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The power to choose.
Ooh, even the word power sends a lightning bolt of emotion through your body. Isn’t it interesting to think about the effect power can have on a person?
A person who is given “too much” power might start to treat other people poorly or do things they normally wouldn’t do. A person who doesn’t feel like they have any ‘power’ might not try to do anything.
Now think about the word *power* and what it has to do with your kids. Whoa! That takes things to a different level. Kids definitely want to have some power over their own lives.
From a young age you have likely seen your babies and toddlers starting to show their own power. They figure out how to sit up, crawl, stand up and then walk on their own. This brings them to a whole new level of independence.
When my daughter was a baby, I tried to imagine how it would be to be so reliant on other people. She couldn’t move from a room unless someone else carried her. She couldn’t eat unless someone else fed her. That has got to be frustrating!
I could see the triumph in her eyes when she figured out how to roll over, then crawl, then stand up and finally walk by herself. The freedom doors that opened for her! She could now choose to go grab that toy across the room, follow mom into the kitchen, or walk over to look out the window.
The Power of Choice
It is amazing to watch what happens when you give a child the chance to choose something for themselves.
My toddler has gotten into the independent phase of wanting to do things by herself. We have avoided many tantrums by simply giving her the choice, like using her fork or her spoon to eat her lunch.
We give her two options that are both fine and safe to choose from. Make sure you are really ok with either choice they choose! That is a super important thing to remember when you are giving your kiddo choices to pick from. Keep in mind that anything you offer up as an option just might be chosen!
It’s also a good reminder to not ‘threaten’ things unless you are willing to follow through with them. IE. “I’m going to throw your clothes away if I find them on the floor again.” (Are you really going to throw them away if you find them on the floor again? If you’re not, don’t say it!)
Kids are smart and they can figure out in a hurry whether or not you are serious about the things you say. Pretty soon they’ll call your bluff and just ignore what you say anyway because they know you won’t actually do it.
If we give them a choice and then still make the choice for them, they still won’t feel like they have any control. For example, if I offer my daughter a carrot stick or a slice of cucumber and she chooses the carrot stick, I won’t go ahead and give her the slice of cucumber.
Luckily our days are usually filled with a whole variety of choices, most of which aren’t super important in terms of which order we do things or which utensil we use to eat a meal.
How Do I Give My Child Choices?
Giving your kids choices doesn’t have to take a ton of planning ahead. Think of things you are already doing throughout the day and turn them into a choice. These could be things you’d like them to do like brush their teeth, put their shoes on, or eat breakfast.
One thing to keep in mind as you give your child choices- keep it simple! Having too many choices to choose from can be overwhelming for your kiddo. I generally find it best to narrow it down to two options. This or that.
Here are a few ideas to get your brain going on daily choices you could offer your kids:
- Would you like to eat a banana or an apple?
- Do you want to wear this outfit or that one?
- Would you like to wear this pair of shoes or that pair?
- Should we read one book or two?
- Do you want to eat with a fork or a spoon?
- Which cup would you like to use? The red cup or the blue cup?
- Do you want to brush your teeth or put your pajamas on first?
- Should we pick up the toys or put your clothes away first?
- It looks chilly outside today, do you want to wear your green hat or your yellow hat?
- We need to go home soon. Would you like to play for 4 or 5 more minutes? (This one can be sneaky haha. Sometimes the younger kids will choose the smaller number because they don’t know the difference quite yet. It all works out in the end! They get to choose and you get to leave sooner.)
Are you starting to see how easy it can be to give your kids more choices throughout the day? It can be a great thing for both of you! Your kids get to feel the power of choice while you still have control over what options they are picking from. If you really want something to get done, make it seem like their idea.
Why Are Choices So Important?
As parents, we feel like we know what is best. We have figured out the fastest way to get things done and we want to get our kids dressed, fed, and out the door in as little time as possible.
We often hand them something to eat or ask them to do something expecting the food to be eaten and the task to be done right away. We all know that’s just not what happens every time. Kids aren’t robots!
Truth be told, we actually want them to learn how to think for themselves. The learning process definitely takes time and will be different for each kiddo.
Starting at a young age, we can give our kids a part of that power we have. The power to make choices throughout the day.
As your kids grow up, this shift of power will continue to help both of you. Do you really want your teenager coming to you every day to ask which shirt they should wear or which notebook to take to school? Probably not!
On the flip side, imagine a world with kids who grow into adults that are always waiting to be told what to do. I bet we would see a lot less getting done and more people sitting around. *yikes!* There’s no way I’d want to work with those people!
Benefits of Giving Children Choices
- Fewer Tantrums
Yep, you read that correctly! As you give your children more chances to choose, you will see fewer tantrums. At the end of the day, tantrums come not necessarily because of the exact situation that happened (like handing them the red cup instead of the blue) but because your child doesn’t feel any control over the situation.
If you find that your child is feeling a lot of different emotions and you’re not sure how to help them, try some of these tips on kids and emotions.
My daughter got upset the other day when I handed her a few crackers. I took them back then offered her the choice of reaching into the bag herself or having her crackers put into a bowl. You guessed it, she wanted to get her own crackers out of the bag!
- Teach Responsibility
The more opportunities your children have to make choices now, while they are young, the better chances they will have of learning responsibility. When we as parents make choices for them, we should get the consequences. When our kids make their own choices, they get to see the consequences– good or bad.
When they choose something and it goes well, they will get to feel the joy and pride for accomplishing something.
If they make a choice that doesn’t turn out so well, they have a chance to learn in a safe environment. IE. Your child chooses to wear their sandals out into the rain, they end up getting cold with wet feet. Next time it’s raining, they will probably choose their rain boots!
- Learn to Make Decisions
The more chances your kids have to make their own choices, the more able they will be to do it. They will learn what kinds of choices help them get what they want and which choices bring unwanted consequences. This will be a skill they will use throughout their lives!
Our choices get bigger and bigger as we grow up and make decisions on where to live, what to do for work, who to interact with, and a million other things that will affect our every day lives.
Wrapping Things Up
We have tons of opportunities every day to empower our kids with choices. You may be surprised to find just how many choices you make on behalf of your kids every day!
We would never give our kids choices in situations that can be dangerous for them. We’ll stick to the safe choices, like what to wear to school or whether they would like to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or ham and turkey.
Give it a shot today! I’d love to hear how things go.