3 Tips on Picking Your Battles

  by Erik Wolgemuth

Fight the battles worth fighting.

That’s something I learned during a recent  Western fiction binge. And while Ruble Noon never said that exact quote from The Man Called Noon, the principle guided the gunslinger.

I’ve been fighting a number of parenting battles recently that haven’t been worth fighting. The inevitable result of these ill-advised decisions is (at best) frustration all around and none of the progress or change that I might have been hoping for. So, how exactly do you choose and figure out the battles worth fighting? Especially in the heat of the moment? Short answer: I’m still working on it. Longer answer: I’m learning and have landed on a few keys:

1. Annoyance isn’t just cause.

The capacity that kids have for repetition is often astounding to me. This repetition may take the form of your name or beating a pot with a wooden spoon. Regardless, there is often no end until you require it. And, I’d imagine that I’m not the only one to determine the repeated behavior must end by reaching my breaking point. An ugly breaking point.

You can call an end to certain behaviors, but do so without going 0-60 in an annoyance-fueled rant. And sometimes, you just need to realize that the behavior may not be that big of a deal and if your kid wants to keep flopping around on the floor for no apparent reason but their own odd enjoyment, it’s okay.

2. Stubbornness isn’t just cause.

You know those moments when you issue a directive or request and then quickly realize it was probably foolish and not necessary? You’ve got a couple options in such a situation: 1. Recognize your mistake and correct it; or 2. Sharpen those heels and dig yourself in.

I’ll confess that my default is often to get myself set and maintain position, but I invariably regret it and find myself asking for forgiveness. There’s humility required in course corrective dadcraft, and it’s okay to not always be right.

3. Impatience isn’t just cause.

I believe there’s an inverse relationship between your tiredness and your child’s velocity at moving through the bedtime preparations. The same principle holds true when it comes to your punctuality and the locating and subsequent tying of shoes.

Both situations are frustrating, no doubt, but hardly worth a throw down battle. This isn’t to say that you’re now unable or unwise to encourage some pep, but it does mean that the majority of the time, the offending, lagging party isn’t doing so to be rebellious or disobedient.

If annoyance, stubbornness, and impatience are not the cause, by all means stand your ground. There are many battles absolutely worth taking a strong, hard stance for, and so the wiser we become at identifying those battle lines, the better.


Remembering Sho Baraka’s five key aspects of being a dad provides other keys to picking the right battles and raising low expectations for dads.

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Photo by Hans Veth on Unsplash