have to pick my battles on a daily, if not hourly, basis. If I don't, all hell breaks loose. Somehow I ended up with the most strong-willed, "push all buttons" child and the most easy-doing, "dude, whatever" one as well. I fight that hot-dog battle every day with the strong-willed one and he keeps coming back for more. You'd think he'd learn at some point, right? LOL! He's seven and I figure he'll get it one of these days. As for his younger brother...after his sibling, is it any wonder I think he's the most laid-back person on the planet? ;)

Jen Rouse said...

Oh, picking the battles. So hard. Especially in front of other people. At least you were able to not worry about holding your ground in front of your sisters. I would have no qualms in front of my sister, either, but I get very self-conscious when I'm parenting in front of my mother.

Julie Pippert said...

FWIW, I back you up on both points: the pick your battle point and the "no hotdog point."

John & Laura said...

Thank you for blogging about stuff like this. I hate moments like the one you described. My only hope is that I will learn to not care what others think about my parenting. Especially family.

And thanks for being so candid about dumb moves you made--like with the milk. It means there's hope for me!! :)

alotalot said...

So now, in hindsight...what you would do with the 2 year old and the milk she didn't want to drink?

perilloparodies said...

know how that goes...You could totally add this blog entry to the following writing contest i have posted in my blog. check it out here...
http://perilloparodies.blogspot.com/2008/07/another-and-different-writing-contest.html

Owlhaven said...

Good for you!!! Sounds like the kind of choices I make every day!

Mary, mom to many

Jamie said...

So when you won the battle, I was cheering on the inside - like you would in a superhero movie when the hero beats the villain. Nice work - not sure I could have been so strong. Inspiring story - really.

sarah w. said...

Excellent job, fellow mom! I've been there and I sympathize. In my humble opinion, I think it was an appropriate and well fought battle.

Side note:
I can tell you weren't criticizing your sister, you simply meant that you can be stern with your kids in front of her and not have to worry what she thinks. Is this the one with the little baby you mentioned? As all moms know, it's hard to juggle a new baby and have company over. It sounds like you guys are comfortable enough around each other that it wasn't such a big deal to ask to sneak in a hot dog dinner while you were there (especially in her own home, and knowing you had already eaten!) I thought it was considerate of her to ask and reasonable of her not to starve herself until after you guys left. We're talking about a couple of alaskan sisters, not a corporate dinner party guest! I think you handled it well and she was a gracious host.

merideth said...

ah, you got it right. i wish more parents would mean what they say - my outtings to public places would be much more enjoyable!

i have three children: 21, 20 ... and 3 (surprise baby!). i have learned to pick battles, so they knew (little one is learning - i hope!) mommy means what she says. daddy? not so much. too soft-hearted to be consistent, which causes no end of grief for mommy. he's even worse with age. (sigh)

Anonymous said...

Spencer is 11 1/2? Be prepared for him to be hungry ALL THE TIME for the next 5 to 8 years. Your grocery budget will need to grow, because he's growing. And Grace looks like she added some length to her stature.

TONYA said...

Aaah, the preteen. Don't you love them. Asserting their indpendence, getting a little sassy. I have one of those who likes to ask things in front of other people thinking that I'll cave .. and sure, there have been times when I have. However there are a number of times when I too get that quiet yet authoritive voice and he knows to no longer mess with me.

Let's take today when we were enjoying a day at the zoo with friends and he gets a phone call from his bf saying he just got a BB gun, you can guess what happened next. After hearing 'but mum, why can't I' a few too many times I very quietly said, unless you want this to get ugly and for my voice to become loud enough for everyone in the zoo to hear I would not bring up this subject again ... you'll shoot your eye out.

Damselfly said...

Oh, thank you for this. After a day like today, I really needed to read this!

Jenna Consolo said...

It's a CONSTANT battle-picking challenge, isn't it? You did the right thing in standing firm with the 11 year old. Especially because he's 11. He's priming you for teenagerhood, Mom! And now somewhere in his subconscious, he knows he can trust you. You mean what you say. And that's a good thing.

