October 3, 2014 - Parenting

Choose your battles.


This saying’s author, Sun Tzu was a brilliant Chinese military strategist and highly respected general of the ancient Chinese army.

Known for his ability to understand warfare so well that he would gain an unprecedented level of victory on the battlefield, his impact on Chinese history and culture is evident to this day.

The Art of War, a book of military strategy written by Sun Tzu during the 4th Century BC, has maintained timeless influence on warfare throughout history.

As recently as the early 1900’s, Sun Tzu’s strategies shaped global military campaigns. His challenge to, “not fight battles you cannot win!” continues to impact the culture and politics of western civilization.

Why is Sun Tzu’s advice so well-respected after 2400 years? Is it really a revelation that we shouldn’t pick a fight we can’t win?

In the process of studying The Art of War, modern-day analysts believe that the obvious nature of Sun Tzu’s strategies are the key to its success.

We incorporate Sun Tzu’s ideas and ideals in our lives every day, not because we have studied him or are his followers. We do it because it makes sense.

If we consistently fight with our children over issues that make no difference in the grand scheme of things, we will not have their respect when important issues rear their ugly heads. We want them to rely on us, not on someone who may not have Godly values or beliefs.

Dr. James Dobson writes,

“Don’t throw away your friendship with your teenager over behavior that has no great moral significance. There will be plenty of real issues that require you to stand like a rock. Save your big guns for those crucial confrontations.”

From the time our children are toddlers, non-crucial confrontations begin. They seem important at the time, but usually aren’t. Confrontations increase in frequency as children grow older, and eventually they learn to push our buttons to their benefit.

By choosing our battles we follow basic guidelines, one of which is to place the specific behavior in a category. For example, if the issue is minor, like not wanting to eat a certain food or refusing to take a bath, we as parents have to set forth the rules and insist they are obeyed.

Even though it’s not mission critical to life and does not appear to be a big deal, it’s important to understanding authority. It doesn’t require a Battle, but it establishes ground rules.

When an issue of social integration emerges, it’s important that we train our children well. If that child is consistently disruptive when mom and dad are trying to have a conversation with someone, this is considered a negative behavior of social integration. In other words, it carries forward in how they relate to others for the rest of their lives.

In such cases, the child requires guidance to remove the inappropriate behavior (being disrespectful to adults) and to be directed to the proper course (respecting authority) or they may continue to have difficulties well into adulthood.

Although children can get on our nerves, if we whittle away at every issue we will represent nothing more than a negative influence. To safeguard their self respect, they may tune us out.

Raising children requires balance. Choosing our battles is not as easy as it seems, but the more we focus on the positive, the more we focus on the positive.

Over time we grow relationships that pay off when issues like teen pregnancy, drugs or alcohol confront our children head on, and the first person they think of talking to is Mom or Dad.