Pick Your Battles: Giving Toddlers the Space They Need to Thrive

Toddler pouting on steps

Parenting: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. At one time as parents, we’ve been sure that our toddler would listen perfectly, never say no, eat their broccoli, and never get in trouble for not sharing. However, that’s not how toddler and preschool minds work!

Being a toddler is difficult. Think about it: they’re learning how to communicate appropriately, what foods they do and don’t enjoy eating, and are expected to act appropriately in situations that are unfamiliar to them. You can imagine how frustrating it must feel! So sometimes, our preschool students can attach themselves to specific items or behaviors because they are familiar and comforting. However, these don’t always align with our priorities as parents and caregivers. So, how do we know when to pick our battles and fight and when to give in?


When to Fight and When to Give In

Small girl pouting

It should come down to one thing: will this affect the safety of my child? If so, then you definitely must endure the battle to make sure your preschool child remains safe.

They don’t like when you buckle them in their car seat? Let them know that, unfortunately, that’s how we stay safe in the car, and to do fun things or see our friends, we must buckle up.

What if they don’t want to hold your hand in the store parking lot? Tell your toddler that holding hands, so we aren’t running in the street around moving cars, is the only way to make sure we stay safe. So, we must hold hands or ride in the shopping cart!

These and other battles that impact our toddler’s overall well-being are non-negotiable. Still, there are other everyday battles that you can loosen up on to maintain harmony in your daily routine.


Common Toddler Battles


Young children are notoriously picky and opinionated about many things, including the clothing they wear. While it may not seem like a big deal now, fighting over the proper clothing for daycare or a playdate every day can get exhausting for you and your child. If your toddler chooses to wear their superhero outfit daily, we suggest letting it happen. It’s not hurting anyone, and eventually, like most things, this phase will end.

However, if it’s an issue of shorts in the winter, you might let your child walk outside with his or her outfit of choice, eventually realizing that pants might be a better option. This way, it’s their choice, but you still get to win the battle without tears or anger!


Child examining bowl of food

Most toddlers are picky eaters. If yours is not, you’re one of the lucky few! For the rest of us, getting creative at mealtimes to ensure your child is getting the proper nutrition can be exhausting. One thing we know to be true is that the more you push, the more resistant your preschool child will be.

Like anything else, this too is a stage and will pass. For now, try ensuring that your child keeps receiving balanced meals and age-appropriate multivitamins. Soon enough, they’ll try something new and realize it is yummy!


Good manners are a necessary part of life, whether you’re a toddler or an adult. By setting age-appropriate expectations with your child before an event, you’re setting them up for success in the long run.

For example, letting them know the proper behavior at the table for your mother-in-law’s birthday dinner includes greeting everyone with a high-five and a “hi,” eating dinner, and finally getting to play quietly with their cousins at the end. This is a great way to set expectations from the beginning, allowing your child to know what is expected of them.


Three Secrets to Picking Your Battles with Your Preschool Child:

  1. Let them make choices independently, within reason
  2. Be consistent
  3. Let them be little

Let Them Make Independent Choices (Within Reason)

Giving our children room to make their own choices is essential for their independence down the road. Consequences are there to help our children learn from the mistakes they make and help shape their decision-making abilities in the future. If you find yourself battling over something repeatedly, ask yourself if the outcome will matter in five years. If not, like a choice to wear a firefighter outfit for two weeks straight, let it be. If it’s a safety issue that could significantly impact their future, fight the fight and prepare for the tantrum, knowing you are doing what’s right for your toddler in the long run.


Be Consistent

If there’s one thing that can derail anything in parenting, it’s inconsistency. You are the rule maker in your child’s life. But, if you are not consistent, your preschool child will receive mixed messages on what’s right and what’s wrong, causing chaos and the potential for plenty of tantrums. Stick to your guns on things that truly matter. Things that don’t? Let them go and make sure to share your battle plan with anyone else that holds a role of authority with your preschool child as well.


Let Them Be Little

Above all, toddlers and preschoolers are little, evolving, and learning every single second of every day. Always be ready to extend them grace. They need it — and you do, too. Let your preschool child learn through play. Give them the space they need to develop the independence and confidence they’ll require in school and life. By choosing what’s important and sticking to it, you and your child can walk away from unnecessary fights and enjoy time with each other more than ever before.


A Home Away from Home

Finding a safe space where you feel comfortable leaving your toddler or preschool child every day can be a daunting decision. There are so many factors that you can (and should!) consider.

Here at The Breakie Bunch Learning Center, we strive to provide a nurturing environment that feels like a home away from home for your family. For more information on how we can help support you and your child, reach out to us today!