I spent the first two years of being a mother fighting losing battles.
I tried desperately to be the best mom I could and to do that it seemed like I had to do everything right, get everything perfect and make no mistakes.
So, I set out to get my little girls to eat what I wanted them to eat. I tried to get them what I wanted them to wear. I tried to get them to do things I wanted them to do.
And I did it all based on what society, magazines and other moms seemed to think was right.
Basically, I wanted them to follow my very sophisticated, adult agenda.
And, as a result, there were a lot of tears.
On my end.
Waking up and accepting imperfections as part of our abundant lives is hard to do but that’s what I did. Motherhood doesn’t have to be this hard. Raising children shouldn’t cause pain — for me or my kids. And sometimes waking up is simply a matter of realizing that right isn’t always better. Right isn’t always the peaceful path. Right isn’t always what will build our kids up to be awesome and thriving.
And that striving for perfection isn’t the only way to be a good mother.
So I stopped the battles, cold.
Sure, there’s still battles — but I choose those. The rest? I let go of the power struggles that seemed to be a waste of my time and energy. The result? Our relationship, our days, our life became more peaceful and more full of joy. There will continue to be battles about things I pick my battles over such as being kind and respectful of others and taking care of yourself.
I no longer base my motherhood value on the number of broccoli trees they eat or if their outfits look magazine-ready. I no longer weigh my worth by how clean their rooms are or whether the house is fit for company.
I’ve said this over and over but we really need to let go — of our agendas, our preconceived notions, our expectations, our desire to keep up with others and our dream of appearing to be perfect moms. We need to do less.
Plus, giving kids more power over their lives is about the best gift we can give them in life. This is how they learn.
The children will be just fine.
But, if you’re struggling with where to begin, here are a few ideas:
Mealtime Woes — Let go of how much they eat and what they eat. So long as you give them something healthy at each meal and so long as they eat a few bites of it, just know you are doing your best. The rest is up to them. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink — and the same goes for kids. Let go of the power struggle and just give them the healthy food anyway. If they eat it, awesome. If they do not, the world will not end today.
Dressing appropriately — This is the first battle that went out the window at our house. There’s still a battle about clothes all the time but it’s between my girls and not me. I leave dressing — including coat choices — entirely up to them. Sometimes they match. Sometimes they mesh with the weather. Sometimes it all goes crazy and that’s lovely, too. And because I intervene so little, those very rare moments when I do have to put my foot down make a very real impact. In fact, letting them make their own decisions is something we strongly practice and have for years.
Screen-time — Boundaries are important when it comes to screen-time but that doesn’t mean it has to be a battle. Simple rules like “You can watch TV when X, Y and Z are done” or “You can get on the computer during our family tech-hour or quiet time later today.” Or, you may not watch TV on school days. Giving in is also important on letting go of this power struggle. Really, screen time doesn’t hurt in complete moderation.
Going outside – Don’t just holler “Go outside!” If it’s so awesome … why aren’t you outside? Instead of a power struggle over getting fresh air, be a role model and pick up a few resources that make being outdoors fun. Make it a game or a challenge to see how many fun things you can do outside. But, seriously, being in nature is awesome … spread that love to your children but don’t force it.
Reading – There are so many great reasons to sit and read a book … if you’re an adult. But, for kids, this isn’t always true for all. So stop nagging and start encouraging and motivating. Don’t make it a battle. Make it fun. And, by all means, sit down and read yourself — in the middle of the day, or at dinner. Promote your own value on reading and it will pour through without the nagging.
Talking Back – This is crazy talk now, I know, but I go back and forth with this myself. In the end, I just go silent and walk away. It’s not worth the power struggle. Plus, follow this rule: It’s better to be kind than to be right. Again, modeling is the key. The less you push it, the quieter it becomes and that makes for a more peaceful home.
Saying sorry – Another hard one but it’s far better to teach a child to make up in their own way than to force a fake, inauthentic sorry. So, let go of this struggle and show them really fun ways to make amends like making a snack or picture for their sibling or writing a sweet note to dad.
Cleaning up – I don’t know any person who hasn’t had to deal with a power struggle over cleaning. In fact, most of the women I know harbor a ton of resentment for the amount of crazy cleaning they had to do as kids. So, why not put away this power struggle once and for all and just make it a family fun project. Work together for the better of the family rather than “Do it now or else.” Set the timer, blast the music and get cleaning. If your kids are like mine they may even utter, “I love cleaning” before it’s over. Swoon.
I’d love to hear about your own power struggles — those you’d love to let go or those you’ve already kissed good-bye, for your own sanity. Or, what about a power struggle from your childhood that still bothers you now?