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Is this a Hill I am willing to die on?

My 3 year old daughter is a riot to play games with, especially board games.  My parents were just out visiting over Christmas.  Games with grandpa are always a highlight for my daughter.  I peeked in on them playing “Candyland” for at least 45 minutes, marveling at the turn taking and laughs.

When Granny and Grandpa left last week, my daughter wanted ME to play grandpa’s game with her.  I quickly realized that those 2 had their own rules – my rules, the real rules, were not half as fun.  I am a bit of a stickler for games played by the rules with no cheating – I tried to implement the real rules to teach ‘order’ and proper counting.  My daughter lost interest about 4 minutes in.  So I had to figure out if I should stay the course (stick to the ‘not-fun’ real rules) or bend and let her move wherever she wants and win every game.

When speaking at conferences or facilitating parenting programs, I try to listen as much as I speak.  For one simple reason, I learn so much from other parents – it’s amazing!  One of the best lines I have ever heard was from a very involved brilliant mom, who noted, when declining to engage in a power struggle, “That was not a hill I was willing to die on…”

Bang – the bolt of lighting hit me – I quickly pulled out my iphone (not Blackberry :) and wrote myself a note to never forget that little gem… “that’s Gold Jerry!”

As parents, we are faced with hundreds of situations during a chaotic parenting day that could be made simple by asking the question: “Is this a Hill I am willing to die on?” which I translate to ‘dad-talk’ as “is this a situation that, like a soldier, I will dig my heels in and stubbornly fight to the death to win/get my point across?”

  • 4 year old won’t eat vegetables…
  • 6 year old won’t help with chores around the house…
  • 8 year old has a messy bedroom…
  • 12 year old comes home from school and immediately starts playing videogames…
  • 16 year old constantly breaks curfew…

If it ISN’T a hill you are willing to die on, then let it go.  Picking your battles doesn’t mean you either fight or turtle, but you have to decide how much attention you want give that situation.   How much air-time do you want to give it?   If life is where you put your attention, then where are you putting yours?

My daughter and I now play Candyland using HER rules and we love it.  We have lots of time to learn the real rules…

If it IS a hill you ARE willing to die on, then prepare your approach, organize your thoughts, begin with the end in mind, and then work backwards — constantly remembering that there is NOTHING more important than your relationship with your child.

Until next time, go boldly brave dad…

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