Parents, choose your battles

There are many things that need to be changed in the world and even in your home. No one can succeed in changing all of these.


As a parent, it is your job to decide which battles you want to fight with your children (and other people). It is important to realize what is and is not important. Are battles over your 3-year-old’s choice of clothes really worth it? Who cares if she has a favorite fluffy skirt she wants to wear several days in a row. Is it a big deal if she doesn’t eat brussels sprouts? It isn’t as long as she eats other vegetables. It certainly isn’t worth ruining dinner over insisting she eat something she doesn’t like. Is it important that she didn’t clean her room at the time you told her to do it or is it most important she cleans it regularly?


But some things are well worth taking a stand on. It is important to let your child know that it is not OK to go outside and play by herself in your unfenced yard because it is dangerous. It is well worth feeling strongly that she calls you as you asked her to do when she arrives at her friend’s house. If you tell her to come home by 11 p.m. and she doesn’t, that is worth following up on.


Part of telling your child to do something or setting rules for your child to follow is having your child learn to trust you. She needs to know that when you tell her to do something or set the rule, you will follow through. It doesn’t have to be a really harsh consequence but no matter what her age, she needs to know that you mean what you say. You don’t have to make a huge deal about everything, so you should choose your battles and you hopefully will have less resistance when it really counts.

Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and director of Parenting Matters Foundation.

The foundation publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. Reach Martin at or at 681-2250.

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