How to Choose Your Battles as a Parent

parent choosing battles with child

Foundation FIT co-owner Sylvia Darby is a mom of three. When their kids were young, she and her husband decided that there were just some battles they didn’t want to fight. The two biggies? Screen time and food. Of course, not all families and parenting styles are the same. But there are sure to be some significant areas as a parent where you’re just not willing to bend to your child’s every whim.

Check out the YouTube video for a deeper look into why Sylvia chose these two battles and how she manages them daily.

Decide Which Battles are Important to Your Family

Sylvia decided to fight the battles of screen time and food because they affect the whole child. They impact kids emotionally, psychologically, and physically. Poor habits with screen time and food have a way of creeping into every area of their wellbeing. Sylvia wants her kids to independently know, understand, and desire to have self-control. Sounds like a dream, right? And, of course, it doesn’t happen overnight.

What’s important is to choose the battles that are so meaningful that you’ll make an effort to enforce them. It’s not about avoiding slipping up entirely; it’s about doing the best you can. And despite your best efforts, your children could go a totally different path, and you need to be ready for that, too. As parents, you do as much as you can to get them off on the right foot by giving them the tools to succeed on their own and trusting them to make the right decisions when it’s time.

Focus on Educating Kids

Kids’ brains develop so rapidly when they’re young. A huge part of fostering a healthy brain and growth is using their imagination, curiosity, senses, movement of their body, and conversations with other human beings.

Unfortunately, whether we like it or not, screens and spending too much time on them is now a societal norm. And it has harsh repercussions, like causing kids to be sedentary, isolated, and depressed. It’s a hard decision to seriously cut back on screens, and while you can manage what happens in your home, kids are going to be inundated by screens wherever they go. So how do you combat an entire society working against you?


Kids need to understand why you’re enforcing the rules. And to truly get them to understand, it will take many conversations and constant communication. However, once kids can see the decision-making process, they can internalize it and make the habits you’re enforcing part of their identity.

Have Other Activities Available

If you choose screen time as a parenting battle, it’s important to have other options for kids. So when you encourage them to put down the screen, what are other fun, engaging, entertaining things they’ll want to do?

Simply saying no and taking away devices could get ugly. Instead, figure out boundaries, communicate those boundaries, and offer other options for things you know will stimulate them in a great, fun way.

Teach Kids How to Think for Themselves

Ultimately, you can only do so much as a parent until kids need to make their own decisions. So teaching kids how to think is a gift that keeps on giving. When it comes to food, help kids understand the connection between what they eat and how they feel. If your child has a meltdown after a day of pizza and birthday cake, sit down and ask them about how they feel. Help them create the association between tears and a poor attitude and eating food that doesn’t provide much nutrition.

Start When Kids are Young

If you don’t start early, it will be harder to reel it in as they get older. The best advice is to start a pattern of healthy eating, limited screen time, or whatever you choose when kids are very young. It’s far easier to establish a new habit than work kids out of an existing and seriously ingrained one. That’s not to say it’s impossible, but it puts you at a disadvantage out of the gate.

Stay Firm With Your Battles and Bend in Other Ways

When you prioritize the battles you’re willing to fight, you may have to flex in other areas. For example, if you’re committed to healthy eating, could you give kids 20 more minutes outside on a weekend night when they’re enjoying running around with friends? Figure out the areas of parenting that you’re not willing to die on a hill for, and make sure those are known and consistent.

The Last Word About Choosing Your Battles as a Parent

As Sylvia says, your yes’s matter just as much as your no’s. So have some areas of “yes” available, but stand your ground when it comes to the parenting battles you’re committed to fighting.

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