Picking Your Battles in Parenting

Parenting is a delicate balancing act between setting boundaries and fostering independence – and the path to healthy parent/child connection is dancing between the two. Every time your child makes decisions you don’t agree with, you’re faced with the decision to step in or let it go. Not an easy decision, right? So how do you know which battles to pick with your child and which ones to let go? 

mom reprimands daughter sitting on couch

Some decisions are simply off limits, such as touching a hot stove, physical violence or not wearing a helmet. Anything that threatens your child’s safety should be addressed immediately. These battles are non-negotiable and while your child may fight back from time to time, your consistency in upholding them will show your child how much you care for them.

two little girls dance on bed

As children are developing, mistakes and poor decisions are inevitable; it’s okay to let them happen! Age can be a great teacher if we let it; some of your child’s greatest lessons will come from them beginning to understand the consequences of their actions. 

For example, let’s say your 7 year old wants to finish an entire tub of ice cream. Although you tell them to put it away, they’re insistent. In this case, the stomach ache they’ll have later may teach them not to overindulge more than you setting a limit they don’t agree with. Although it may be uncomfortable, it’s okay to back down every once in a while.

A major part of development is discovering our individual identities outside of our family. With that in mind, it’s important to create space for your child to explore who they are: but at what cost? If the battle’s a matter of character development, it’s worth intervening. For example, if you hear your daughter and her friend talking disrespectfully about a classmate behind their back, it’s important you step in and redirect them towards kindness.

On the other hand, if your daughter and her friend are always talking about the boys in their class they think are cute, you don’t need to intervene. While you may not like the conversation, it’s harmless and a natural part of being a teenager.

Overall, the question of “is this worth the argument?” will be answered on a case-by-case basis. Consider the wellbeing of your child and whether your intervention is for their benefit or your own. Sometimes our desire to be right can cloud our judgment and as a parent, it’s important to run decisions through this lens: how will my response benefit my child at this moment and down the line? As a parent, you want to practice both your authority and trust in your child simultaneously. And in choosing to let some battles go, you’ll ultimately bring more weight into the battles you choose to pursue.

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