Patti said...

I have food battle stories with both my kids, now 22 and 17. Sometimes it's necessary to win the battle...just make sure you don't lose the war!

Jennifer said...

This post sure brought out a lot of commentors!

I remember being the kid sitting at the table. For me it was 2 hours, lima beans, and a new step dad. I never ate those lima beans and to this day we joke about it when someone suggests serving them.

crazy working mom said...

Very nicely done, Mom!
Whoo hoo.

Christie O. said...

right on, sister. you did right by that hot dog. i am having some fun two-year-old drama, and you're right -- it's tough having to pick out what to fight over and what to let go. but it's starting to become clear, even though it.is.exhausting.

and you're so right about the different ways to deal with four different personalities and being four moms in one! there is no "one" way to do things, there just isn't. good job to you!

Chief Family Officer said...

Michelle, you put into words something I've thought many times myself. A big part of parenting is definitely picking your battles wisely. And with my three-year-old (and even my one-year-old), I find that sometimes giving in is good because it's about making them feel empowered. But I do my best not to give in b/c they whined, I usually try to understand what's important to them in that moment and reach a compromise that's acceptable to all. I remember feeling pretty powerless as a teenager, too, so I think this will be equally important when my boys are older. It's just such a delicate, tricky balance. But it sounds like you're doing a great job!

Michele P. said...

Oh yes, don't I just love it when kids do that. They seem to know you are out in public and don't want a scene. I remember one time my son was about 8, we went to the dollar store for something, and he wanted a toy. I covered my ears as the high pitched whine came to a crescendo, and I could have sworn that the glass figurines over in aisle two were breaking. As a crowd descended upon us, wondering what on earth was happening, my son-toy still in hand, mind you-threw himself against a corner in the wall and began sobbing loudly "don't hurt me, please don't hurt me" as I glared at him. OMG the horror, as I felt all eyes upon me. I think every was expecting me to beat this kid to oblivion the way he was screaming. I calmly but firmly said he could NOT have the toy and if he continued to make a scene we would leave and he would not come back to the store again. Then, I bent and whispered in his ear "and if you don't get up off the floor this instant you will know how it feels to have your behind warmed". Prior to that, he'd only been spanked one other time in his life and he knows I am not the spanking type-but I am also not against it-and it takes alot to get me to the point where I even mention it. Immediately, the crocodile tears dried up and he grabbed my hand and said "Ok, Mommy-we can get the toy next time." Sensing that the battle was over, the crowd dispersed and I was able to go about my shopping in peace. He still remembers it and laughs about it to this day-but back then I could have wrung his little neck!

Anonymous said...

Bravo! Now to work on your sister backing you up. :-)

I'm a relatively new older mom and parenting in front of others un-nerves me. My daughter TOTALLY knows this and takes advantage. I'm getting better at it, thankfully because the battles are getting more important.

jeanie said...

You did do the right thing, IMO.

I remember when I had to learn the "chose your battle" mantra - I was finding myself saying no to EVERYTHING because they would all turn into dramas, and so the slightest yes would mean total doom to my dictatorship!

Then I learned the power of thinking and saying yes to some things - which made my no far more powerful, and used for good and not habit!!!

I so would have pulled his s'mores, and possibly all his siblings if he had pressed the point - but I am a far meaner mother!

Scribbit said...

Thanks for all your comments on this--if my kids ever heard all this they'd never try anything on me ever again! :)

Marilyn - A Mixed Bouquet said...

You were right on with how you handled Spencer and the hot dog situation. I've drawn those lines several times with mine and four are adults now; with the youngest being 16. They all survived and respect was the end result.

Way to go, Mom!

Calhoun said...

We are so sure these things are going to hurt our kids, we can’t even think straight. You did the right thing.

laura said...

