There are so many reasons to give your child choices. Depending on your parenting style, you may or may not be apt to do so. Either way, you can train yourself to become intentional about making sure your child has plenty of choice in their day.
As a matter of fact, when you give your child choices and let them make decisions you will see your relationship with your child thrive. You will see your child empowered and wanting to cooperate. In the end, you’ll be looking for more ways to give your child choices.
The idea of giving my child choices was some of the best parenting advice I’ve ever received. The older the child, the more choices they need. By the time they move out, they should be making most of their choices, so they are well equipped for the real world.
Some of the Benefits of Giving Your Child Choice
Giving children choices and empowering them to make their own decisions will help prepare them for life.
In particular, the early years are the best time for children to begin to learn about making choices and consequences.
Certainly, the ability to choose is the lifeblood of being human.
Giving kids a CHOICE also:
- Builds respect
- Strengthens community
- Invites cooperation
- Develops problem-solving skills
- Capitalizes on kids’ normal human need for power and control
- Builds trust
- Positive impact on cognitive development and moral development
- Teaches responsibility
- Develops a cause and effect awareness or all actions have consequences
The more choices a child gets to make while living under your roof, the better off they are. Wouldn’t you rather your child receive an understanding that negative choices breed negative consequences while they are living with you and you can coach them through or support them rather than after they move out?
Ultimately, it’s giving their prefrontal cortex a jumpstart.
Tips On Giving Choices to Children
- Don’t give too many choices. Due to brain development, too many choices can just lead to overwhelm. Usually, 2 is enough. When you consider how many choices to give, use commons sense. The younger the child, the less choices they can handle. There is such a thing as giving a child too many choices.
- You should be fine with whatever the child chooses. If not, this is probably a loaded choice which is manipulation, not a choice. Example: Would you rather do your homework now or stay home tomorrow from the pool and do it? Just say, if you don’t do your homework now, you will do it during your pool time tomorrow. This isn’t a time for choice.
- If the child doesn’t make a choice in a timely manner, make the choice for them. Let the child know. If you don’t choose, I’ll be choosing for you.
- Be consistent. If you give dinner choices 3 times and then quit, that’s hard for a child to understand. Keep the line of trust open. You can say, “I’m not able to give you a choice on your veggies tonight. We only have green beans. When I go grocery shopping, we will have more choices.”
- There should be direct and indirect choices in the child’s life. For example, if they have several apps to choose from on their iPad. Apps that you chose that would benefit the child. It doesn’t matter which one they choose they will reap the fruit. Another example would be to have different toys in your home that you know will help the child in their developmental stage. The child gets to make the choice, but you indirectly guided them to something that would benefit them no matter what they choose.
10 Smart Ways to Let Your Kids Have Choices
#1. Let Them Choose What They Do First
When it really doesn’t matter what order something is done as long as it’s done, make it a choice.
- Math or reading
- Sort the clothes or vacuum
- Let them decide what order ya’ll do the errands
- Practice piano before or after snack
- Bathe or brush teeth
#2. Let Them Choose What They Wear
This is one that drives some parents crazy. Make up your mind not to let what your child wears ruin your mornings. Pick your battles. For all you know, your child may start a new trend!
- If you are going somewhere that attire really matters, give choice A & B if possible.
- When it comes to jackets, natural consequences work best. Put it in the backpack or the car. When a child gets cold enough, they usually give in. It’s not the time for, “I told you so.” But you can mention it next time they refuse to wear the coat.
- Clothing tells a lot about a child’s individuality. Try to control it as little as possible. Does anyone remember Juliann’s choices in Big Daddy?
Related Article: Become A YES Parent. 5 Simple Ways To Say Yes More Often
#3. Parenting Hack: Do You Want to _____ Now or In 5 Minutes?
This works wonders. It’s crazy how they’ll cooperate when they feel empowered. Oh, wait! They’re human!!
- Brush your teeth
- Turn off the TV, Ipad…
- Clean the playroom
#4. Give Your Child Choices at Meal and Snack Time
This isn’t always possible, but when it is, do it. If all the choices are healthy, it really doesn’t matter. I have done the research, and just because a child receives choices on what to eat, does not mean that they will expect their wife to cook them something different. Children are still developing their pallets on taste and texture. Have empathy.
Secondly, think about it from the child’s point of view. What if someone told you when, where and what to eat 24/7?
- Do you want spinach or carrots for your veggie?
- How would you like your waffle? cut up or whole?
- Do you want your Cheerios in a large or small bowl?
- Would you prefer milk or water?
- Do you want your bread toasted or plain?
