Parenting children

Parenting Children: 3 Tips on How to Not Sweat the Small Stuff

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Today I found a small yellow piece of plastic underneath the radiator in the younger boys’ room. It was perfectly round, except for one thin spoke that stuck out from the middle.

That little black leg lent it a sort of importance, and so turning the miniscule glob of plastic around, I tried, with my spatially inept eyes, to figure out exactly what vital piece of equipment it belonged to.

Although I couldn’t for the life of me perceive what its purpose was, I was reluctant to throw it away. I had already had the unfortunate experience of throwing away bits of plastic or metal that looked inconsequential, but were -alas- very important to the functioning of some very expensive (or beloved) mechanical contraption.

So for a while I held onto it, and slowly it made its way throughout the various hidey-holes in our house. You know what those are: the places where you stick the stuff you know you should put away or throw away, but lacking the gumption, just pack it out of sight.

Eventually I came upon it again a month or so later in the bathroom. In a fit of pique (sometimes it’s a good idea to clean house when you’re in a bad mood; everything looks worth throwing away) I threw it into the small plastic bin next to the toilet. I picked up the nylon sack, and headed to the kitchen to throw it away.

I have to say I was pretty proud of myself, pack rat that I am.
As I left the room, I bumped into my 12 year old.

Technically I guess twelve qualifies as pre-teen, but I think his behavior justifies the full appellation of “teen,” with all of its attendant qualities. In other words, he can sometimes be wonderful, but other times, he can argue me out of house and home with the aplomb of a senior statesman.

You know how it is when your kids have this really annoying thing they do that drives you absolutely senseless? Usually there isn’t any logical reason why; it’s often something others would (and do) find perfectly innocuous.

Well, I had just noticed that little thing, and being already on the edge, was ready to blow my stack. Suddenly, I stopped, and looked at the bag in my end with the little plastic piece in it.

I had just thrown away the yellow thingamabob, after having let if float around the house for the last month or so. I had done so because it had no useful place in our house. It served no purpose other than to take up valuable real estate in an otherwise full house of 9.

So why did I persist in holding on to my grudge against that little behavior? Holding on to that bit of righteousness that shouted, “You can’t let him get away with it,” which serves absolutely no worthwhile purpose. Worse, it took up valuable real estate in my heart, interfering with a relationship that didn’t need any more strife.

There and then, I decided to just let it be. As I headed to the garbage,
I mentally pictured myself throwing away that bit if prejudice that I held onto, hopefully not to be seen again.

Here are 3 tips you can use to do the same with those little pockets of irrationality all good parents possess:

1) Look at the big picture.

Step back and try and see where the behavior fits in the scheme of things. If you’ve taken the time to evaluate what your goals for yourself and your family are, things will be a little easier. If not, ask yourself, will this stop him from being a decent human being, and a successful member of society?

If this answer is no, then you have your answer. You should probably just let it go.

2) Consider where your child is holding developmentally.
Often parents get hung up about something that will naturally pass with time. Trying to force it to go before it’s time not only doesn’t work, but can sometimes makes things worse.

If you’re not sure whether this is something normal for kids of your child’s age, ask around. You might be surprised (and relieved) to find out that other kids have been there, and done that, too, and grown up to be otherwise respectable people.

3) Give it a rest anyway.

Sometimes there are behaviors that might warrant concern. However, if the behavior is not harmful to anyone, consider leaving it be for a while.

That means not making a big deal about it, and showing your child that you couldn’t really care about it one way or the other. I know, it can be hard sometimes, but I’m sure you’ve got other stuff to worry about.

You might have to do some inner work on this one, but sometimes letting it go-really letting it go- allows your child the safety to do the same. One day, you might turn around, and realize that they’ve given it up on their own.

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