Pick Your Battles Wisely

The holiday season is past, and the beginning of 2017 is a time of intention setting and resolutions! And if you are like most parents, you are COMPLETELY ready to get back to the routine of the school year!

All the parenting experts discuss the value of routine for our children, and a steady diet of equal amounts school and family time. And you, like millions of other parents around the world, might be considering this New Year’s Resolution – Spend More Time with My Children.

Although I don’t have a book to share with you (yet), I realized that I am kind of a kick-shiney-hiney expert on kids and parenting myself. So you have the privilege of my expertise in smaller bites – the appetizers are always a bit more interesting than the entrees anyway, don’t you agree (unless you are a 7-year-old who only eats macaroni and cheese – only – ever!).

So as you run with glee into the new year filled with the joy of making lunches and lattice math worksheets, let me tell you what should really be at the TOP of your resolutions list for 2017.

And this thing is the one thing that you can start to do today that may dramatically change your family.

Ignore your kids…

I have spent 20 years ignoring my kids.

• I ignored my kid when he was picking his nose at the Kindergarten graduation while standing right next to the podium

• I ignored the piles of pizza boxes, dirty napkins and soda cups littering the floor after the 10-kid sleepover

• I ignored the $2000.00 on iTunes charged to my Visa card (well, I didn’t actually ignore that one but…)

• I ignored the rolled eyes, stuck out tongues and gagging sounds when I served vegetables at the dinner table

• I ignored the undone chores, the tantrums and the threats of bodily harm bantered between siblings

• I ignored the slammed doors after being told, “No, you cannot drive to Tysons to hang out with friends on a school night!”

• I ignored the stares of the other parents as I proudly walked into the assembly with my son, having just died his hair pink

The best thing I have ever done has been to ignore my kids. When I think about the days I have spent busily ignoring my children’s behavior, I feel proud.

Proud, you ask!? Seriously!?

I’ve read all of the parenting books – I mean ALL of them – I have crazy advanced degrees in child development, psychology and education. But the one thing I know that I have never read or been taught is the #1 thing I tell parents that I most strongly believe – I believe that parents should ignore most of the stuff their kids do, but that they should pay attention to the quality of their character 100% of the time.

Character is infinitely more important than nasal habits, trashed basements, always balanced diets, pink hair, and perfect behavior. Character is both caught and taught, and it isn’t established overnight.

We all want our kids to be able to judge what is right, to care deeply about what is right, and then to do what they believe is right – even in the face of pressures from the world around them, and temptations from their own inner world. Parents model positive character by choosing what to pay attention to, and what to ignore. It is in the way you talk, the behaviors you demonstrate, the conduct you tolerate, the deeds you encourage, and the expectations that you share.

Character is the foundation of your family – and your child’s character is the foundation of their future family! So as so many of us parenting experts say, “Pick your battles”! Your actions today are quite literally changing tomorrow.

That’s not something to ignore!

Amy Fortney Parks, PhD, LPC
Dr. Amy Fortney Parks describes herself as a life-long educator, a passionate psychologist, and often stressed-out, but mostly happy, mom of four! She is the Executive Director of Wise Mind Solutions, LLC, and the owner of The Wise Family - a comprehensive brand for kids, teens & families designed to inspire, educate and energize families! Along with a PhD in Psychology, Amy brings with her over 25 years of experience working with children, adolescents and families. More information and how to chat directly with her about your family can be found on her website, www.thewisefamily.com or connect socially @wisefamilies.