As a parent you have probably heard the advice that you should “pick your battles” with your kids. Kids resist you; that is part of their growing up and becoming individuals, so how do you decide which resistances are okay, and which are not? The following is a look at picking your battles as a parent:
First you have to understanding the difference between picking your battle versus surrendering when it becomes a battle. If you set a rule, then you have picked your battle. However, if a situation arises that is yet to be determined, then you can determine if it is worth a battle. The problem arises when you have a rule, and when your child resists it you give in. This is not picking your battle, this is surrendering, and the difference is huge. Picking your battles means deciding what to fight about. Once you set a rule, the decision is made. By allowing your child to break the rule, you are undermining your own authority. This leads us to the next point.
Pick your rules carefully, so you know what is worth a battle. Are you going to set a rule about something trivial, and let it turn into a battle? It is hard as a parent not to set certain rules. Let’s look at clothing for example. It is worth setting a rule about modesty, as this has to do with your morals. This may be something like, “Your shorts have to reach where your finger tips are when your hands are by your sides.” Or “Your shirt has to cover your bra.” But what happens when your child meets your rule, but is still dressed in a way you do not like? This is when you really have to pick your battle. Your son comes down the stairs to leave for school, and is wearing pink pants. Do you let them go, or do you tell them to go change into something more appropriate? Is it worth a fight over the color of their pants? Setting rules about style or preference make no sense. This leads to the next point.
Let things that do not really matter go. Is it worth a fight with your kid over the color of their hair? No. Is it worth a fight with your kid over drugs? Yes. When picking your battles, you have to set clear lines over moral choices. Battling with your child about sex, drugs, alcohol, appropriate media, and so on, are all worthwhile battles. Fighting with your kids about the quality of their music (that does not use inappropriate lyrics), or the cleanliness of their car: are those battles worth the fight?
Offer choices. Part of picking your battles means offering choice. You do not have to set a rule like, “Your car has to be clean if you are going to have one.” Instead you can address that situation each time it arises by offering your child a choice. For example: “Do you want to clean your car, or find a ride to school?” This means they pick, and there is not a battle. They might complain, but you are not backing yourself into a corner, or breaking your own rule by allowing them to drive.
When picking your battles as a parent, choose wisely, and choose things that will impact them in the long run.