Pick your battles and win the ones you pick.

Pick your battles and win the ones you pick.

I have recently watched a child scream to get their way, and the parent gave in.  The child “won” so to speak.  What did that parent just teach that child?  When I scream I get what I want.

I have seen parents say no, or try to insist their child do something.  In either situation, the child was not happy, which set in motion the temper tantrum, and the parent gives in.

Why does a parent give in?

  • Is it because they don’t want to hear the screaming anymore?
  • Perhaps the issue wasn’t that big a deal and when the child wasn’t happy, they decided it didn’t really matter?

That would be a case of pick your battles.  You’ve been around your child enough to know how they will most likely react.  I knew one child who cried anytime you told them “no.”  The parents quickly learned only to use the word “no” when it was necessary.  Often times they chose other words like, we’ll see or maybe.  Then learned that when they did say “no” they better mean “no” and stick to their guns.  Eventually, the child came to understand that no meant no and crying about it wasn’t going to change the answer.

It’s the same idea with telling your child to do, or not do, something. If you give in when your child gives you a hard time about it, it wasn’t something that needed to get done (or not done).  If it doesn’t really matter, don’t take a stand.  That’s what I mean by “pick your battles.”

Say what you mean and mean what you say.  Then follow through.  Backing down only gives your child the knowledge that if they protest loud enough and/or long enough, they will get there way.  They win and the parents lose.

What do the parents lose?  Besides their temper?  The respect of their children.  Children need to know you stand strong for your beliefs and you will do what you say.

Try not to “dictate” or give ultimatums, or make idle threats.  Think before you speak.  Do you really mean you’re gonna take away their video games for a year if they don’t pick up their room?  If not – don’t say it.

If you decide to change your mind, do so wisely.  Something along the lines of, “After thinking about this for a while, we have decided….” And give the reason you changed your mind.  Let them know it wasn’t because they pitched a fit.

Okay, maybe I shouldn’t make this into a “winner/loser” situation.  Let’s just say… finish strong – grin.


*Pam Horton is a AACC certified Parenting Coach in the Raleigh area.*



Leave a Reply