Picking your battles is a crucial part of parenting. However, why do we call it a battle?
We are not in battle or war. So, what does this phrase mean? Picking our battles means we must define our values and understand our choices so that we are clear on what we ensure we teach our children (non-negotiables), and what feels less pertinent.
For example, many of us had to eat everything on our plate at dinner time, especially all of our vegetables, no matter what. As a child, I was caught dumping my veggies into my napkin and then forced to eat them out of said napkin.
As a parent, you get to choose if this is something that you want to focus on or if it is something to let go of. If ensuring that your child eats everything on their plate is a top value and priority for your child, then this might be a battle you endure. This is how we pick our battles.
Here are a few non-negotiables that many parents share with me:
1) Children’s Bedroom Tidiness: How does this currently play out in your home? As you think about this, you might decide not to take that value forward when raising your own children, or perhaps it is an important value to you.
2) Respect: How do we teach our children the importance of being respectful? Do we demand it at all costs? Do we focus on modeling respect for our children so that they see how we treat those around us and hope they mimic that? If you hold this boundary tight – you might battle over how they speak to you, or treat you or other family members, or friends. How you manage this reflects the value and priority that you put on it.
“Picking your battles” means defining what truly means the most to you in terms of your values and bringing those forward in teaching and educating your children. Choosing your battles wisely means taking intentional time to sit with your own values and figure out what you want to enforce as you raise your children. These are values that you feel strongly about, not necessarily the ones that you have been conditioned to believe are important, like me eating all my food on my plate, but the values you choose with an intention for yourself and your family.
It is important to intentionally pick our battles with our children. If we respond to everything they say and do, trying to correct their actions or behaviors, we will be exhausted, and our kids may feel as if we do not think they are capable of doing anything right. Sometimes giving our children the space to learn things for themselves can serve them as the greatest teachers.
How do we know if we want to choose a certain battle? We must first gain clarity on our intentions and values. Here are a few ideas to help:
• When things are heating up at any given moment, take a minute to decide if you really need to step in and correct them. Pausing and taking a deep breath can help you to see your intentions more clearly and allow you to react accordingly rather than reactively.
• Take time with your partner to align your values and non-negotiables. What are the priorities you hold in raising your children together?
• Try to maintain a consistent approach to the “battleground.” If it is important for you to create a rule around something, then try to enforce it consistently, making it very clear to your kids what rules are non-negotiable. If we are inconsistent in our values and non-negotiables, it can cause our children confusion.
It is never too late to reconnect with your personal values and re-focus your priorities. The first step is to define them so that you are clear on your own non-negotiables and can enact them accordingly.