General George Patton once gave some wise advice concerning war; “Never go in to battle unless you have something to gain from winning.” I would imagine he had seen some extremely ugly fighting and came to realize insignificant battles are pointless. If you’re going toe-to-toe it better be for good reason. The General’s philosophy works without guns too.
I got a question from a home where constant battling is evidently a problem: “We are always at odd with our kids. They think we are too strict. We are pretty firm and say no to a lot because there is so much they can get in trouble with. How do you decide what to say no to?”
My best answer would be the George Patton quote. If you know what is worth standing up for before things heat up, you can stay focused and calm. Kids have a magical way of talking circles around parents. It starts at two-years-old and if left unchecked parents will be wandering in a confused state of edginess by the time the kids hit puberty. The Army has a plan, so should parents.
Jim and I had a grid of sorts we ran issues through before battle lines were drawn. If something was illegal, immoral, or dangerous, it was worth potential conflict. If something fell outside those guidelines, we let it slide. Kids are told no so much and for good reason most of the time. Think about why no is the answer before you give it.
Let the kids help establish the boundaries, obviously not in the heat of the moment, but maybe at a family meeting over dinner. They might be more conservative than you in some situations. I think many parents hold such tight reigns because they eeeked through high school just barely staying out of jail, or not.
If your son has on unlaced tennis shoes and his hair looks like it got caught in the ceiling fan and your daughter is wearing three different patterns and a multi-colored hair band when you get in the car to go out for a family meeting dinner, just breathe. Is it really worth the battle? Simply smile and say “Hi” if people stare at the Cracker Barrel. Who’s more important anyway … your kids or people you don’t know and more than likely will never see again. The General would definitely say the kids.