In a previous musing, I brought up how “The Art of War” provides ideas that apply to child rearing. These ideas include one of the primary themes of the book. This central theme is that the best way to win a war is to avoid conflict in a direct sense. The use of tools like misdirection, misinformation, subterfuge, and even fear can be invaluable in warfare. When used correctly, these tools can help win a battle before it is fought. Before we look at avoidance techniques, let’s look at the casualties we are trying to avoid.
Avoid Conflict or Suffer Casualties
When you are raising children conflict does not always create injuries. Unfortunately, sometimes it does and these can be tough to overcome. Family conflict can result in loss of respect, trust, and many other aspects of a healthy family. These are often short-term pains where a child misses out on an activity or feels shame. However, long term damage can come from conflict as well. When a child says “I hate you” it can hurt the parent deeply. On the other hand, a parent that expresses shame and disappointment to a child can hurt them for life.
Remember They Are Children
One of the things that make raising children easier when they are young is that it is hard to forget they are children. A two-year-old that calls you a name is easy to shrug off. Let’s face it, being called a poo-poo head has more impact as an amusement than an insult. Parents correct the child at that point to teach that name calling is wrong. The correction comes from parental concern though and not an emotional response from being hurt.
All of this changes when children become young adults. A teenager is struggling to become an adult and can be mistaken for an adult. When they call you a poo-poo head they probably will use language that hurts more and is less likely cause laughter. “Adult language” makes it more likely that an emotional response will be the result. In this case, it is more likely that the response will lead to regret later.
An Uneven Playing Field
Even when parents are trying to treat children as adults they have to remember the parent-child relationship. This includes those years where a child thinks their parents are idiots that miraculously gave birth to a genius. Yes, even in those hard to survive years, the child still has some desire for respect from the parents. This means a harsh word from a parent can be far more devastating to a child than when the roles are reversed. A good parent must always “be the adult” and not act like they are an equal to the child.
One of the things I have seen in a lot of children is the acknowledgement of the unequal relationship that is parent-child. Children know they have more lee-way in an argument because they have less expected of them. When a child crosses a line people are asked to “remember they are a child.” When an adult crosses a line there is no such excuse. This makes it easy for kids to jump into an argument. They have less to lose. A good parent will find ways to avoid conflict. Thus they will prevent a situation where the child has the upper hand.
Every child is different. Thus, the techniques for avoidance will differ with each child. We will look those techniques and how to apply them as we dig further into Sun Tzu’s suggestions.