When I was pregnant with my first, a seasoned Dad once told me: »There are thousand books about kids out there, not one will be about yours.« It was true. And I have since found the best parenting advice in what one wouldn’t normally associate with traditional »parenting literature«. Thus it comes with no surprise that when I recently read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War I found tips that could come in handy when trying to raise my kids.
Though it might sound a bit odd, let me explain on a few examples:
A leader leads by example not by force.
Nowhere is this more true than in parenting. So, I have to be the epitome of good behavior,I say please, thank you, don’t eat chocolate before lunch, do craft instead of watching TV… I am basically a kid again and if I break the rules, which they notice in like a millisecond, there’s a whole lot of Mommy was wrong and Mommy deserves a time out (oh, yeas, preferably in bed for a few hours), before I can restore order again.
All warfare is based on deception.
Let’s be honest, we all do that one already. When we are running late, I tell my kids: Fine, I’ll just go without you. Yeah, right, like I could go to their doctor’s appointment alone. Ever heard of an elf who comes to check if the kids are sleeping? Well, it gets my daughter under the blankets in seconds. And while all this works wonders with tots, it’s when they we’ve grown a little that you have to get really creative. I am already strategizing on how to make them think I am everywhere, know everything and can do just about anything until they are about ready to move out. Lying could work, but since I am trying to teach them it shouldn’t be done… I shouldn’t get caught?
The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.
Sun Tzu’s got a point. That’s the art of parenting right there. As soon as you start arguing with a three year old, you know how it’s gonna end up? Tantrum! So, to avoid the battle of wills, I have a full arsenal of deceptive methods. I don’t say: Go to bed and then wait for the argument, which will set us back an hour. We do it leisurely: let’s put on our PJ’s, let’s read a story, let’s brush our teeth so they don’t all turn black and fall out in the middle of the night, let’s pee, let’s drink a hundredth glass of water, let’s kiss, let’s say good night and turn the light, and let’s get bloody hell to sleep before the effing elf comes. Yeah, you are right sometimes a fight would take much less time.
Ponder and deliberate before you make a move.
The worst thing you can possible do is to say something and then not make good on it. I am speaking from experience. I threaten my kids with throwing all their toys away constantly and not once have I done it. And they have me all figured out now. All bark with no bite. So, I have to come realize, that it’s better to make them wait. The look on my kid’s face was priceless when I told her I am so upset with her, I need a moment to think things through. She had no clue what to expect and then I asked her what she thinks would be the appropriate punishment? Throw my toys away. That little brat.
The whole secret lies in confusing the enemy, so that he cannot fathom our real intent.
Oh, to get this one right! Then you might call me Jedi Master of parenting. To make my kids think I want them to stay up, when in fact I am dying to put them to sleep, or make them eat candy when I want them to finish up the broccoli still left on their plate… That’s the holy grail of parenting right there. And sorry no tips, I am still working on it.
By the way there is a book by Gary Gagliardi who applies an ancient Chinese wisdom to practical techniques for dealing with modern-day parenting dilemmas, The Art of Parenting Teens. Seems I might be lucky to currently only be dealing with tantrums.