Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Wise Parents Learn to Pick Their Battles

Comedian Martin Mull once said,  "Having a family is like having a bowling alley installed in your brain."  I think most of us parents can identify with the many challenges and often the "noise" of having kids. Children  always have new ideas and new ways to push us to the limits on our decision-making.

That's why it's important for parents to decide (ahead of time, if possible) what things they are going to go to war over. There are extremes on this. Some parents don't like any conflict and refuse to let their kids down or have them mad at them so they give in on most everything. Other do the opposite and fight with their children over most everything and offer little slack room.

So, how do you find a healthy balance?  How do you determine whether to give in and let your kids do what they want or be tough?

First, ask yourself, Is this a decision the child should be making?  For example, getting in the car to go somewhere with the family at a certain time isn't optional.  And yet sometimes parents will say, "Landon, do you want to go to grandma's now?"  That's not their decision. It's time and they need to go and you need to teach them that they don't have a choice on that. You must win that argument.

Second, Is there a character issue involved that I need to shape through this decision?  Even though the issue may not be an important one at that moment, if your child has been disrespectful, dishonest  or inappropriate in some other way then you need to stick to your guns.  You can't look the other way when they have not exhibited appropriate behavior or a decent attitude.

Third, is it just not that big of a deal?  If it's reasonable for them to make a choice and if frankly the world won't end with their decision, it's reasonable and they haven't been impolite towards you or others, let them do it.  Sometimes the energy expended by taking your kids on over something that doesn't matter that much eventually becomes draining and destructive.

If you're married, I encourage you and your spouse to try to determine some of these decisions ahead of time.  Other times you'll have to make the call on the run.  However, sometimes you might try this line: "If you need an answer now, the answer is 'no.''  In the appropriate circumstances that can buy you a little time to make the wisest choice.

Hang in there.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.


  1. I am a single mom with an almost 13 yr old and a 14 yr old boy....I regularly have to chose my battles. Thank you for this article. I have jealousy going on .... one has more friends and is more liked by others and so the other one cuts his brother down and is constantly beating on him. I struggle with punishment and telling his dad all the time. Obviously lots more going on here. Anger from a divorce etc. Its VERY hard to balance esp for the one who is being picked on, its not fair for him.

  2. Thanks for your comment. I know there are no easy answers but I encourage you to have a face-to-face talk with the brother doing the cutting down. That is of course not optional. However, you might appeal to him on the level of being more adult like and grown up. Try using some "currency" he currently has like TV time, allowance, computer, etc. and tell him that if he doesn't do his "job" which includes treating his brother right he will lose some of his "salary." Explain this is what adults do and it's time for him to get prepared. Someday in a job he will have to get along with others even if he doesn't like them.

    Once you have your system, however, hold to it. Don't give in. If he loses something one day he can earn it back the next day.