If you’re a parent and want your household to function smoothly, you’re going to need some rules. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to know where the lines should be drawn. If you struggle with that, try this: don’t sweat the small stuff.
An idea that helped my wife Jean and me to draw boundaries when our boys were younger was to think of their behavioral problems in terms of “levels.” Eating a cookie before dinner, for example, would be a Level One offense. Lying was far more serious – say, Level Three or Four. The beauty of the system was that it kept Jean and me from treating every issue as an emergency.
But even so, I still needed my boys to remind me from time to time not to take things so seriously. If I got upset over a minor problem, they’d point it out to me. My younger son, Troy, was especially good about reframing my perspective. If he made a small mess in the kitchen and saw my temperature rise, he would remind me that it was no big deal so calmly that I would realize he was right. It wasn’t a big deal.
Over the years, I learned that rules and discipline are important, but they have to be seasoned with patience and humor. When it comes to knowing where to draw the line, don’t sweat the small stuff.