Why is it important to offer choices to kids? As parents, our job is to teach our children. A critical part of this job is teaching them how to make decisions. I don’t know about you, but I want to raise children who are confident, children I can trust to make a good decision. Right now my kids are 5 and 7. Most days I don’t think about what life will be like in ten years when they are 15 and 17 or in twenty when they are out of the house and establishing lives of their own. However, by teaching them how to make decisions now, I am helping build a solid foundation for us to work from later in life.
Here’s another important developmental reason to offer choices. Offering choices builds self-awareness and self-esteem. When children have ownership of their choices and understand the consequences of their choices, they are building an internal script of confidence. We are teaching them that they have the ability to be in control of a decision and to be successful.
Here are some thoughts to keep in mind when offering choices to you preschool aged kids.
- Offer Two Choices and try not to make one of those choices punishment! Offer two choices that will ultimately get you the result you want. Here is an example. Rather than saying “Clean up your toys or go to time out,” a more effective choice could be, “Would you like to clean up the dolls or the blocks first?”
- Give Time to Make a Decision. I will often say, “I’ll give you to the count of three to make a choice and if you can’t decide, I’ll be happy to help you.” This phrase also works if kids don’t want to choose one of the choices offered. When my kids stomp their foot and say “NONE!” I respond by saying, “If you can’t make a choice from these options, I’d be happy to help you decide.” Now, here is where a time-out, or “taking a break,” as we call it at my house, might happen. If my kids still can’t make a choice, after I’ve offered to help them, I will have them take a break away from everyone to think about their decision.
- Stick to the Original Choices. If I open it up to other options, why offer choices in the first place. Sticking to the original choices helps my kids learn to make good choices within the boundaries that are offered.
- When “No” isn’t an Option, Offer Choice on How It Can Be Done. Sometimes there are times in life that we don’t have a choice. It is not an option for a two year old to be wandering through the parking lot without holding an adults hand. However, I can still offer a choice of how the handholding happens. It can be something as simple as, “Do you want to hold Mommy’s hand and stomp like an elephant or tip-toe like a mouse?” Now the choice is whether or not to hold Mommy’s hand but rather how we are going to walk!
As a Parent Coach, I often hear parents comment that they offer their children choices but they still feel like they are always fighting their children to do what they want them to do. I can offer thoughts like I did above but I don’t know you, your kids or your family. That's what I love about Parent Coaching. When I work one-on-one or in a small group with people, I get to hear each clients story and help them discover the strengths that are equipping them to be the best parents for their children! I'd love to chat with you about any struggles you have and work with you to build the groundwork for a thriving life. Send me an e-mail or schedule a free phone consultation to find out how Parent Coaching can help you!