My daughter, Hailey, is currently in the process of being potty trained. (If you have kid, you know this is a huge milestone.) To keep her motivated, my wife and I give her a little treat each time she goes potty on the toilet.
The other day she went potty all by herself, and as expected, she came to me asking for her compensation. So just like I’ve always done, I gave her 2 Skittles.
Well, apparently that wasn’t good enough because she immediately said “3 Skittles”.
I responded calmly, “No, remember we give you 2 Skittles after you go potty. That’s the deal.”
She wouldn’t have it. “3 Skittles!” she insisted.
Okay, nice Daddy isn’t getting through. Time to kick it up a notch. “Hailey, you get 2 SKITTLES after you go potty, not 3! So here you go, take them!”
At this point she started crying and screamed, “3 Skittles! I want 3 Skittles!” She wasn’t stepping down from this one, and neither was I!
I eventually raised my voice and said, “Alright, if you don’t want your 2 Skittles, I’ll take them away!” and put them back in the goody bucket and went upstairs, leaving her in tears.
I entered our bedroom and there was my wife, who had heard the whole scenario and somewhat sheepishly informed me that she had given Hailey 3 Skittles earlier in the day.
You can imagine the look on my face. Woops…
It’s difficult communicating with a 2-year old, especially when they’re not yet speaking in full sentences. Clearly Hailey had reason to want 3 Skittles, but I was completely unaware of the precedent set earlier in the day.
After calming down for a moment, I went back downstairs and saw Hailey sitting in her chair crying and very upset. I went back to the goody bucket, grabbed 3 Skittles, and laid them down on the table.
Instantly, Hailey looks up at me with these big blue and tear-filled eyes and tenderly says with a smile “Thank you dadda. Thank you.”
That was it. End of discussion. Peace was restored, and we were buddies again.
Picking Your Battles
Every household is different and every child is different, but the point I want to make is wouldn’t it have been easier to just give her 1 more teeny tiny Skittle and avoided this whole mess?
Some may say, “Come on, Jason! She’s 2 years old!” I realize that, but one of my greatest fears is raising spoiled children that think they can have whatever they want whenever they want.
I’m learning that in parenting, you have to choose your battles. Sometimes, who wins the debate just doesn’t matter and many arguments with children or with spouses can be entirely avoided.
Building a House
I had another experience the other day with the contractor who’s building our house, and this one involved money. My wife and I made specific requests to remove a few archways in the house and replace them with doors.
Long story short, they didn’t do what we asked them to do and so we asked them go back and fix it. They pushed back hard and said they could fix it but it would cost us $100. We were flabbergasted. For what, a mistake we didn’t even make?
“Here we go again, another moment of decision,” I thought to myself. I can argue with this guy until I’m blue in the face over this small amount of money and probably risk having him cut corners on the rest of our house, or we can pay the money with a firm handshake and get back to business (this wasn’t our first stand off).
I ultimately agreed to pay and did just that–gave him a firm handshake and said let’s move forward. Maybe that wasn’t the right thing to do but I chose to avoid that battle and keep moving forward on good terms.
Use Good Judgment
Whether you’re disciplining a child, negotiating with a contractor, or arguing with a spouse, you need to pick your battles wisely.
When it really matters, by all means we should hold our ground. But often it doesn’t matter and should just let it go.
I was unwilling to give my daughter 1 more Skittle, and as a result, invited contention into our home. With the contractor, I chose to avoid getting into a lengthy argument and kept the house moving forward on good terms.
There’s no right answer. But the next time you find yourself contending with another, remember to use good judgment and remember that avoiding a battle is sometimes the smartest move you can make.