How Do You Pick Your Battles if Everything’s a Battle?

by Abby on November 30, 2011

Whenever I hear someone advise parents to pick their battles, I always wonder: what do you do if EVERYTHING is a battle? Like, say, when you’re dealing with 2- and 3-year-olds. Lately I’ve been locked in combat with my younger son over nap time, meal time, TV time, and well, just about every time in between. Thankfully I have this post from my archives to remind me this is simply a normal stage of development. Though “normal” doesn’t always mean “tolerable.”

Yes I Do, No I Don’t

Miles: “Peanut butter! Peanut butter!”

Me: “You want a peanut butter sandwich?”

Miles: “OK.”

Me (after making sandwich): “Here you go, sweetie.”

Miles: “No peanut butter! Yogurt! YO-GURRRT!!”

Good thing there was an article in Parenting magazine about why toddlers contradict themselves, or I would’ve thought Miles was just being a huge pain in the butt. Well, he is, but at least it’s developmental.

Miles, age 2

Miles, age 2

These days, EVERYTHING is a battle with him. He’ll say he wants to go for a walk in the stroller. Then he has a fit when I try to strap him in. Then when I let him out, he goes sprinting for the street. When I say, “You can either get in the stroller or hold my hand” he sits down on the sidewalk and cries. Can you see why we haven’t been leaving the house much?

Even at home, though, the struggles continue. Some days he won’t sit in his highchair or let me put his socks on, or he insists on having two spoons at mealtime. Some things, I let go. Fine. Go nuts with the plastic cutlery! But in other cases it’s not so easy.

Take his dairy addiction, for example. Miles loves nothing more than cheese, yogurt, and above all, milk. He starts asking for milk the moment he wakes up. If I dare, say, go to the bathroom before heading downstairs to get his milk, he pitches a fit. If I forget his milk at meals, he wails, “Milk! Miiiilk!” like someone who’s being torn from their lover’s arms.

And too much milk is not a good thing. First, it fills him up so he doesn’t eat any actual food. Second, it causes him, um, “gastrointestinal distress,” which leads to nasty diapers for Mom and nasty diaper rash for him. I have explained all this to him calmly and rationally. And yet he persists in demanding dairy products around the clock. I once let him whine and cry for 30 straight minutes before I gave in. I’m not made of stone, people!! (His dad, on the other hand, has no problems tuning out his son. And what do you know, Miles stops whining around him. Why doesn’t that approach work for moms?!)

Riley, age 2

Riley, age 2

Miles isn’t the only walking contradiction around here lately, though. I also go back and forth daily, even hourly. On the one hand, I’m having a harder time than ever with my beloved offspring. On the other hand, when he’s not having milk meltdowns, Miles is cuter and more fun than ever.

I try to remind myself of the cute stuff he does, such as: calling oatmeal “eat-meal”; saying “I love Mama, I love Dada, I love baths”; hugging the dog; pretending his pasta is a rocket ship; and laughing hysterically when someone jumps out from behind a door and startles him.

Yes, he’s a funny kid. No, he’s not easy. Yes, I love him dearly. No, I do not miss him when his dad takes him out on weekends. I just hope they’re not going to Dairy Queen.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Lou Mello November 30, 2011 at 6:45 am

Every age is a strange new challenge, and each kid is different; you may act the same with them and treat them the same, but, they will have their own unique personality.

Have fun with the challenges and the differences if you can, sometimes one gets caught inside the activity and its hard to step outside of yourself and see the long term picture.

Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and raise my daughter all over again and know what I know now. She is a great kid and I could have been better at the whole experience.

Enjoy them, that’s my only advice.

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Kathleen Basi November 30, 2011 at 7:07 am

I’m quite interested in what htat Parenting article had to say on the subject of self-contradiction, as a matter of fact! That’s totally the stage we’re in with Nicholas now. You’d think by the third child I would understand why. I’m a lot calmer, knowing it’s part of the territory, but it doesn’t really help me understand why…and I always think if I understand something I’ll be better able to deal with it.

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jetts31 December 1, 2011 at 11:03 am

Went/Going through the same thing with my youngest. Not only is everything a battle but everything results in her crying. I’m attributing it to her age and praying my patience can hold for a little while longer until she can get out of the funk. Funny thing too, I am able to tune her out much easier than her mom. She tends to stop when I stop paying attention. My wife is still learning how to do that.

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Angie December 1, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Blake (my easy going one) is definitely going through “a thing.” I was thinking about packing him up and mailing him to Maryland. You game?

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