Giving children choices can foster a sense of control and help them feel empowered. Below are 5 examples of how you can promote good decision-making skills in children as they grow!
By Kristi Kunze
Family Support Specialist
Early Head Start
As adults, we make choices every day. It can be simple choices like what to wear, to larger choices like what to make for dinner that impact the entire family. Many times we do not stop to think about offering our little ones choices during the day because we are running on auto-pilot. We offer them what we think they should be eating or playing with, and then wonder why an argument ensues at mealtime when they do not want to eat.
Just like we want to be in charge of the choices we make as adults, children want to be able to make choices in their lives, too. This starts out at an early age. Being able to make choices helps give children a sense of control in their lives and their environment. It also teaches them lessons about responsibility.
Offering kids choices allows them to feel empowered in their lives. This can lead to fewer power struggles between children and caregivers. Offering choices also gives you, the adult, the ability to redirect the child’s attention to tasks you want them to focus on. By learning how to make decisions and control impulses from an early age, children learn how to take accountability for their emotions and feelings. And, to understand that as they grow older they can only control their actions and responses, not how others act or respond.
Simple Ways to Involve Children in Making Choices
1. At Mealtime – Limit the choices you give them to two acceptable options. Make sure that both these options will achieve your desired outcome (too many choices can be overwhelming to children).
2. Getting Dressed – Let children participate in dressing themselves by letting them choose between two tops to wear.
3. Family Decisions – Let your child pick between two games to play for a family game night. Or, let them choose between two movies for a family movie night.
4. Cleaning Up – Try letting your child decide if they want to pick up their toys before supper or after supper, rather than telling them to do it right then.
5. Positive Reinforcement – Celebrate the choice your child made. You could say, “you chose to pick up your toys before supper, great choice!” This will help them feel confident in their decision.
If your child makes a choice and does not like the consequences of their choices, use that situation as a learning opportunity. Explain to your child how all of our choices have consequences and what they learned from this experience. Ask them what they might do differently next time and why. Allowing children to make their own choices, even though they sometimes may make the “wrong” choice, allows them to learn and grow, and allows us as parents to utilize these moments to teach them.
For more information on how to involve your children in making choices in a positive way, please visit the Conscious Discipline website.