Six and a half years ago, a fellow mom gave me some of the most solid advice I’ve ever heard. This little tidbit solved a parenting conundrum that had been consuming the better portion of each of my days. It stirred accusations between my husband and I and a resentment was forming between my defiant toddler and myself. And that sweet friend fixed it. 

I can hardly keep such fantastic and groundbreaking advice to myself. 

Here is what that wise mother of four told me: “You should move the toilet brush.” 

It’s almost hard to express the significance those six words had to me. 

I was sitting in our church’s weekly mom’s meeting. We enjoyed coffee and talked about Jesus. Each week they had a designated ‘Roundtable Discussion’ moment and we would update one another on our current parenting troubles. One mom would update us on her ongoing child’s debilitating anxiety, another with a frequently occurring injustice happening at their child’s school. We would listen, pray and sometimes the veterans at our table would offer advice.  This was a brand new moms dream because my sweet little firstborn was no longer a baby….she was a….TODDLER. And do you know what toddlers do? They use the toilet brush to wash the walls. 

Every meeting I would sit at that table and tell of that week’s toilet water woes. And every week the moms would offer new disciplinarian tactics or positive reinforcement strategies. And every week, I crawled back with my head down, defeated by a disobedient 18 month old. I was a failure. How would I ever parent a rebellious preteen if I couldn’t keep a pudgy youngster in-line?

And then that wise friend said it: 

YOU.SHOULD.MOVE.THE.TOILET.BRUSH.

I was flabbergasted. I thought submission was the only option. Was I allowed to simply remove the problem item? Wasn’t that robbing my daughter of a perfectly great life lesson on obedience? 

What I failed to realize four weeks beforehand was that this was no longer a ‘life lesson’. That toilet brush had turned into a battle ground between my child and I. I was so distracted by the desire for blind obedience from a baby that I couldn’t see that she had already won. She knew she could push that button and get a reaction from me, day or night. It was a game and she loved it. All I was training her to do, at that point in the battle, was how let out an exasperated sigh, how to shout “ WHO LEFT THE BATHROOM DOOR OPEN!” and how to scrub the floor with elbow grease. The lesson had been lost long ago! 

I moved the brush, 4 whole feet away, into the shower. And guess what? The battle was over. The temptation was removed. 

Over the following six years, we’ve had plenty of ‘life lesson’ moments to train obedience. I now have a mature little girl; she is respectful, her listening skills are more than efficient and, as far as I know, she has zero temptation to use the toilet brush as a magic wand. 

Now, I am the mom of four (almost five.) I am not a vetran or an expert but I have used a lot of bleach to clean a lot of toilet water off of a lot of surfaces. So, I think that qualifies me to relay this advice: choose your battles. Choose very carefully! Consistency is key, when it comes to training children. If you don’t have the energy (or the will-power or the patience) to see an issue through, don’t start the battle. Remove the temptation. There will be more (important, significant and prudent) life lessons (or battles) in the very near future. I promise!

Next time you’re caught in a never ending battle of the wills with your child, ask yourself, can I remove this temptation?