4 Battles Parents Should Let Kids Win

Parenting can mean fighting many battles on different fronts, but experts agree that parents must strategically pick their battles, suggesting you can stand to let some issues go.


Here are 4 examples of common arguments that kids can win.

1. Hair styling

Dr. Deborah Gilboa, pediatrician, founder of Ask Doctor G and mom of four, says, “Not only does hair grow back, we don’t have a lot of opportunity as parents to give our kids chances for self-expression.”

She adds that parents shouldn’t worry what others will think about their child’s hair. “If people will look at your children differently based on the haircut they want, it’s time for them to find that out,” she says.

Annie Burnside, author of the book “Soul to Soul Parenting,” agrees. She says that hair was something she let her children have control over, even when they were young, and they have never used that control to do anything radical.

“Unless it can be physically harmful, we try to err on the side of letting our children be as independent as possible,” she says.

2. Picking up a messy room

“Let go of the messy room argument if it is not dirty. If it doesn’t smell bad and you’re not worried about the health department getting involved, stop arguing,” Gilboa says. “Also tell them that you will not rescue them from the consequences of a messy room.”

When children cannot find a book needed for school of a shirt they wanted to wear to a party is in bad shape, they realize what a messy room means.

“When they go to college, they will keep their room however they choose,” Gilboa explains. “Parents don’t do kids any favors by browbeating them into straightening up their room. They do them more good by helping them see the consequences.”

3. Walking to school/park/elsewhere alone

Kim Estes, a nationally recognized child safety expert, founder of Savvy Parents Safe Kids, says that there are even some safety battles that parents can stop fighting.

“If your child is walking with a friend and has demonstrated safe thinking, a 10-year-old can probably handle it,” Estes says. “Let go a bit.”

The mom of two explains: “As parents, we tend to hold on to the same methods longer than we should, and it becomes a point of contention. I have seen parents wanting to hold the hands of their 9-year-old when crossing the street. At some point, parents have to step back.”

How are you supposed to let go if you haven’t let them walk to the park alone before? “If they can explain to you that they will be safe, take a watch, go with a friend and check in, that sounds like a good plan,” she says.

“Let there be times when the risk is low enough that you can make room for negotiation. It is not giving in per se, but more renegotiating the terms of their childhood.“

4. The choosing of activities

When one of Burnside’s daughters was in eighth grade, her parents allowed her to decide to quit playing soccer on a high-level travel team. The decision was especially tough given that Burnside’s husband is the New Trier High School varsity soccer coach.

They did not fight about it. Instead, the Burnsides asked their daughter to imagine how it would feel to not play soccer anymore and to imagine herself doing other things before making the decision.

“I am not forsaking the role of parents,” Burnside says. “I want to offer strong guidance, but also help my kids learn to listen to their intuition.”

As for her daughter’s decision, she says, “It’s been fabulous.”

Why avoid the fights?

Waving the white flag of surrender on a few of these common parent-child disagreements can be beneficial not only for kids, but also for parents.

In addition to making the house more peaceful, “[i]magine the time that you’ll get back from not arguing,” Gilboa says. “And it will lower your blood pressure and stress level if you can actually not care.”