Giving Kids a Choice Gives Them a Voice

There are so many parenting theories and methods out there. I’ve read lots of books, gone to many conferences, listened to many experts, but the bottom line is that all kids are different!

Two roads two choices

I think there are many wrong ways to parent our kids, but not necessarily one right way. I think threatening, not following through with what we say, shaming, talking down to, and being overly harsh are wrong ways of parenting.

I have a few tried and true methods that work well with all of my kids. Asking for compromises, giving choices, and giving re-dos are my favorites.  (Read about compromises here  and redos here.) Giving choices is one that I have gotten better at over the years. I used to give a choice like this:

You can choose to clean your room, or you can choose to not watch tv with the other kids. That’s NOT a choice. That is a consequence worded as a choice.

A choice would look something like this

After asking a child to clean up her room and the child continues to play, I would step in and say, “Tori, you can choose to clean your room now, and then Mommy will play a game with you OR you can choose to play a game with Mommy first and then clean up your room. Which do you choose?”

Both choices had her cleaning up her room…that’s not optional. One choice had an incentive at the beginning and one had one at the end. Both of those choices allowed me to connect with my daughter (instead of nagging). Believe it or not, when I gave her this choice, she choose to clean her room first so she could “get it over with” before playing with mom.

Now I know what some of you are thinking…I don’t have time to play a game every time I need my child to do something. While as a mom of 6 I TOTALLY get that, sometimes kids (especially kids from hard places) need that extra time. I’m not asking you to sit down and play Monopoly every day, but a couple games of tic-tac-toe or a game of go fish could make the world of difference in your day and your child’s.

So here’s another situation for a choice

You are at playgroup and your child, who has some impulse control, yanks a toy out of another kids hand. You tell the child to give the toy back and they say (or likely yell), “No!  I want it!” I would then say, “Jason, you can choose to give the toy back to your friend or I will give it back for you. Which do you choose?” Most of the time I find they want to do it themselves and will give it back willingly, but if your child is stubborn and insists on keeping the toy, then calmly repeat the choice reminding them that if they don’t choose then you will choose for them. If they still refuse to give the toy back, then gently take it from them and give it back to the child.

There are so many situations for using choices. You can use them preemptively in situations where you know it will be difficult for your child to comply, or you can use them after you get into a situation where your child is testing you to see how you will react. Just remember that choices are not a way to veil a threat or give a consequence. Choices are taking two equally acceptable situations and giving your child an opportunity to have a voice.

Have you tried using choices with your kids?  How did it work out?  Leave a comment below.

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