Related Post: How to Get Kids to Love Their Veggies
#5. Let The Child Choose What Activity You Do Together
This one does Double Duty! Not only is this giving them a choice, but you and your child will build a stronger connection.
- I have 20 minutes to give you one-on-one time. What do you want to do?
- I’ll play anything with you. What would you like to play?
- I feel like playing a board game. I’ll let you pick the game if you’ll play with me.
- Would you like to ride in the stroller or the wagon?
Related Post: 4 Simple But Effective Ways To Connect With Your Child
#6. Allow Your Child to Choose the Book They Read or You Read to Them
ASAP! As soon as a child can show you what book they want, let them start to choose. Not only are you empowering the child with choice, but the benefits of a child choosing their own book are endless
#7. Let Your Child Have a Choice of Extracurricular Activities
- If the child is pretty young, you can give them a choice between 2 activities.
- Let your child choose their summer camp.
- Children need some choice in how they socialize with their peers.
- Would like to do a puzzle or a game?
- Do you want to play soccer or basketball?
- Do you want to play spring ball and fall ball or just one?
#8. Every Child Deserves to Choose How They Play. It should be a childhood right.
I am amazed at how often my boys and I go to someone’s home for a playdate and the mom has the whole playdate planned. When the kids want to do their own thing, it turns into a struggle between the host and the kids. In all due respect, I appreciate all of their efforts, but when kids finally get together, the last thing they want is to be controlled.
Play should feel like FREEDOM!!
Free play. As in the child chooses what they play. Certainly, the jury and the research have been out on the remarkable benefits of free play for years. But for many reasons, every year statistics show that our children get less and less free play. I encourage you to pay attention to what’s happening in your own home. How much free time is your child averaging a day? Is their day overscheduled?
Create a mix of free time and structured time in your child’s daily routine.
People usually look forward to the weekends. Why? Because they have free time. They get to decide how they spend their time. The same is true for children. They are happier when they take control of some of their time. Not to mention the benefits of free play are amazing!
Let your child get bored.
Let them play with kids of all ages. There are benefits.
P.S. Any type of screen is not free play.
- Do ya’ll want to play inside or outside>
- What do you feel like playing?
- Do you want to play together or alone?
- Do you want me to get out the paints or the markers?
- Do you want the play dough or slime?
- Do you want me to invite Suzette or Billy to come play?
- Should we get out the sidewalk chalk or the sprinkler?
- What could you do with this cardboard box?
- Should I get out the blankets so ya’ll can erect a fort?
#9. Children Can Solve Their Own Problems
Instead of solving your child’s problem, give them a chance to solve it on their own. You can coach them through without taking control. Specify the goal, but allow the children to decide how to reach the goal.
When you are intentional about letting your child solve their own problems, they begin to learn the effects their choices have on their life.
For siblings, teach and model words such as collaborate, compromise, take turns, and solutions. Parents can do their best to be a mediator who neutrally facilitates problem-solving rather than being a referee.
- You had the car and now he wants it. How can ya’ll compromise?
- One of you wants to play upstairs and one of you wants to go outside? There’s only one me. Does either of you have a solution?
- It’s a fact. The more you practice, the better you will be. If you are nervous about the recital, you may choose to practice more.
- You’ve been crying at bedtime that you’re hungry. How can we make sure you’re not hungry tonight?
- When you don’t get your way, you scream at us. That’s unacceptable. What else could you do to let us know you’re upset?
- You say you want to be spelling bee champ. In order to win the spelling bee, you will need to choose to study more than everyone else you’re competing against. Furthermore, if you choose not to practice, don’t act shocked when you’re not a champ.
Related Post: Bad Behavior Does Not Mean Bad Kid
#10. Consider Offering a Choice Between Incentives
Incentives are not always the answer. We want our kids to do things without expecting rewards. However, it doesn’t hurt for them to get something every now and again for doing as they should. In reality, if businesses didn’t offer paychecks, how many employees would show up?
- If you sort the clothes for me, you can have 10 extra minutes of TV or stay up 10 minutes later.
- One I used personally that worked: If you potty train, you can pick 2 places for us to take you.
- If ya’ll help me get this living room cleaned up so we can leave, we’ll have time for a snow cone or an ice cream.
Call to Action
As you can see, it is worth being intentional about giving your children choices. There are so many ways and reasons to give your child choices, why wouldn’t you? Finally, when you become intentional about giving choices, your family will reap the benefits.
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Make it a great day or not, the choice is yours! Remember to have fun, laugh and give God the glory! I love you! SS