Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, ‘Cuz the Big Stuff is Coming!

Purposeful Parent Tip: Pick Your Battles to Avoid Overreacting to the “Small Stuff”

I can be an over-reactor. There, I said it. I’m not sure where this comes from but when something goes awry, my first instinct is to panic and fly off the handle. After a bit, I compose myself, and then am able to deal with the problem pretty efficiently. Why this initial reaction? I think my ‘flight or fight’ gene is on overdrive!

This is most evident when dealing with issues or challenges from my kids. A toy that got broken through careless play, a lost video game, or trouble at school seem to illicit the same reaction from me. “What happened?” or “Why did you do that?” are some of the first words out of my mouth in let’s just say a higher than normal voice, followed by the requisite ‘time out’, followed by remorse that perhaps I should have reacted differently.

My quick-to-respond actions have sometimes squelched my ability to really listen to the whole story and instead, at times, ended up in unfair discipline. The taking away of a privilege or the loss of TV for a period of time were the outcomes when my kids were younger. Now that they are older, those don’t quite work as well and guess what? Neither does my ‘jump to conclusions’ reaction either.

Bigger kids. Bigger Problems. I’d heard that from some of my former colleagues when they were addressing their own children’s issues. I was dealing with potty training (a.k.a. “the small stuff”) and could not fathom a larger problem than that! Today when I think back on how upset I got over truly stupid stuff, it pains me. I could’ve used that energy to deal with the challenges I have now! How come no one tells you that?

“Go on, let ‘em eat chocolate on the newly cleaned white sofa.” “Let him crash his Little Tikes bike into the sidewalk.” “Let her cut her hair.” “You’re going to need your strength when he comes home with a failing grade in biology, or worse, girl troubles!”

Don’t you think this would’ve been great advice? Why didn’t all of those parents of pre-teens and teens share this sage knowledge with me? Did they secretly wish these times on me so that I would know how they felt?  I could’ve saved so much time, energy, and money on hair color had I known that peeing close to the potty was good enough!

Yes, today my kids’ problems are tougher and there are many times I have no clue what to do (don’t tell them that though!). I find myself asking my siblings and friends about the best approach and their experience. (Luckily they have ALL experienced the same thing!)

The real lesson here is this however. No matter what the problem – spilled milk or stolen iPhone – I encourage my kids to tell me the truth because not doing so will have a very different result. We will deal with the problem head on and figure it out. But if my kids don’t feel like they can come to me and admit they ‘broke the lamp’ (i.e. the small stuff), then they will never feel comfortable telling me about things like peer pressure or struggles in school (i.e. the big stuff).

The bigger the kid, the bigger the problem. Make sure you set the stage early on to listen to your kids regarding the small stuff. Otherwise, they’ll never tell you about the big stuff and guess what? It’s the big stuff that really matters.





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