Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Picking Your Battles...

I've heard this philosophy espoused by parents a number of times as I've chatted with them about raising children. Supposedly they advocate giving in on minor matters while standing firm on more important issues - reasons vary from allowing the child an occasional sense of accomplishment or independence to simple fatigue and downright apathy.

Michael Williams tackles this issue, that I've been meaning to blog about for a while now, head on:
I'm curious about the notion that parents have to "pick their battles" with their children in the sense that they shouldn't try to win every point but focus only on the important issues. This seems like an eminently sensible strategy for dealing with a spouse or other equal, and even more-so a boss or other superior, but is this the best way to deal with a subordinate?


As I'm learning with dogs and dominance challenges, if you expect to lead the pack then it's important to win every single time.
Amen, Michael. Read the whole post, and then also read a depressing article from The Washington Post about parental permissiveness and ignorance as to the suggestive T-shirts they allow their teens to wear...

As for me, I've pledged not to "pick my battles" and instead to show my kids that I care about each and every one of the issues and conflicts that come up. Giving in means you show them they, or their concern, is of little importance to you and subsquently neither are they. Show strength, show leadership, and show concern for everything your child brings to you, regardless of your frustration level. It's hard, but ultimately you don't matter - your kids do.


  1. I have to disagree. Expecting my children to do everything exactly as I would do it doesn't allow them to be themselves or to learn from stupid choices. If a child wants to wear sandals in the rain, let them suffer with cold, wet feet. I don't expect my dog to think for herself. I do expect my children to learn to make good choices.

  2. The difference here, though, is in your case you're still winning - by allowing the child to have his/her way, you're actually helping them learn a life lesson on their own - in this case learning the right time to wear certain shoes. That's fine, because in the end you're still in control and still the one running the show.

    What I'm talking about is situations where a conflict between parent and child becomes such an annoyance to the parent that they just give in rather than be forced to stand their ground or make a decision or compromise. In that instance, the child has taken control over the parent (or the parent has ceded control to the child) and the child has learned nothing except new ways to get their way. The child is spoiled a little that time. The parent believes they've won brownie points to use in the next "big" battle, but in reality they've lost points and some respect from the child. And the child has gained no life lesson.

    I think we're actually basically on the same page in some ways, Cathy, although personal grooming (hair, clothes) is not something I'm going to compromise on when it reflects what people will perceive as how they care abouttheir appearance. Their hair and clothes will always be respectable, while still allowing for some individuality. That's just the choice I've made, and you're certainly free to make yours...

  3. Standing your ground is not the same thing as picking your battles.

  4. Right, that's what I'm saying - the two are basically mutually exclusive. You have two choices... One, you stand your ground and win the argument. Or two, you "pick your battle", choose not to argue your point and give in, allowing the child to win.

    They are opposite tactics.

  5. No. You choose which things you want to push. I CHOOSE to ignore Sarah's hair in her eyes but I CHOOSE to take issue if it looks dirty.