Sometimes the pleasantries of parenthood are subdued by a series of battles we wage with our children. During peace time, we are providing positive education, safety and love. However, in war time it is a battle against two competing armies: parents that attempt to instill a variety of virtues and lessons, and children that refuse.
It is often an unconventional war, especially for new parents that question why the simplest of lessons – why no means no, moderation, completing a simple task – are felt to be seldom learned. I wonder whether the war can be won not from lessons from a series of parenting books, but rather strategies and tactics from Sun Tzu’s the Art of War. In fact, I wonder if a private [our daughter] has already been able to implement and deploy the ancient strategies with greater effect than the generals [two grown parents].
At the age of two she has learned that dividing an army will weaken our efforts. She divides us as parents knowing she will have a better chance at her own success depending on the day, and what she is hoping to achieve.
She learns from us not just by our intentional teachings of life, but about from our actions and reactions in particular situations. She is beginning to learn her boundaries, in that effort, we must not give up the high ground.
A battlefield experience that has been over the past few months when our daughter has been getting up throughout the night. When she first started getting up she would simply cry and ask for us, requiring us to go in a put her back to sleep. Each night, the success rate of how quickly she goes back to sleep differs. She is consistent and perpetual in her effort, exposing us when we let our guard down. Each night she changes her strategy, thereby making us feel terrible about ourselves when not reluctant (uncomfortable and frustrated for us). As well knows that success can be gained when giving her enemy [us the parents] no rest.
She has developed into a masterful strategist, knowing that in battle she attempts to move us, resisting the urge to be moved by us. Her definition of victory can be broad, while ours can be narrow. She attempts to make no mean yes. When there is a screaming battle between giving her something she wants and us resisting, she knows that sometimes escalating to screaming and crying – creating chaos – will also bring opportunity. This violates every parenting book, our daughter knows to ask or act a particular way when she knows we may more reluctant to give in – when we are weak. Even when she is not initially successful, sometimes we wonder whether she rouses us just to learn the principles of our activity and inactivity in order to find vulnerabilities.
How can we change the war? How can a parent’s success in these battles change the war?
If seems that we are always on the defensive, slow to move to an offensive, continue into an argument infested atmosphere that would make anyone question their abilities to be a parent. How can the generals again, gain the upper hand?
We must become better at implementing these strategies. This would benefit everyone. We must always strive to know her and ourselves, because knowing just one, or worse neither will only lead to problems. We need to learn to “ponder and deliberate before making a move, don’t make a move out of haste.” It is balance however outside the bounds of Sun Tzu. While it may feel like war, it is parenthood. We, as parents [generals] have the upper hand. We can rely on allies – family, friends, resources – we have an authority over our kids that even when weak, we need to appear strong.
In the end, the “greatest victory is the one that requires no battle.”