Wow. To be honest, you handled that WAY better than I would. I was ready to strip him of all hot dogs for a year and his smores for the night. You were definitely in the right to hold the ground on this one, not that you need anyone's approval. But I was very impressed with how you handled it and saw the importance of the total situation, not just the hot dog. Great job, mom!

Melanie said...

Ooh boy, I feel you. Mine is 5 and the last 2 weeks or so he's been arguing every point with me. He's got Last Word syndrome. BAD. And
I'm getting frustrated. Today we had the Sandwich War. And then there's the "if Mom says no ask Dad." He's going behind our backs and the calculated manipulation is a little scary in one so young.

It's tough but I think giving in to keep the peace will only make it harder later.

Jennifer said...

drat...look at all the comments already saying everything I wanted to:)

Clearly something we all deal with and wonder about everyday of our lives and want to talk about :)

Sharlene said...

You definitely did the right thing. I would have wanted to ground that boy to into next year! Whew. Good for you for remaining calm.

Robin said...

Clearly, this post resonates with a lot of people; for every comment you received, there are probably many others who read w/out adding their two cents.

I guess I'm just a "chimer" at this point; now that my kids are 11, 14 and almost 16, it's VERY obvious you have to choose your battles. The beauty of choosing wisely, is "after the fact", my kids almost always agree with me/us.

I'm sure it's helpful to readers with younger children to see the differences you've distinguished here; it's helpful to know what's coming 'round the corner.

Well done, Michelle!

Enzie at World Market Portraits said...

This reminds me of our meal time battles Michelle.

My mom would heat up meals over and over trying to get me to eat what I absolutely hated for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Cauliflower being one of them. I survived and won those battles and we finally called it a truce when she changed the recipe and dished that veggie up as a puree. LOL

I agree with you though that one has to choose ones battles or things get blown out of proportion for no reason at all, but bruised egos.

Lisa said...

My 11 year old is the one that will argue me to death. But I am strong and lately when she starts to argue I just say what I have to say and end it with "Don't argue with me."

It's nice to hear a parent follow through with a decision as well. I think there is too much of the giving in to constant whining. And that is worse than what others think of our parenting skills.

Killlashandra said...

Considering he's 11 I wouldn't have let it go either. Parenting is tough and what other people think of you parenting style is sometimes tough to deal with, although I like your comment that at your sister's, you weren't going to lose any sleep over their thoughts on the matter. I wish more people had that attitude. Sometimes others looking from the outside really do miss what the real problem is when they watch parenting at say walmart.

Glad you did not let in. :)

Lori - Queen of Dirty Laundry said...

Michelle, I'm so glad you wrote about this! Makes me feel encouraged about my own choices.

Just Sunday I was talking to some friends and asking, "Why does it seem like I'm the only person who insists on manners and obedience from my children?"

"And why does it seem like friends are always saying, 'Oh, she's all right!' when I correct my girls?"

I would have handled that situation exactly as you did, and agree that the toddler situation is different.

Like another commenter said, you can't force someone (toddler or not) to eat, poop or sleep. We'll always lose those battles, so it's best not to engage in them.

RC said...

I think you handled this beautifully.

When I was 10, I asked my mother if I could bring a friend with me to the movies that night (we were going to go see Ghostbusters as a family). Because I knew she would say "no," I asked her in front of my friend and my friend's mom.

Yes, I manipulated the situation, although I don't recall thinking of it in devious terms at the time, I do know I figured she would say "yes," if my friend was right there.

She said, "yes," as she didn't want to make my friend upset, and my friend's mom was already getting the money out to send her with us. I was grounded for two weeks after we got home. My mom informed me that she, "hoped it was worth it."

I knew better. She had taught us not to ask those kinds of questions in front of guests.

I think your son will learn from this, as well.

Good job.

SeaBird said...

Your hour over a cup of milk reminds me my two hours over saying "thank you" - - and my son was barely two. It took some time for me to get perspective on that (and forgive myself), but he has obediently said Thank You ever since.... although he may end up in therapy over it later.

