One thing I’ve learned about being a parent is that picking your battles is immeasurably important, otherwise you’re going to be fighting a lot of them. In fact, I’m a firm believer that this is one of the most important aspects of parenting.

I used to be guilty of getting after the kids for what now seem like silly reasons, mostly when my daughters were young. I soon realized, though, that I was spending way too much of my time saying, “No, don’t do that” and not nearly enough time enjoying my girls. I realized that this wasn’t how I wanted them to remember me and decided that before I get upset about something, I need to think about whether or not it’s really worth the battle.

This is not to say that there is no discipline in our house. Of course there is. If I want to turn out responsible, kind, reliable, honest, hard-working adults someday, there has to be discipline. I’m talking about the little things, the things that I might not particularly like or want them to do, but that just aren’t worth a battle.

When Rachel wears an outfit that doesn’t particularly match, I let her know that it doesn’t, but since it doesn’t bother her, I let her wear it. When Logan plays with PlayDoh and mixes it all together, even though I’d like him to keep the colors separate, I let him mix all he wants. When Cody insists on wearing his Spiderman costume from Halloween to bed, even though it’s ridiculously tight and coming apart, I let him wear it. My rule of thumb is that as long as their actions aren’t hurting or endangering anyone, and as long as there are no moral issues involved, I will let them do it. Since I don’t get on their cases for everything, they listen better when I do because they know the things I do fight for are important.

Battles worth fighting are ones such as what TV shows my kids watch; how much time they spend watching TV and playing on the computer versus how much time they spend in creative play; treating each other nicely rather than hitting or name-calling; learning to be responsible and dependable; and cleaning up after themselves. These are worth battling for because they all have an impact on the formation of their characters.

So, before you get on your child’s case because you’re not a big fan of the shoes she’s wearing or he’s making a huge mess in his room but he’s having a great time, ask yourself if it’s really worth fighting about. Will your son have to pick up his mess? Of course. Should you instruct your daughter in choosing appropriate shoes so she knows how to dress herself someday when she actually cares how she looks? Sure. Giving your children choices and letting them make their own decisions is a big part of growing up and learning. If they can’t make their own choices in the small things that don’t matter in the big picture, how will they be able to make decisions when it counts? Guidance and consequences are necessary, but save your battles for the big things.

That’s my 2¢ for the day.

Do you pick your battles or do you find yourself constantly on your child’s case?

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6 Responses to “Picking your battles”

  1. I definitely pick my battles. Which is why it’s not unusual to see a child of mine with his shoes on the wrong feet. I’ll point it out to him, show him how to tel which is which, but if the shoes are already on and he doesn’t care, so be it.

    Another one: If my boys decide they want to sleep on the floor or in each other’s bed, so be it. As long as they remain quiet and don’t screw around, I don’t care where they sleep.


  2. Maxi says:

    Amen to that – what a wise Mom you are. You are so ahead of the game. All that you said also makes us better grandparents.

    Our four-year-old granddaughter will be here in a few days; she will be staying for a while and we will enjoy our time together by playing more, seeing less.

  3. Thanks, Maxi! I hope you have a great visit with your granddaughter!

    Jenny, I’m with you on the sleeping thing too. That’s one I forgot to mention. As long as everyone is quiet, they can sleep on the floor, in each other’s beds, etc. I like to encourage closeness. =)

  4. tracey says:

    Picking your battles is key. Not only with our kids, but with EVERYONE in our lives!

  5. Cherie K says:

    I wished I had been MUCH better about this when the kids were younger…as teens now, it is often in one ear and out the other. VERY wise advice. My only other advice is BE CONSISTENT. If you say you are going to discipline them if they do it again–then follow through. I wasn’t very good at that either. We all live and learn…I wished I knew then what I know now! Aw, they really are good kids, they just don’t mind as well as they maybe would have if I had been better at following through and picking my battles.

  6. Muhammad says:

    I’m still here! Keep posting! I’ve been fenlieg pressure (that I put on myself) when I see friends who have their kids involved in lessons, classes, and activities. Seamus doesn’t do much. But, I need to remind myself that I didn’t do anything as a preschooler except be a preschooler. In fact, I didn’t even go to preschool. I turned out okay. I’m sure he will, too. I do have to disagree about books, though. I don’t think kids can ever have too many books. It’s the only thing that I buy without guilt.

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