Choosing and Reframing Our Parenting “Battles”


We’ve all heard the saying “Choose your battles wisely.” As parents, it can be really easy to get “hooked” on our kids’ behavior in the moment, rather than looking at the bigger picture. 

One of the most beneficial strategies I can think of is not only learning how to choose your parenting battles, but reframing scenarios as problems to solve. I like that this strategy takes an adversarial situation and turns it into teamwork.

parenting battles choose your battles | Des Moines Moms Blog

I visited my stepson Wy’s daycare one day during rest time. He was sitting quietly next to his cot, coloring. When the provider came into his area, she immediately admonished him for not being on his cot and demanded he get on it.

In my opinion, this was the epitome of choosing a poor battle to fight. It was time to be quiet and Wy was quiet. There shouldn’t have been a problem. The provider made it a problem, disrupted other children nearby, and started a battle of control with Wy that continued throughout his time there.

If Wy had been disrupting children around him, he absolutely should have been corrected. But he wasn’t. The target behavior was being quiet and he was doing it. Continuous criticism damages relationships, plain and simple.

Think about what is really important in a situation and take a moment to decide how to address it. Is your reaction about asserting control, or are you correcting a problem behavior?

A parenting battle I choose to stick with is enforcing consequences. I believe an important part of fostering security for a child is follow through- both for good and bad situations. Kids need to know they can trust us as parents to do what we say we will do.

Wy had a period of time that he was repeatedly unbuckling his car seat. To prepare to solve this problem, before Wy even got into my car, we talked about our Car Safety Rules and our Safety Seat. Three simple rules for my car: 1) Always stay buckled; 2) Keep your arms in the straps; and 3) Keep your feet off the seat in front of you.

We made a sing-song rhythm, reviewed the rules in the house, and talked about what would happen if the Safety Seat Rules were not followed. The first time he got a reminder, and the second time would result in pulling over for a time-out.

Initially he was fine, but we had a long car drive and he started to get ornery- doesn’t that happen to us all! Off came the buckle. Wy was reminded of the Safety Seat Rules but refused to buckle up. We were approaching a rest stop so I immediately pulled off, took him out of the car, and we marched over to a picnic table for our time out.

Wy was surprised we had actually stopped and that a time-out was enforced. I often phrase time-outs as “breaks” that we need to remind ourselves of safe or respectful behavior. After Wy had his break, we went back to the car, sang our Safety Seat Rules like nothing had happened, and off we went. Wy did not have any future unbuckling problems in our car.

Sometimes the strategies we use to solve problems don’t work on the first try. We were fortunate with Wy that it only took that one time to correct a significant safety issue. I can think of other times I found myself hooked by his or Liv’s behavior and I didn’t handle it so well.

What can help our success is knowing what battles are ones to let go and which to stand our ground on. Safety is a non-negotiable.

What are some of the parenting battles you stick with? How do you reframe? I’d love to hear your comments.

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Always up for taking on new roles, Steph is a hobby enthusiast and now enjoys sharing her varied interests with her amazing, silly, sometimes-adventurous step-kids Olivia and Wyatt. Exploring outdoor spaces and coming up with messy science experiments are favorite family pastimes. Steph is a life-long Iowan, Des Moines area resident since 2006, and happily settled down with husband Alan in 2015. She has a couple different gigs including adjunct instructor at DMACC and graduate student at the University of Iowa School of Social Work, but step-parent is (usually) the most fun.


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