All About Picking Your Battles With Your Toddler

You’ve laid out a perfectly matching outfit for your toddler to wear today, but now she’s come into the room and is insisting on wearing her princess dress that she’s worn for the last week straight. At this point, you have two choices: either let her wear the princess dress, or stand your ground and insist on the outfit you’ve already picked out, which will most likely end in an argument. During situations like these, sometimes it’s best to pick your battles.

If you’re a toddler parent, you probably deal with these types of situations on the regular. Eventually, it can become exhausting for both you and toddler if you feel like you’re butting heads over every decision. At this point, learning to pick your battles with your toddler may be the solution for your family – but there are some rules you should follow for this method to work. Here are some tips on how to pick your battles with your toddler as well as some suggestions on when it’s okay to let it go and when it’s okay to stay firm.

Why are toddlers argumentative?

If your toddler is saying “no” to even the most mundane questions, like “can you put your shoes on?” or “can you eat your pancakes?,” they’re a completely normal toddler. During toddlerhood, their brains are developing at record speed, and they’re starting to learn that they are their own beings instead of extensions of us. During this discovery, they’re also realising they can assert themselves, and arguing with you is one way they’re trying to gain control over their lives.

How do I pick my battles with my toddler?

If you’ve gotten to the point where it seems like you and your toddler are constantly arguing, you may choose to start picking your battles. This means that once you recognise that your toddler is going to refuse a request, you can either allow them to say “no,” or you can stand your ground with the request and handle the possible tantrum. However, for the picking your battles method to work, there are some rules to follow:

Remember, it’s not you against your toddler

The term “picking your battles” is sometimes frowned upon, because it sounds like someone always has to “win,” and it’s you against your toddler. In reality, picking your battles doesn’t mean being at war with your toddler. It means that you’re finding a balance between your own need of control and child’s need of control.

You need to be consistent for it to work in the long run

If you’re going to start picking your battles, you need to remain consistent on what you will let slide and what you won’t let slide. For example, if you decide one day that you’re going to let your toddler play in the dirt outside, but then the next day you tell him that he can’t play in the dirt, it can become confusing and frustrating for your little one.

It’s completely up to you which battles you pick and which ones you don’t

Picking your battles doesn’t mean letting your toddler do whatever he wants. If your friend lets their toddler sleep with a dummy, but you’re wanting to get rid of the dummy, then certainly don’t let up. Each family will pick and choose their battles differently, so don’t feel like you’re being too lenient or too strict compared to other families.

When you do pick a battle, use more than just the word “no”

When you do decide on a battle, try using more than just the word ”no.” Explain why you can’t let them run around the store alone or not brush their teeth that night. Even if they have a tantrum, giving them more of an explanation than “no” can help them understand more in the future why they can or cannot do things, easing the frustration.

Questions to ask before you pick your battles

Before you decide to stand your ground on something, ask yourself these questions:

Could the behaviour cause harm to your toddler or someone else?

Could the behaviour damage something?

Does the behaviour go against our family values?

If the answers are all “no,” this could be a time where you can choose to just let the behaviour continue.

Parenting battles that are usually not worth it


If your little one is insisting that they don’t need to put a coat on or they want to wear their pyjamas out, then this may be a battle you let them win. You can always pack a jacket or regular clothes in the car, just in case they change their mind. But when it comes down to it, letting your toddler wear what they like is harmless and usually something that you can let them have control over.

As always, there will be exceptions. For example, if you’re heading to a wedding and your daughter wants to wear her pyjamas, or your son insists on not wearing a jacket on a snow day, then this may be a time when clothing is, in fact, worth the battle.


Power struggles at the high chair or dinner table is extremely common with toddlers. However, as long as they are getting a decently varied diet and growing appropriately according to their doctor, whether or not your child eats the broccoli on the plate could be something you give them control over. Of course, we should always encourage our children to try new foods, but if they say they don’t like it, it’s okay to just move on and find other healthy options instead of battling it out.


When your toddler is adamant that they don’t need help with something, this is usually something you can let them do without intervening (when it’s safe to do so). Even if it takes them 10 times longer to put their shoes on than it would’ve taken if you helped, there’s no harm in just waiting it out while your toddler practices this new task and gains more independence.

Parenting battles that are definitely worth it


If your toddler is running out-of-sight at a supermarket, fighting with another child, or climbing furniture, it’s certainly the time to step in. A general rule is if they are doing something that could hurt themselves or someone else, then picking a battle is usually a must, and it’s worth the tears that may come afterwards.


Just like safety, when it comes to hygiene, you should probably pick the battle. Toddlers are oftentimes reluctant to do things like brush their teeth twice a day or get a nappy change, but these are the tasks that are a must to keep them clean and healthy. So no matter how much push back you receive about baths or hand washing, the battle will always be worth it in developing good hygiene habits.


Toddlers thrive with routines, but this doesn’t mean that they are always ready to go to bed at bedtime or nap at naptime. When it comes to routines, we always think the battle is worth the possibility of a tantrum. Routines not only provide a sense of comfort to toddlers, but they also help parents feel more organised. So we say always choose the battle when it comes to getting your little one asleep as close to bedtime as possible.


“Pick your battles,” is one of those pieces of advice that is actually worth giving a shot if you find yourself in a constant tug-of-war with your toddler. With the above tips and tricks, we hope you learn more about picking battles and how to do so in a way that works for your family.

Tags: Parent's Corner