He's still very willful, but knows now that I.Never.(okay, Very Very Rarely).Give.In.

Makita said...

<<< HUGS >>>

You handled it wonderfully! I had a similar situation this past weekend - it also revolved around food - and though it is difficult 'in the moment' - we get through it!

Your post is very well written - I don't think I could've written more than a couple of paragraphs.

Thank you for the insight! :D

Code Yellow Mom said...

"I'm four moms wrapped into one!" THAT is the challenge, isn't it? I think it's also one of the greatest blessings of motherhood - that intuition and ability to learn as you go - and four children help you polish your edges from four different angles. It's a master plan for learning wisdom. :) You're doing great!

Jen at Semantically driven said...

I would have handled the Spencer issue in the same way. And I have handled similar issues in the same way. My son loves his food and any chance to get more he'll grab.

Yes, my name is Arizona said...

I never make my kids eat something they say they don't want to eat. But, i also don't let them eat everything they say they want to eat. I agree on picking your battles and knowing what the battle is really about. It can be tough sometimes since the arguments sometimes catch you off-guard. The joys of parenting!

The Motherboard said...

I am all about picking your battles! There are enough battles that matter, so why waste your time on ones that don't?

I think teaching your son that you will not be bullied is a good battle to pick. Eating your dinner, or wearing matching clothes-- not so much.

I have always felt like I will let my kids make as many choices as possible, so that when I HAVE to put my foot down, I can pull the "I let you always choose-- but on this thing, there is not choice. It's my way only. No negotiating." KWIM??

Why do kids think that "No" is the first step in the negotiation process??

Excellent post. You hit the mommy nerve for sure!

Beck said...

I think you dealt TOTALLY well with that - giving in would have sent the wrong message to everyone. And he's 11 and old enough to know better, so GOOD FOR YOU!

luckyzmom said...

I hope all your commenters are agreeing with your wise advice. One of my most vivid memories when I was about six was sitting at the dinner table for hours to eat the liver my Mom had served. I never did do it and was sent to my room without dessert which was my favorite, strawberry shortcake. I believe being made to finish everything on my plate was one of the reasons I have a huge weight issue.

But, on the other hand, the hotdog had nothing to do with food and everything to do with blatant defiance and I believe you handled it well.

And I loved when you said you are actually four Moms.

jubilee said...

Still learning to pick my battles. Some battles seem so life and death at the time and then later I wonder, "What was I thinking?!"

I would have done the same thing with the hot dog situation. If it had happened in public, though, I may have been tempted to give in only to quell a huge scene. Right or wrong, I hate a scene in public! And the kids are NEVER embarrassed over a huge scene in public, are they?!

Shalee said...

Personally I think you chose wisely. Teaching doesn't always come at the best times or in the greatest scenarios, but the fact that you proved to him that obedience and respect for you always trumps manipulations was a solid lesson in discipline and self-control. Were you in public or home, what you did was appropriate for who you hope he will be in the future. Not only him, but all the siblings too.

When The Girl was petitioning us for a cell and we gave her a negative answer with the answer that she doesn't need one yet, after all the talking, she went completely quiet on us - the kind of quiet that says I don't like your answer so I'll ice you out. However she called back the next day to apologize and to say that she knows that she doesn't need a cell right now and she was sorry for arguing. I was shocked and yet filled with pride (in a good way) that she made such a mature move to accepting our answer.

Mary@notbefore7 said...

So well explained and well written. Wow - you have such a great gift for writing. Course, I already knew that, but I wrote about this topic months ago and it is amazing to see how a writer handled it with such flair :)

Loved this and I am SO with you.

Melissa Markham said...

This story is right on! I just wish there was a handbook to help me figure out which were the right battles to pick;)

chelle said...

I think you totally nailed parenting .. picking your battles. My husband is still learning this one and often fights more than he needs to.

Nicole said...

BRAVO. I would have done exactly the same thing with my 11 year old daughter!!!