I could teach a four hour workshop on using choices with kids! The first half of the workshop would cover how most caregivers are missing the point and overcomplicating things. The second half would cover how to use them to literally conquer life and make parenthood your bitch.
Choices are a godsend!
Choices can be used for managing behaviors, raising responsible children, issuing consequences, encouraging independence, and creating a sense of mastery. When used correctly, you'll find happy, healthy, well-adjusted children. When used incorrectly, you'll find confused little tyrants that do know which way is up or down.
Rules for using choices effectively:
1) Only give choices that fit your value system
If you don't intend on spanking your child, or don't want to spank your child, don't use spanking as a choice. For example, "If you choose to keep making that noise, you're choosing to get a spanking". Really, thats a threat disguised as a choice and the child will likely test to see if you'll follow through, hide their behavior better next time, or feel scared into stopping their obnoxious behavior, but not feel loved or accepted in the interim. Also, the parent-child relationship gets damaged.
It's better to offer choices you're comfortable with such as, "If you choose to make that noise, you're choosing to go to your room alone. If you choose not to make that noise, you're choosing to enjoy the game with the family".
2) Give choices when things are going well
The average two year old hears "no" 75% of the day. Instead, we should be offering much more freedom. The more control you give away, the more you keep. Offer choices such as which shoes to wear, which drink or snavk to enjoy, which bath toy they'd like, what book they'd enjoy at bedtime and so on. When children are offered choices throughout their day, they feel independent and in control There are far less tantrums and power struggles and they often comply better in circustances where there isn't a choice because its a rarity, not the norm.
3) Never give more than two choices
I wouldn't open my fridge and say, "what would you like for lunch" to my two year olds. Instead, I offer two choices, both of which I'm comfortable with. Would you like a sandwich or a quesadilla for lunch? Would you enjoy strawberries or an apple? Will you be eating this outside or at the table?" More than two choices is WAY too much responsability for a small child.
4) Use choices to issue consequences with love
"If you choose to hit your friends, you're choosing to leave storytime. If you choose to not to hit your friends, you're choosing to stay and play". The beauty of this is that if they hit, you can be empathetic, "Oh no! This is so sad. We'll be leaving storytime". Theres no need for anger, lecture, or threats with this method. The consequence follows the action immediately with love and empathy.
In all of my workshops I assign homework! In this case, I'd suggest thinking through 1-3 situations in the day where a problem or power struggle typically occurs. Put together your choice with the appropriate entence stems and phrasing and practice it. Don't rush into it. Think about what may go wrong and be prepared for all possibilities. Use love, a smile and positive energy and watch the power struggles dissipate!
There is a choice to be made in everything we do so in the end the choices you make, make you.
Parenting expert, blogger, inventor, single mom to twins, barefoot nomad, adventure seeker, boho spirit, advocate of play