Yes, you read that right. Typically, this phrase is preceded by the word “don’t” but I think in parenting, it’s perfectly fine and good to sweat the small stuff. As parents, our job is to train our children, in all things, big and small.
You probably know what I’m talking about, too. There are little habits that don’t spell doom for the rest of the child’s life, but they simply drive us crazy. They look something like this:
• Your child uses a ton of soap but still doesn’t manage to get his hands fully clean.
• He holds his fork horribly wrong.
• He fails to wipe his feet on the mat when walking through the door.
• She takes her shoes off the instant you get in the car.
• He turns his nose up at anything green on his plate.
• She forgets to flush the toilet.
• He eats with his mouth open and makes a ton of noise while eating.
• Every time he eats, he ends up with food all over his face.
• She doesn’t do a thorough job with anything (showering, sweeping, homework, picking up toys).
None of these examples will ruin a child. Yes, she will eventually flush the toilet every time she goes. Yes, he will eventually eat his vegetables. But the issue is whether these things drive you crazy and whether they’re important to you. If good manners are important to you, then by all means, teach him to hold his fork correctly and chew quietly. If you hate putting your child’s shoes on (again) every time you arrive somewhere, then train her to keep them on. If you want to teach your child that excellence lies in the details, then work with her to learn how to do every job carefully and thoroughly.
The next time something your child does nags at you, rather than letting it go, stop and decide whether it is something you want to train your child in. Decide whether it’s important to you, and if so, come up with a plan. It’s beyond the scope of this post to explain HOW to train a child in these things. The point is just that, as a parent, you have the power to train your child. Your job is to pass on your values. If something is important to you — even the small stuff — then make sure you are instilling that value in your child.