“You may have to lose the battle to win the war.”
This is a sentence I often hear from clients in my counseling practice. Sometimes it is coming from a lonely wife who “loses” the battle of caring when her husband comes home late from work time and time again. Sometimes it is from a frustrated husband who “loses” the battle of disciplining his child because it isn’t worth the conflict he will have with his wife. And most often, it is from a worn-out mother who will allow her child to do (almost) anything instead of fighting with her spirited son/daughter.
In some situations, I think this is a great tactic. But like in all great games of war, participants need to have strategy. This is the piece that I would argue is missing in order to declare real victory.
See, too often losing the battle looks a lot like throwing in the towel. Our children will never benefit from us (parents) throwing in the towel. In fact, many teenage clients have specifically (and in confidence) told me that they wish their parents didn’t give in so easily.
I admit. I have lost battles before out of desperation or frustration. I have “lost the battle” of letting my kids do something because it was easier. (Ahem, eating in the brand new car or how about cleaning up after them because hearing them complain about it would ruin the peaceful afternoon?!) Allowing for life to be easy is NOT the war that I ultimately want to win in my home. I don’t want my children to think that life will always be easy. I don’t want them to think that they will always get what they want. I want to raise resilient and well-adjusted kids. I am sure you want the same thing.
I also have to admit that I have chosen to lose battles intentionally. My kids happily eat Lunchables™ on Fridays (gross!). They pick out their clothes (often). They don’t always have to clean up the playroom, and they (gasp) are allowed to mix Play-doh colors. I want to win the war on confident (vs. anxious) children. I want to win the war on having a joy filled home. I am sure you want the same thing.
I encourage you to ask yourself the next time you say “I am losing ______________ battle”, what war are you winning? If you can answer that and be happy with the strategy in place, then you have a tactical victory on your hands!